Should Christians refrain from sharing their faith with Jews in Israel now that tourists have returned from the pandemic?
Since the pandemic is over, more Christians are going to Israel for tours of the Holy Land. Should they try to convert Jews while they are there?
This is what a Jerusalem Post article about Christians going back to Israel for the biblical Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, earlier this month after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, asked.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), which put on the event, said that more than 2,000 pilgrims from more than 70 countries were expected to come to Jerusalem between October 9 and 16.
But while the gathering celebrated the return of Christian tourists to Israel after the pandemic, some Jews, like Israel365 founder Rabbi Tuly Weisz, seemed unsure about the trend, which for them also means the return of evangelism to the Holy Land.
Weisz said that non-Jewish tourists should be “warmly welcomed” to “come closer to the true fulfillment of Sukkot,” but he seemed less enthusiastic about the practice of Evangelicals sharing the Gospel with Jewish people.
“Unfortunately, some Christian tourists will want to use their time in the Jewish state to try to convert Jews,” he wrote. “The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) tries to stop this by telling its guests not to do anything offensive.”
Weisz said that many Christians who were in Israel for the celebration had spoken out against missionary work, including David Swaggerty, the senior pastor of Charisma Life Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, who was there for the celebration.
Swaggerty was quoted as saying, “As a Christian who believes in the Great Commission, I don’t think the call to spread the Gospel applies to the Jewish people. Even though Christians have been anti-Semitic for hundreds of years, I am here to support Israel without any conditions.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Swaggerty made it clear that he has no problem taking the Gospel to pastors’ conferences in faraway places like Thailand and Tanzania, but that things are different when he’s in Israel.
“I won’t try to convert people when I go to Israel or hang out with my Jewish friends in Columbus,” he said. “That’s not what I do. I don’t think that’s what God wants me to do with my life.
Swaggerty said it doesn’t bother him that some, if not most, of his peers might not agree with his approach.
“They think you should try to convert everyone you meet, but I don’t agree,” he said.
Swaggerty said that he has a special place in his heart for the Jewish people. When he was a teenager, he worked in a jewelry store with “a dozen Jewish men who became my family.”
He also said that he saw how Christians tried to evangelize them and, in Swaggerty’s words, “almost force them into becoming Christians.”
“I don’t think it’s my job to do that.” “It is my mission to build trust and friendship between Jews and Christians,” he said. “By doing that, I promise myself and my congregation that we won’t try to convert the Jewish people.”
What about the parts of the Old Testament, like Isaiah 53, that talk about the Messiah? Most Protestant theologians believe that Jesus fulfilled those roles the first time He appeared.
Swaggerty’s ministry’s statement of faith says that Christ died and rose from the dead. “There’s no point in fighting about whether he came once or not at all,” he says, “because when he comes, there will be no doubt who he is.”
One day, the Messiah will come to Israel. They pray for Him all the time, and one day he’ll come, and when he does, the whole country of Israel, the whole nation, will accept him as the Messiah, “he said.
“I don’t want to give up my own faith, but I also don’t want to make my Jewish friends give up theirs.”
It’s not clear if groups like ICEJ, which didn’t respond to CP’s request for comment, are discouraging Christians from evangelism in Israel, but Swaggerty said he used to lead tours of the Holy Land and tell people not to try to convert others.
Now, he says, after going to the Feast of Tabernacles with Weisz this year, he thinks there’s a new movement to bring people of different faiths together.
“What we’re seeing on a much larger scale is that Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians are willing to step across the aisle,” he said.
“We’re finding that we can work together because we all serve the same God when we build trusting relationships.”
But Messianic Jewish author, radio host, and columnist Michael Brown says that this kind of evangelism does the Jewish people a “terrible disservice.”
Brown told CP, “Every Jewish Christian I know asks Christians to please share the Good News with our people.” ” It is the most unloving thing you can do to a Jewish person to keep them from drinking water. Both Jews and non-Jews can be saved in the same way. It’s by having faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross.
“Without that, there is no way to be saved.”
Brown said that, as a “Jewish believer in Jesus,” he thinks it’s “heretical” to leave Jews out of the Great Commission.
“I appreciate sensitivity. I’m glad you said that Jesus is a bad word for many Jewish people. “I understand how important it is to keep our Jewish identity and keep our people alive,” he said. “But having faith in Jesus will make that better, not worse.”
Brown says that Swaggerty’s ideas about how Israel will be saved in the end are “terribly wrong.”
“Nowhere in the Bible does it say that salvation will go back in time and that on that day, every Jew who has ever lived will be saved,” he said. “That goes against everything the Bible says.”
Brown said that instead, the Bible says that Israel will turn to the Messiah as a whole at the end of the world.
Brown agreed that Christians touring Israel should “realize they’re not there to save Israel, they’re there to see the country,” but he also said that believers shouldn’t go out of their way to avoid sharing the Good News.
“It’s great if they meet someone by chance and can share the Gospel with them,” he said. “But they’re not there to flood into the country in a rude way and bother people who are just going about their daily lives,” he said.
But if you’re in a cab as a Christian and you have a chance to share, do it! So what? Why not let the Jewish people know about the Jewish messiah?”
The Jerusalem Post reported that before the pandemic, Christians made up 55% of all tourists in 2019. More than a quarter of the people who came said they were Evangelicals.
In 2020, though, the number of tourists fell by 81%, from 4.5 million in 2019 to a little more than 831,000.
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