Life from the Dead
Avi Snyder, European Director of Jews for Jesus (based in Germany), talks to Julia Fisher
“Let me tell you what’s on my heart”, Avi began, “I’d like to tell you how the presence of Jews for Jesus on the streets of Germany gave birth to an idea called Life from the Dead.” And before you ask, you might be wondering why Jews for Jesus are in Germany ?
First, so Jews living there can hear the Gospel and be saved. Second, so Germans can hear the Gospel from Jewish lips and be saved. Third, so Germany can see Jews proclaiming the Gospel without fear and without shame. And finally, so that the world can see Jews and Germans proclaiming the Gospel together. The world says this is impossible but the Gospel says it has to be!”
Brought up in a Jewish home in New York, Avi came to faith in Jesus with the help of a Jews for Jesus tract and the witness of Christian friends. He’s been an evangelist with Jews for Jesus since 1978. He established their work in the Ukraine and Russia, where he lived for seven years. Later, he moved to Germany to become European Director.
“This strategic thinking gave birth to the idea Life from the Dead. There are cities throughout Europe, especially Eastern Europe, where just the names of these cities bring back very tragic memories to the minds of us Jews; places like Berlin, Nuremberg, Krakow, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and Moscow. Until the Second World War these cities used to be our homes; then they became our graves. For us Jews to come back to these cities with the Gospel on our lips is like life from the dead.
Some years ago I heard that Jewish cultural festivals are held every year in Warsaw and in Krakow. There aren’t many Jews left in Poland but thousands of Jews living in Europe come to these festivals. So many died in Warsaw during the 2nd WW. Most of all, us Jews. But also Poles, Germans and Russians. So, last September, we sent a team to the festival in Warsaw; two German speaking Jews for Jesus, two Russian speaking Jews for Jesus, two Germans for Jesus, and two Poles for Jesus. For three days we stood shoulder to shoulder handing out literature and preaching the Gospel – the first time in history such a thing has happened. To say we caused a stir is an understatement.
We had hundreds of good conversations with people from many nationalities. Many Jewish people and non-Jews were willing to listen to us as we explained the Good News. Why did they come up and talk to us? Because they couldn’t fathom why there were Jews on the streets of Poland preaching about Jesus. But that’s the whole point of the Gospel – it’s the perfect redemption of a tragic history.
And that brings me to talking about our particular call as Jewish believers to be a light to the nations. There’s currently much talk among Christians in the UK, Germany and the US about loving and blessing Israel. However, in my opinion, not many Christians understand how to pray for or bless Israel, or what it means to say the Jews are God’s ‘chosen people’. The Scriptures clearly show, from Genesis to Revelation, that Israel as a people have only received one call and that call is to be a nation of missionaries to the rest of the world. God chose the Jews because of His love for the nations. He chose us to take the Gospel to the nations. The Apostle Paul says that this call is irrevocable and he also said the Gospel should be preached ‘to the Jew first’. Even Paul, who was a missionary to the Gentiles, when he went to a new city always began his missionary work amongst the Jews. Why? Because he understood the strategy. He gave the message to the future messengers so the messengers could do their job and get the message to the rest of the world!”
“Do you believe that’s why you’ve been so persecuted down the centuries?” I asked Avi.
“Yes! The spiritual root of anti-Semitism is Satan’s desire to stop the proclamation of the Gospel. If he could have destroyed us before the Messiah came (and he tried) there would have been no Messiah, no Scripture (because the Scriptures had to come through the Jewish people) and no nation to proclaim the Gospel. He has sought to destroy us ever since the time of Jesus because if the Jewish people can be destroyed then the call will not be fulfilled, the Gospel won’t go out to the nations and Jesus won’t come back. Yes, the spiritual root of anti-Semitism is Satanic and is greater than just hatred for us Jews; it reflects Satan’s hatred for the world. He wants to stop the Gospel from spreading.
However, I believe that Jewish missionaries will soon be flooding the world to proclaim the Gospel; Jews proclaiming the Gospel first to Jews and then to the nations, including all the places where we died. I want to see us going back to those places with a message of redemption and forgiveness and life.
Let me tell you a story … I am often invited to speak in churches … about two months ago I gave an invitation that if anybody wanted to talk further about knowing the Lord to come and speak with me after the service. And a German lady came forward. She had tears in her eyes. I said, ‘Did you understand the invitation I was giving?’ She said ‘Yes.’
‘Would you like to give your life to the Lord?’ She looked at me and through her tears said, ‘I’ve tried but I can’t.’
Now, as Jew I knew where this conversation was going. ‘What about your grandfather?’
And she forced herself to say, ‘He was one of the real monsters.’
‘But we’re not talking about your grandfather, we’re talking about you,’ I replied. ‘But you don’t understand, he killed your people.’
I think the Lord gave me these words, ‘I understand that you’re letting your guilt over his past stopping you from doing what the Lord wants you to do in the present.’
Then I said, ‘Give your life to the Lord.’ And she did – because it was a Jew talking to her and encouraging her to accept the Gospel.
In 1990 there were 30,000 Jews in Germany; today there are 230,000 because so many refugees have arrived from the former Soviet Union and many have been receptive to the Gospel. My purpose in Germany is to provoke our people to be out proclaiming the Gospel to the Jew first and then to the nations. Germany is the perfect launching pad for Life from the Dead in order to be a light to the nations because we see what an automatic interest it arouses when Jews and Germans go out on the streets of the cities together!
We’ll be taking the Gospel to Nuremberg later this year, to the Jews and also to the children and grandchildren of the people who wanted to see us dead. We want to let them hear from Jewish lips that the God of Israel loves them and calls us all to repent and encourage them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we together reclaim these cities. Nuremberg was the ideological heartland of the Nazis where the party rallies were held every year. I’ve stood on the balcony where Hitler stood during those rallies and said, ‘There’s a Jew standing on this ground!’
“Do you get any support from the State church or are they uncomfortable with you?” I asked.
“There are believers in the State church who stand with us although officially, that church has taken a stand against ‘Jewish missions.’ They’ve bought the lie that bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people is a continuation of the Holocaust. They are so guilt ridden that they don’t question the absurdity of that argument which, would suggest the prophets, the Apostles and Jesus were all anti-Semites because they brought the Gospel to the Jews! That’s what guilt does; it makes you so introverted and incapacitated that you do nothing. The fruit of repentance is always proclamation.
There’s more freedom amongst the Free churches in Germany although there are some who say, ‘We love Israel, we love the Jewish people, but they don’t need Jesus to be saved, therefore we will never say a word about Jesus to the Jewish people. Again, such an attitude is born out of guilt and has led many sincere Christians to compromise on essential theology. That’s not really love for my people ; it’s a desire to be loved by my people. Real love for other people says, ‘I must tell you the truth whether you receive me or not.’ Because Jesus loved us He told us the truth even though He knew many would reject Him.”
“Looking ahead, where do you believe your work is going?” I asked Avi.
I’ll speak first for Jews for Jesus in Europe. If we can continue to grow strong in Germany and continue to be strong and grow stronger in the former Soviet Union, I see what lies in between … all of Europe. I see a day when teams of Jews for Jesus missionaries sweep through Europe, causing a stir, getting the contacts and working with the national churches.
At the same time, Jews for Jesus in Israel are launching ‘Behold your God.’ This will be the largest evangelistic campaign we’ve ever done entailing twelve high profile evangelistic campaigns over the next six years. It will involve thousands of people. I believe that as a result of this all of Israel will hear the Gospel. It’s my prayer that hundreds of thousands of Jews and Palestinians will believe the Gospel and go out from Israel proclaiming the Gospel to the rest of the world together.
If you love Israel and the Jewish people, then understand we were chosen to be a light to the nations. The best way for the Church to interfere with the process of world evangelisation is to keep the Gospel away from us Jews and not pray for the salvation of Israel and not pray for those who bring the Gospel to the Jewish people and believe the lie that Jews don’t need Yeshua to be saved.
But give us the Gospel and pray for the salvation of Israel and pray for those of us who bring the Gospel to our people and we’ll bring the gospel to everybody we meet because that’s why we were created!”
To support or for more information about the work of Jews for Jesus in Europe and Israel please visit their website www.jewsforjesus.org or email: jfj (at) jewsforjesus.org
To contact Avi Snyder, email: asnyderjfj (at) aol.com
Julia Fisher 11.2.2008