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Don’t do all the talking. Jewish people generally like two-way conversation. (Actually, a lot of people do. Jewish culture and education has just been at it a bit more intensely than some others.) Ask questions. Pose puzzles. Wonder out loud and seek out responses from them. Find out exactly what they believe about God, the afterlife, sin, righteousness, ethics, etc., by asking them to tell you about their beliefs. Don’t be surprised if some of their beliefs are not what you expect would be the standard Jewish line. Again, I could explain why that’s fairly common, but I’ll let you explore such background issues on your own.
(Chosen People Ministries and Jews for Jesus have many valuable resources and insights on their websites. They can also point you to many books that can help you grow in your understanding of Jewish culture, the connections between the Old Testament and the New, and many other pertinent issues.)
Don’t be surprised if the following question doesn’t work: “If there’s no longer a temple in Jerusalem or any sacrificial system, how do you get atonement for your sins?” That question might work for some Jewish people, but for most I’ve talked to, that’s a nonstarter. They just figure that God knows the temple isn’t currently in working condition, so he must have some other system to take care of sin. That doesn’t bother most Jewish people as much as most Christians think it should!
Do build close friendships with Jewish people. Relationships matter deeply to them and evangelism usually flows along relational lines. Given the history of persecution that most Jewish people remember, you’ll want to build trust and understanding. That takes time and intentionality. Find common ground, shared interests, and pave the way for conversations about topics that you don’t view from the same vantage point.
Do share your personal experiences with the gospel. It’s one thing to argue for the truthfulness of Christianity, the reasonableness of apologetic arguments in favor of the messiahship of Jesus, and the logical connections between the Old and New Testaments. And all of that is necessary and good. But you will also want to tell of how that makes a difference in your life, why it was so appealing to you when you first came to faith, and how it helps you in many areas of your daily life—how it gives you hope, purpose, a clear conscience, and confidence of the reality of life after death.
Do choose vocabulary carefully. There are some words that are painful to Jewish ears. Instead of saying “Jews,” use “Jewish people.” Instead of “Christ,” speak of “the messiah.” Rather than calling yourself a “Christian,” you might try “believer in Jesus.” Remember that Jewish history has a lot of pain in it, and some of that pain is related to evangelism. You want to minimize any triggers of negative emotions. The words you say or don’t say can make big differences.
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