by Tuvya Zaretsky
(Editor’s note: This is the 9th post in a series on Heroes of the Christian Faith.)
“I’m overweight, overbearing and over forty. What am I doing leading a youth movement?” In the 1970s, Moishe Rosen marveled that God would use an ordinary Jewish guy to spread His extraordinary gospel to a new generation of Jews and Gentiles.
Moishe Rosen was an unlikely hero to pioneer a new strategy for Jewish evangelism. He was raised in a religiously orthodox Jewish family. He married his childhood sweetheart. Then, she stunned him with news that she had placed her faith in Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. Moishe was at first confused and infuriated by her insistence that belief in the Messianic Savior was consistent with her Jewishness. His resistance against the truth eventually gave way to his own fervent belief in the Savior Yeshua (Jesus).
From then on, he took lessons from every life experience he could apply to his passion for communicating the gospel among his own Jewish people. Marriage relationships, raising children, business practices, and even social activism were evangelism tutorials. He was a reflective introvert, gifted with a supple mind and great creativity. He was also capable of applying his formidable will to implement innovative strategies for gospel communication. I was blessed to learn the craft of Jewish evangelism from him.
Moishe Rosen emerged as a remarkable leader in the field of Jewish missions during the 1970s. He developed avant-garde tactics for communicating the gospel into that counterculture generation. Many Jewish believers in Jesus, who became mission and congregational leaders from that period, were either trained by Moishe or influenced by him. Perhaps his highest compliment came from a Jewish historian, unsympathetic to the gospel, who observed, “Rosen’s achievement was not in creating a new missionary agenda but rather in using new strategies and means that made the mission more effective in achieving its goals.”
You can read his ideas for communicating Jesus to Jewish people in Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus. I’d like to share four valuable lifestyle lessons that I picked up from Moishe’s example.
First, life is all about making disciples. I will have to paraphrase something he often said. “Doing a good thing is not the same as doing the right thing.” Moishe wielded himself so his life could be an influence for the gospel. That meant he worked to build a trusting relationship with anyone who had an open heart and was honestly seeking truth. Good and worthwhile pre-evangelistic efforts are not the same as when we are permitted to present the gospel. The good news is about sin, salvation, and the Savior. That’s the right focus of our life’s work if we are to make disciples.
Second, Moishe never backed away from the truth that Jesus is the only way for Jewish and Gentile people to know God. Well-meaning Christians sometimes wrongly assumed that Jewish resistance to the gospel must mean that God has another salvation plan for them. Moishe liked to reference Jesus’ own words about the uniqueness of salvation in Him: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). Who could argue with that?
Third, Moishe urged Jews for Jesus missionary staff to aspire toward an apostolic (note: the small “a”) lifestyle. He asked us to be available to the Lord, vulnerable to our contacts, and mobile in serving the cause of Christ. In spite of his own reclusive and introverted nature, Moishe did whatever he could to model a “do-so love” for the Lord, not just a “say-so love.” He spoke about being vulnerable to antagonism and insults from others in order that some might hear and be saved. He asked his staff workers for the willingness to go where God was calling us to spread the gospel. We found that worthwhile even if it might be personally uncomfortable and, in some cases, even a little dangerous. An apostolic lifestyle is an adventure with the Lord.
Last, he taught that spiritual fruit (people coming to faith in Christ) was always the work of God’s Holy Spirit. Moishe could be a strategic thinker and a shrewd, even imaginative, tactician. He empowered others to write provocative and thoughtful gospel material in print, music, and online. Within all of those tools was his conviction that the power for evangelism is derived from the word of God, and the fruit of evangelism comes through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Moishe referred to the whole process as like being a “spiritual midwife.” In life, we actually show up for God’s delivery of the spiritually new-born.
Knowing Moishe, I must add that he would probably be ticked that anyone would call him a “hero of the Christian faith.” He was an ordinary person, like any of us, who viewed himself as privileged to have a part in the extraordinary things of the Lord’s doing.
 Tucker, Ruth. Not Ashamed: The Story of Jews for Jesus. (Oregon: Multnomah Publishers) 1999, p. 22
 Ariel, Yaakov. Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews of America, 1800-2000. (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press) 2000, p.219
 Rosen, Moishe and Ceil. Witnessing to Jews: Practical ways to relate the love of Jesus. (San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions) 1998