- Written by Jeff Millenson
It's a comedy routine! No, it's a parable! No, it's…a STREET TESTIMONY! What's a street testimony? Let me explain. One of the hallmarks of Jews for Jesus is that we communicate the gospel to Jewish people in a variety of ways: through drama, music, creative literature and mass media, to mention just a few. One of our favorite ways to present the good news about Y'shua is through short stories with a spiritual punch line." You could call them parables; we call them street testimonies.
Each summer during our annual Summer Witnessing Campaign, our missionaries and volunteers write their own creative stories. Often these stories are in the form of testimonies, but rather than being mere factual accounts of people's lives, they often involve humor and an exaggerated recounting of the individual's search for God. Usually this searching process is the focus of the tale as the skillful teller utilizes both humor and suspense to keep the audience intrigued. Ideally, the story is made so captivating that the listener is drawn into it and then has an opportunity to hear the spiritual "clincher" that climaxes the account.
Where do we present these street testimonies? We choose a location where there is room for a small crowd to gather without obstructing pedestrian traffic—because crowds do gather! Some of our more dramatically gifted staff members have been known to draw crowds of 50 to 100 people just a few short sentences into their stories. Of course they do have a little help. Other missionaries and volunteers play an important role as "ringers." A ringer is someone who helps to draw a crowd by standing there and looking interested in what's going on. A group of 8 to 10 ringers serves as the nucleus for a respectably sized crowd. After all, if you spot someone on a busy street corner loudly declaiming an anecdote to which no one is paying attention, you'll probably walk right on by. On the other hand, if you see several interested bystanders hanging on to every word, that's intriguing enough to make you stop and listen, too.
Summer Witnessing Campaign, however, is not the only possible setting for a street testimony. This kind of outreach has been used effectively by our missionaries everywhere—whenever weather permits—from Tennessee to Trafalgar Square. Each story teller tries to add as much "local color" to the story as possible. For example, the hero of a New York street testimony might mention working in "midtown," or riding the "Broadway Local," or getting away from the heat by going to "the shore." His Chicago counterpart might talk about working near the "Loop," riding the "Skokie Swift," and a weekend at Wisconsin Dells.
Are you wondering what kind of response we get? Glad you asked! Here's a representative sample: Last summer, in two "rounds" of testimonies at one rally, we were heard by well over 200 people. Some stopped only briefly and others stayed to hear several stories; but all of them heard about Y'shua, the Jewish Messiah. After each round, we broke up into several conversations with the interested and the curious. We received several names and addresses for follow-up that day. One Jewish man who was willing to have us contact him was impressed with finding so many Jewish people in the "crowd" who were believers in Jesus! Last, but not least, one of our volunteers prayed with a bystander to receive the Lord.
Does the idea of writing your own street testimony appeal to you? Here's a testimony that I wrote for the Chicago area that you could use for ideas:
Problems — Problems — Problems
Problems, problems, problems! I've got problems, you've got problems, Harry's got problems. Oy, does he have problems! Harry owns a little dress shop on Water Tower Place with his partner Frankie. He's got three daughters—Rebeccah, Sarah, and Sonia—and Rebeccah just got married to the rabbi's son. Such a wonderful wedding, but paying for it! That was a problem!
Two months ago, Harry walked into his store one morning only to discover that all his nice wool dresses had holes in them. It didn't take long to discover why. Someone had left a window open, and a whole swarm of moths had gotten in during the night. And these weren't just ordinary moths, either. They were a special breed of giant moths from South America that had just escaped from the Lincoln Park Zoo!
But that didn't stop my friend Harry. No, he just closed the store for a couple of days, bought a whole new shipment of French evening gowns and started again. And this time Harry decided to play it smart. He went to his brother-in-law Sam, the insurance man, and took out a $10,000 insurance policy, just in case.
Well, a couple of weeks went by, and then disaster struck again! It seems that one of the pipes in the basement was very old and rusty, and one night it rusted all the way through. Harry got a call from his partner Frankie the next morning. "Harry, you gotta come over here fast!" When Harry got there, he saw the entire first floor covered with dirty brown water six inches high. All the beautiful French evening gowns were ruined. But this time Harry was ready. He took his insurance policy out of the waterproof safe, went to his brother-in-law Sam, the insurance man, and that afternoon he had a nice fat check for $10,000 in his hands. But then Harry did something really meshugge—crazy! He said he liked the feel of cold, hard cash, so he took his check to the bank and cashed it. He took all those nice crisp bills and put them in the secret safe that only he and his partner Frankie knew about.
Well, the next morning, three things had disappeared: One, Harry's partner Frankie; two, Harry's youngest daughter Sonia; and three, Harry's $10,000. Talk about problems! But what can you do?
I'll tell you what you can do! Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, said, "Don't store your treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store your treasure in heaven, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Jeff Millenson is a former Jews for Jesus staff member who is now completing his education at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago area.