After Simone, a young Jewish woman who had been involved in the New Age movement, became a believer in Jesus, she felt the Lord was calling her to go back to the fairs and exhibitions she used to frequent, in order to reach out to those still entangled in the web of ‘pick’n’mix’ mysticism which is the New Age.
From that call, ‘The Jesus Experience’ was born — a stand that invites people to a ‘Life Reading’ from ‘ancient Hebrew writings’.
People of all faiths and none — Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Spiritualists, Wiccans, Satanists and even atheists — come to the Jesus Experience with one thing in common, a hunger for spiritual reality.
For four days, just prior to Easter, Christian Witness to Israel’s (CWI) London staff and a team of volunteers took the Jesus Experience to a major New Age exhibition in London.
Over a period of four days, more than 1000 people, many of them Jewish, visited the stand, and about 15 made professions of faith.
It is difficult for some people to grasp how, after a short presentation of the gospel, someone can make an intelligent decision to submit to the claims of Christ, but as an evangelistic strategy the Jesus Experience is the difference between ‘carpet bombing’ and ‘smart bombing’.
The people who come to the Jesus Experience don’t come to argue. They are messed-up individuals who are prepared to spend time and money in their search for authentic spirituality. They come to the stand to hear something that will change their lives. Later in the year, the team will take the Jesus Experience to a full-on occult event, but the March exhibition had a focus on physical health and beauty, as well as spiritual wellbeing, so most of the visitors were female.
On the first day of the outreach, the stand filled quickly and early, and team members had good conversations with visitors throughout the day. One worker reported that there were expressions of genuine repentance among those who professed faith.
Few who visit the Jesus Experience, however, immediately respond to the gospel in faith. But, for those who want it, prayer is offered for them.
A number of Jews and Israelis who attended the stand in previous years returned to say that prayers had been answered. Unemployed people came back to say that after prayer they had found jobs.
After one previous outreach, a lady who had asked the team to pray she might be able to conceive returned the next year with a baby in her arms, to prove that God had answered prayer!
Some visitors come from other stands. One lady was surprised and intrigued to be told that the lives of all who were manning the Jesus Experience had been transformed by Jesus and that they wanted to point others to him.
During the conversation that followed, she admitted she had done wrong and seemed to understand the substitutionary death of Christ. The conversation was cut short, however, when one of her colleagues interrupted it. The girl took away the CWI worker’s email address and a booklet featuring the testimonies of five Hindus who found new life in Jesus.
A Jewish lady was confused by the Jewish symbols on the stand and by the Hebrew evangelistic booklets. She wasn’t sure if she believed in God, but admitted she was ‘maybe’ seeking.
Andreea, who is Jewish, shared that she came from a confused religious background but had come to believe through Isaiah 53 that Jesus the Messiah died for her sins. As the conversation was drawing to a close, they were joined by the lady’s mother, who objected to people trying to impose their views on others.
Andreea, who was born in Romania, responded that one of the blessings of living in Britain was the freedom to talk without fear about religion and the Bible.
The good, bad and wacky
A Jewish Reiki healer listened as former London City Missioner Nick Stead (who now works with CWI and organises the New Age outreaches) explained atonement, while a young scientist found Nick’s presentation of the gospel ‘interesting’.
A Chinese girl from one of the New Age stands said she was looking for peace. The Life-Reading card she picked was John 16:33: ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace’.
She listened as Nick explained the message of the card but, as he was leading her through a booklet about knowing God, the girl’s phone rang and she was called back to her stand.
Not all the conversations are so rational. Many of the visitors claimed to be Christian, but hadn’t the foggiest notion of what a Christian is — such as the lady who ‘loved Jesus’ but believed God is comprised of ‘the collective experience of individuals’.
Another ‘Christian’, instead of attending church on Sunday, visits the local park with her children so they can speak to the trees, the leaves and even the water, because they are alive!
Occasionally there are damaged individuals, who want to pick a fight, such as the lady who had recently completed a recovery programme for her alcohol addiction. The course required a commitment to a ‘higher power’, on the basis that she would never fully recover unless she had some kind of faith, a notion she found deeply offensive.
Although that went some way to explaining her attitude, it was evident that her issues ran very deep and manifested themselves in her enmity towards God.
New Age evangelism is difficult and challenging. At the end of the outreaches, the workers are always physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. But, as C. T. Studd famously said, although some Christians ‘would rather live within the sound of church or chapel bell’, he would rather ‘run a rescue shop within a yard of hell’.
That’s the Jesus Experience for you — a rescue shop just a few feet from the pit!