Originally posted on IMDB
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Who are these people? They’re Jews for Jesus. Why are they there? They’re there to talk about what many find to be a controversial topic, one that involves asking the most important question anyone can ever ask, “Who is Jesus?” What are they doing? They’re evangelizing. In a radical, amazing, inspiring, and bold way.
Created by the Jews for Jesus organization, the new documentary film Awakening aims to highlight their efforts to, as their Executive Director David Brickner describes,
“Awaken New Yorker’s to the issue of Jesus as the Jewish messiah, to make the messiah-ship unavoidable to our Jewish people.” The vividly shot, face paced documentary begins with lyrical music content asserting an awakening for salvation, “You’re our hope we’ve found. The time is here and now.” As someone that personally lives in the influential city of Los Angeles, and whose friends reside in the heart of Hollywood, I could instantly relate to the need of having the gospel put on intentional display. New York City, a place where one campaigner says it best, “… is amazing because it feels like it has a foot to every country in on the planet…”
This east coastal state is also one of the few places you can talk to so many Jews—and the most diverse range of Jews at that… These ministry participants appear to be overflowing with the love of Christ as they’re seen talking to people on the streets, reaching out in numerous, and ridiculously creative ways. From scan-able bar-code t-shirts that take people to a video to learn more about the organization and point them to the messiah, being relevant in their involvement in social media, to punchy pamphlets with a hook, a theme, a target, and can read in less than a minute. (They’re well aware that this generation has a short attention span!) They’re trying to get people interested, and they’re willing to go to them, in the various senses that means.. Whether that be Bryant Park (to sing worship songs and share their own personal testimonies), or in the late hours veering to Brooklyn and the East Village to talk with hipsters and new agers; evangelism is about meeting people where they are.
I loved how Susan Perlman (Assoc. Executive Director of Jews for Jesus) put it when she says, “If you can get a hardened New Yorker, and get them to think about a message that’s been around for 2000 years, then you can speak to anybody, anywhere.”
To many of us outside, or unfamiliar with the Jewish way of life, it’s become more of a common place to associate Jews as those who: 1. don’t believe in Jesus (as if it’s a rule or something passed down and they all just accept that) and 2. are people who born into a culture, rather than a heart rooted faith believe. LA is certainly full of “Jews only by tradition” I can tell you that from my own interaction and experiences. So it’s cool to see non Jews interacting with the campaigners as well, learning educational ways to reach out to their Jewish friends.
The film not long in length (about 30minutes), is geared towards the believer. It felt like a snapshot showing how God has influenced them, and what they’re in turn doing with that influence to love on others. One of the founding members brings up the fact that some of, “The best missions throughout history have been youth missions. That’s where the life is. Jews for Jesus was born out of a movement of young people who’ve had a passion to share their faith.” Not only was I impressed seeing these youth, peers my own age, spurring forward with the truth that it shouldn’t be about quote unquote “religion”, but about relationships; it was powerful, and fantastic. Their goals are to meet people, get in their information and follow up. Regardless of the ultimate reaction, it gives people a chance to speak and ask questions, and for them a chance to respond. And to also provide opportunities for guided lectures the taking of people to the next level of learning. Deeper and more seriously…
John 13:35 says By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Another aspect of this film is that we’re given glimpses of the campaigners enjoying life together during this time: eating, sleeping, praying on the streets with strangers and each other, laughing, and even being tired. They’re honest that it’s an exhausting process. They themselves need a fuel and refilling that only Christ can provide. At one point a young woman revealed her motivation to push past the sometime physical tiredness and emotional attacks this type of on the ground ministry can bring about, “When I think about the pain Christ endured, what are sore feet? Pain is fuel for passion.” (Sigh…tear.) This documentary is such a faith increasing, motivating, and fun film to watch.