The Old is New
William “Bill” Bjoraker, Assemblies of God U.S. missionary to Jewish people since 1993, is launching a new initiative equipping everyday Christians for Jewish missions. The initiative, which he calls Encountering the Jewish World, uses an informal practical training model, in contrast to a formal degree-granting program.
“Storytelling has a strong tradition in Jewish history,” says Bjoraker, an Intercultural Ministries missionary. “Training believers in the lost art of using Bible stories as an evangelism tool can be a very effective way to share the gospel.”
Based in Pasadena, California, Bjoraker and his wife, Diana, in their early 60s, are enthusiastic about the next phase of their ministry.
“If God gives us health and strength we are not going to retire but use our experiences and gifting to finish what God has called us to accomplish,” Bjoraker says.
The couple’s love for Jewish people was birthed in Tel Aviv, Israel, in the early 1980s when they met volunteering for a Christian hostel. They married and went on to serve in several ministries including Beit Immanuel in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, a Messianic Jewish congregation. In 1990 they relocated to Los Angeles, seeking to bring the hope of Jesus the Messiah to the more than 500,000 Jewish people living in Los Angeles County. They began evangelizing on weekends with a simple tabletop exhibit providing messianic evangelistic literature on the boardwalk at Venice Beach in Santa Monica.
In 1998, Bill Bjoraker founded Operation Ezekiel Inc., which conducted outreaches to Israeli émigrés and Hebrew language Bible studies, plus helped plant an Israeli congregation. It now focuses on Jewish people in Greater Los Angeles.
He earned a Master of Arts in Messianic Jewish studies and Leadership Development from the School of Intercultural Studies of Fuller Theological Seminary, plus a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He also has served as a part-time faculty member of William Carey International University in Pasadena and The King’s University, a school founded by Jack Hayford in Dallas.
Bjoraker notes that 70 percent of the Bible is in story form, and Jesus used parables as His primary teaching model.
“Storytelling is Jewish-friendly,” he says. “Even biblically illiterate Jews know intuitively that the stories of the Hebrew Bible are the stories of their people.”
The veteran missionary hopes to mobilize and inspire Christians who know Jewish people to join a Bible storytelling movement. He wants Messianic Jews to adopt it as a means of replicable ministry as well.
Conversational storytelling can be done on the go, he believes, in coffee shops, and even in airport security lines or waiting for luggage at baggage carousels. Bjoraker’s vision is simple.
He offers 10-hour, two-day, and five-day workshops on the storytelling process. Each includes 30-minute model storytelling sessions. Beginning with prayer, these sessions cover five essential steps: telling the story; retelling it by a volunteer; a lead-through of the story, when all retell it together, responding to the leader’s direction; spiritual observations; and applying the story to everyday life.
Bjoraker sees the oral word enlivening Scripture.
“Stories do the work of speaking to hearts, rather than trying to convince the defensive rationalist mind,” he says. “They also acknowledge the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit through the power of the word of God and theology is embedded within every biblical story.”