Some are Threatened by the Message of Jewish Calling
The message of the Jewish calling proclaimed by Messianic Jews is a threat to assimilating Jewish Christians who perceive it as a message that rejects their experience and commitment to the Christian churches.
Pastors are also threatened; they think that if their Jewish members accept this message, they will lose them. Many of these Jewish Christians have had a positive experience in the churches. They enjoy and appreciate the Christian heritage, much of which is worthy to be appreciated! In addition, many were won to Yeshua through the powerful witness of Christian friends. Modern Jews have many more contacts with Christians than with Messianic Jews. If these Christians display the reality of Yeshua in their lives, it is natural that these Jews follow them to their churches.
A very few Messianic Jews have been so greatly pained by this process that they want to exhort Christians not to win Jews to Yeshua. They say that only Messianic Jews should do this so that the new believers stay within the Jewish world. This is not biblically defensible. Christians are called in Romans 11 to make Jewish people jealous.
The Answer: A Mega-Shift in Church Leadership
I am convinced that the answer is a shift in the pastoral leadership of the churches. Church leaders must adopt a doctrinal foundation that insists that their Jewish members identify and live as Jews. This was anticipated in R. Kendall Soulen's book, The God of Israel and Christian Theology.
In this monumental study, Soulen approvingly quotes Jewish Orthodox theologian Michael Wyschogrod, who argues that we will not see full repentance for anti-Semitism in churches until the pastors of the churches teach their baptized Jewish members that they are called to live Jewish lives based in the Torah (I would add, obviously as interpreted by the New Testament). Without church leaders teaching the reality of the Jewish calling, Jewish Christians in the church will not take that call seriously.
I have recently been in contact with four Jewish pastors of large Christian churches who have come to the conviction that this is true. They have embraced their own Jewish identity and are now seeking to engage their Jewish Christian members to join them in creating space for Jewish identity, Jewish life patterns and celebrations while at the same time embracing the culture of Christianity for the majority of the members.
One has actually planted a Messianic Jewish congregation affiliated with his church. I have been a secondary influence, but I have to give primary credit to Coach Bill McCartney and Raleigh Washington of Promise Keepers and Road to Jerusalem. As an African-American Christian leader, Raleigh has been especially effective. He first points to his own identity as an African- American and its importance to him. Then he notes that Jewish identity in Yeshua is more important because it is mandated in Scripture for historic purposes.
It is far too early to judge this, but what might happen if it became a trend? Let us dream! What if, from such an orientation, there were more and more Jews in churches who identified as Messianic Jews and who joined together in Messianic Jewish fellowship groups connected to the churches and also connected to the Messianic Jewish synagogues?
Could we even see their children returning to their Jewish calling, and some making aliyah (becoming Israeli citizens and residents)? Could some even train to be leaders in Messianic Jewish congregations? Such a change could strengthen the whole movement.
Let Us Not Abandon the Assimilating Jewish Christians!
I for one am not willing to abandon the assimilating Jewish Christians in the churches and see them lost to the Jewish people! Many are mature Christians. I am not willing to abandon the hope that there can be a shift in church leaders' understanding. Such efforts as Toward Jerusalem Council II, our effort to see churches officially align with the Messianic Jewish movement, and Road to Jerusalem that has similar goals (led by Coach McCartney and Raleigh Washington), could be instruments in facilitating this "mega" shift.
At any rate, a great change is needed. If so, and some of these would come to Israel, we would be much closer to that 144,000 in the land of Israel described in the Book of Revelation chapter 7. That would be a great step toward "All Israel being saved," and "Life from the dead." (Romans 11:25 -28, 15).
Daniel Juster is director of Tikkun Ministries International.
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