Shopping for a Christian Church

Likewise, Gentile Christians are in brotherhood with Jewish Christians, reckoned as spiritually circumcised in heart (Rom 2:26) and thus joined to Abraham through faith (Gal 3:29). Here then is racial diversity within spiritual unity, in the same way as a Christian man and wife are diverse in their spiritual unity (Gal 3:28). This same diversity in unity is strongly intimated in Rom 15:8-9 since “Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy” because of their inclusion as Gentiles with the fathers.

-Pastor Barry E. Horner
“Chapter 10: Israel and a Romans 11 Synthesis” (pg 278)
Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged

Hoch also quoted A.T. Hanson on this issue. While explaining that the prevailing interpretation of Phil 3:3 identifies the “we” as all true Christians, Hanson nevertheless declared that this understanding…

…seems quite foreign to Paul’s thought and means actually reading into Philippians ideas which seem to have originated at the time of the Reformation…The Philippians, being Gentiles, would have no reason to boast in the flesh anyway. Paul goes on to describe what he means by this phrase in the ensuing verses: it is plain that he means boasting of the national and spiritual privileges peculiar to the Jews. This the Philippians could not do…It is simpler to take “we” here as “we believing Jews”, or even “we, Paul and Timothy”, in whose name the letter is written. We know that Timothy was circumcised. So there is no good reason for maintaining that the use of “the circumcision” here suggests that Paul could apply the name Israel to Gentiles.

-A.T. Hanson, The Pioneer Ministry (London: SCM, 1961), 35
as quoted in Horner, pg 277

There’s really a lot going on in this chapter of Horner’s book, but space won’t allow me to insert all of the relevant quotes. If I tried, I might as well just copy and paste the chapter in verbatim. Actually, I’m not just writing another anti-supersessionism rant. I have a different, but related purpose for this “extra meditation” today.

I don’t agree with everything each of these gentlemen says in their respective books, but they are still refreshing to me. I tend to read mostly Jewish commentaries, but I’ve been reading Horner as part of my research into superessionism relative to my ongoing series on that topic in FFOZ’s Messiah Journal. What’s really exciting is that I’m reading the works of Christian authors and Pastors who actually agree that the church has not replaced the Jews in the covenant promises. I know they’re out there somewhere. Now if only I could find them.

Let me explain.

Not long ago, I discovered that “plan A” wasn’t going to work. Plan A was my separating from active participation in Messianic Jewish worship (One Law, anyway) for the purpose (well, it’s one of the reasons) of joining my wife in classes and services at our local Reform and Chabad synagogues. It took awhile, but I eventually discovered that it wasn’t just my former association with Messianic Judaism that made my wife hesitant to include me in that part of her life. It is my active and continuing faith as a Christian.

That’s not something I’m going to walk away from, even for the slim chance that my wife would feel more comfortable including me in her Jewish communities (and I don’t think it would do any good anyway). So plan A is shot to heck. Now I can either exist in isolation as a person of faith, or I can attempt to find some sort of community in which to participate as a Christian. But that presents a problem.

I previously wrote at length regarding all the roadblocks that stand in the way of my attending a church. On the other hand, there must be some churches that aren’t dripping with supersessionist rhetoric, aren’t there? I decided to look for one by querying a Christian Discussion Group several days ago. As the saying goes, except for one person trying to convince me that the church has replaced the Jews, the silence has been deafening (a second, more helpful person, responded while I was composing this blog).

But then, you have these Christian authors that make such encouraging statements. I mean, do these guys worship in heavily anti-Jewish churches and just keep their mouths shut, or are there actual havens of sanity and brotherhood under the sign of the cross? You couldn’t prove the latter by me, but since I’m facing a move to “plan B” now, I need to start somewhere.

I haven’t the faintest idea how to “shop” for a church.

I’ve occasionally talked to people who have been around churches for decades and can go into a church and assess its theology and how it operates almost immediately. They tell me what they see and hear that convinces them that the church is this and that, but I haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about. I went to a Lutheran church as a kid and then, decades later, I “came to the Lord” (I hate to say it, but “Christianese” still makes me crazy) in a Nazarene church (which ultimately turned out to be a bad experience, with a few bright spots mixed in), but that’s it. I don’t know from larger “organized Christianity”. The church, as in “all churches everywhere,” is a mystery to me. Actually, given my general outlook, the idea of “church shopping” makes me nervous.

But I’m getting a little tired of only being able to talk about what I think, feel, and believe in a virtual environment. It would be nice to occasionally address human beings face to face. However, I don’t want to get into a verbal “knock down-drag out” in a church because I don’t comfortably blend in to the homogenous Christian scenery, relative to Judaism. If I encounter a supersessionist attitude or worse, an anti-Semitic one, I’m liable to take it personally since my wife and kids are Jewish.

Does anyone have any ideas as to how to proceed? I’m not necessarily in a rush, and in fact, I’d like to plot, plan, and scheme, so to speak, about my next move. I have to admit, the thought of walking into a church again is intimidating. I call myself a Christian but socially, (which is a lot of what going to church is about) I’m anything but.

If you aren’t a regular visitor on this blog, you’ll need to get some idea of who I am and where I’m coming from. Since I more or less wear my heart on my sleeve when I write, just read four or five of my blog posts (the most recent, or pick some at random), and you’ll get a pretty good idea about how I see things.

Oh, I live near Boise, Idaho if that helps any.

Thanks.

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19 thoughts on “Shopping for a Christian Church”

  1. Come back to Vegas and you will have me to talk to face to face for the rest of your life…..Just kidding….

    You are in a peculiar situation. You closed one door (OL), and another door (BE) was closed to you. Now, in order to join a Church, you need to erase the tape of Messianics out of your mind….

    Don’t want to walk in your shoes right now….

  2. Come back to Vegas and you will have me to talk to face to face for the rest of your life…..Just kidding….

    Egad! 😉 Just kidding.

    I closed the door on One Law for several good reasons and the vast majority of them are still intact. BE wasn’t closed but for complicated social and family reasons, direct access to the local Jewish community isn’t going to become available.

    I’ve heard several credible people on the web, including Jacob Fronczak, say that it is possible to have a “Messianic” frame of reference and still attend a church. Right now, I’m exploring whether this is a credible “plan B” for me. There’s no guarantee that it will be. I can’t erase who I am.

    And my shoes fit just fine. Size 10 1/2.

  3. Have you thought about the 26:8 fellowship in Meridian? They are affiliated, to what degree I’m not sure, with the Harvest Messianic Fellowship in Denver. Or are you considering a Sunday church? Either way I would be interested in your choice and the results. We have had many a conversation at home regarding where to fellowship and always come to the place of staying home and leaving others alone. I don’t know that we could behave ourselves for too long when the church rhetoric strays from scripture. Even if we held our peace, our lack of participation in certain events would trigger questions and inevitably we would be obliged to answer. After which I’m fairly certain that someone would want to know why we were there in the first place. And that would be a fair question on their part.

    Though we are coming from a slightly different place than yourself we do have the same dilemma.

    Russ

  4. Hi Russ,

    I’m vaguely aware of 26:8 but don’t really know anything about them. Having left a One Law congregation, I don’t think I want to confuse issues by re-entering something similar. There are so many extreme variations in all the congregations and groups in the Treasure Valley, that it’s difficult to know what they do or don’t believe in. Naturally, I have the greatest affinity for the original group I left, but the fact that I still don’t believe in One Law would preclude a return. Also, it would be extremely unfair to return after having left them.

    I have been considering a Sunday church for a number of reasons, although the various scenarios I’ve been running in my head makes me realize that the probability of my successfully integrating in a church is rather low. Part of the reason is that there is no “we” in my family as far as a single religious perspective, there is only me, and thereby hangs a tale. Once I start going to a church and people realize I’m married, they’ll ask where my wife is. I can say she’s an unbeliever, which is the truth, but saying she’s a Jew is more accurate. In any event, some well meaning soul will probably want to evangelize her and I’m sure they wouldn’t understand why I’d tell them not to do that.\

    I’ve been going over in my mind those few people who are “Messianic,” for lack of a better term, and yet still successfully integrate into a church. They are all couples or families who are united in their faith together. They have all found churches with “a heart for Israel and the Jewish people,” so to speak, and are at least willing to entertain alternate points of view, as well as having the ability to tolerate some polite disagreements.

    I have a feeling such churches are rare.

    A small Bible study without the church component might be easier (hint, hint) to manage, but we’ll have to wait and see.

    Anyway you slice it, it’s going to be a bumpy ride (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor).

  5. James,
    I have been reading your blogs, silently, since late December. I’ve really enjoyed them BTW. I’m curious what you would like to receive from attending a church? Are you looking to align with a greater mission? Does the church’s alignment with your personal beliefs supersede your need for communal involvement at some level?

    I guess I ask because at some level, I relate to you. I currently attend a church that does not practice EVERYTHING that aligns with my personal beliefs. However, I personally align with their overarching mission. Even though I have some degree of difference over scripture interpretation within the body, I know that I can still align with what we are accomplishing as a whole. I know that my church is not just for me. In fact, they are adamant about who our church is for “..church for the Un-churched…”

    As you can likely tell, I am not a scholar…but like you, I enjoy research and growth. But I also know that I made to be a part of a community. I know that I can (and do) affect others in a positive manner by being involved. And I know that my talents are used in a manner that gives glory to our Father.

    All this to say–be encouraged. The Church needs you. Someone, somewhere, is needing to engage with you about your experiences, your pain, your triumphs. I believe those appointments are divinely orchestrated for you to minister in your unique way– a way that no-one else who have the impact that you will have. And the cool thing about all this, it works both ways. Community is good–and flawed as you know and have previously written. But at the end of the day–its worth it.

    Just my 2 cents.
    MVB

  6. James,

    I wasn’t gonna comment since I’ve said I’d never comment on this blog again. But since I don’t know your email, I just wanted to say that I feel for you and I’ll be praying that you find a supportive group of people who will be a blessing to you and your family.

    Shabbat shalom,

    Peter

  7. OK, Peter. I added a contact form to my “Who Am I” page right below the text introducing myself. If you don’t want to make a public comment, just fill out the form and click “Submit” and I’ll get an email with your message.

  8. James,
    “… probability of my successfully integrating in a church is rather low.”
    I wandered over here from Derek’s place. Difficulty integrating is something I have tons of experience with. I started my journey out of the evangelical subculture in my college days (yeah, I know, very common) it took me about a decade to get thoroughly out. After another decade of secularism I was ready to come back to church but it was impossible. What was bad when I left had become worse in the meantime. I have come to a realization that it wasn’t what the did or didn’t believe on paper anyway, that bothered me. It was all trappings. My father’s college friend Bernard Ramm wrote a book on the evangelical tradition in the mid 70s, where he admitted that evangelical community (an oxymoron) did not really have a creed. If was true then. It is overwhelmingly true now. I relocated to the North Coast of Oregon and started over from scratch. Everything from Bayside Baptist (Independent, separated, KJV-only) to Lutheran and PC-USA. Made some friends at Warrenton Baptist, Pastor Ed Bussert and a deacon named Mike Davis became good friends. Didn’t attend the morning worship, just tuesday night bible study. I think the small group setting is less of hassle than Sunday Morning. Mike and Ed were nice to me. The rest of the deacons had reservations which I throughly understand since I was in third standard deviation from conservative baptist, having grownup in the extreme left wing of the evangelical subculture during the ’60s revolution.

    Anyway, left Oregon a year later returned to big city, Seattle. Back to square zero. Ran into a semniary student (Fuller- Seattle Extension) who told me about Wayne Taylor’s Calvary Fellowship (Calvary Chapel). Attended there three nights a week for 13 months. Made lots of contacts, none of which were lasting. The church relocated 30 miles of white knuckle gridlock traffic form where I was living. So that was the end of that. It was a lost cause from get go. Didn’t fit in with the Calvary Chapel way of life. A subculture within a subculture. Then I tried a Lutheran and then a PC-USA church which had just hired a scholar who could teach, Bryan Burton, PhD. I didn’t fit in there either, attending bible studies with several CEOs of major corporations, the power games, the politics.

    We the smoke cleared, I realized that I was the problem. Being involved in my teens and twenties with a very radical, independent church, which went south (deteriorated) while I was in graduate school, having had that “special experience” of being in really exciting community where there were over forty 20 somethings meeting every sunday talking about really serious issues, reading Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis, and talking in groups of two or three till the wee hours of the morning about life threatening issues, the war, the bomb, what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a culture that has gone insane. After all that, the evangelical framework and what they call church was a real downer.

  9. We the smoke cleared, I realized that I was the problem.

    That’s probably true for me as well. Anyway, I’ve already written a lengthy blog post about that which will become tomorrow’s “morning mediation.” Thanks for “wandering over” from Derek’s place and for your insights.

  10. What a bizarre post from “Sander” on the Christian forum!

    First, a quote that has zero relevance to the discussion at hand. Was it suggesting you’re committing heresy? Or that you’re showing no humility? I can’t tell. Zero relevance to your question.

    Then, the bald faced supersessionism.

    My mouth gaped wider with each sentence in that post.

  11. Wow, Judah! Since I write “meditations” six days a week, it’s been awhile since I thought of this one, and especially Sander’s comments (I had to revisit the forum to refresh my failing memory). It’s guy’s like Sander who make it fairly unlikely that I’ll return to a church setting, at least not without my putting on a muzzle first.

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