Why I Go To Church

afraid-of-churchI’m actually enjoying going to church. When I came to that realization last Sunday, no one was more surprised than I was.

Wait! Let me explain.

Starting last October, I created a “Days” series that was a countdown to the end of the year. I was planning to make a decision, both about whether or not to go back to church and whether or not to continue to blog in the “Christian” or “Messianic” or “religious” space, given the endless contention occurring in the blogosphere. I started at 78 days and worked my way down to zero. It should be obvious that I continued blogging after January 1st, and I not only continued to go to church regularly, but frequently meet with the Head Pastor.

Eleven months to the day before I published “Day Zero,” I wrote and published an article called Why I Don’t Go To Church. This was in response to both my internal angst (my favorite theme) and to Pastor Jacob Fronczak’s blog post Why I Go To Church. Even back then, I had returning to church in mind, but was undergoing what I’d consider classic approach-avoidance conflict (I was a psychotherapist and family counselor back in the day).

I’ve overcome my “fear of flying,” so to speak, but I was afraid that once I started attending church, I’d find not “niche” of my own and end up being bored. While it’s true, I don’t go to my particular church for the music, I am experiencing many other benefits and even on some small level, beginning to give back just a tad. What added momentum to my journey happened just five days before my countdown was to end. I was reminded that seeking fellowship with God’s people is seeking an encounter with God.

And in church, I have encountered Him.

Today, I did something I shouldn’t have done. There’s a “community” within Google+ called “Messianic Judaism” (for all I know, there could be more than one, but this is the one I belong to). Access is by invitation only, so posting a link to it wouldn’t let you see inside, but someone in the community posted a link to a book review and asked for opinions. Unfortunately, it struck a nerve, and even though I had already determined I wouldn’t address the review and what I believe it represents, I shot off my big mouth (figuratively speaking) and now I’m regretting it.

But the transaction had an interesting side effect. It (or rather someone) challenged my going back to church and further, criticized the church in a manner that resulted in my feeling defensive. Me? Really?

I’ve maintained a relationship with blogger Judah Himango for the past few years, and that relationship has, on occasion, been quite stormy. We still talk online periodically, and today was one of those “talks.” But what he said got under my skin. Here’s part of what he posted to me.

My concerns with Tent of David are that it purports to “heal the vision of the Messianic gentile” by sending them back to the church, which will inevitably lead to assimilation.

I asked, “assimilation into what?” and he responded:

Assimilation into the doctrines of the Church. Sabbath is done away with, the Church has replaced Israel, any non-moral mitzvah is no longer applicable to anyone.

Unfortunately (mea culpa) I missed a part of what Judah had said before I rapidly posted my reply (I think I need to switch to decaf):

There are indeed folks called to the church. But for many others, we’re called to Hebraic Roots congregations or Messianic congregations.

I certainly don’t advocate compelling people to “go to church” if they feel called elsewhere, but on the other hand, I do object to the church being seen as “inferior” or “anti-Biblical” compared to non-Jewish Christians who feel called to worship within a more “Jewish” framework. I’ve been one of those people before and for reasons too lengthy to relate here, I needed to seek my community of faith elsewhere.

Why do I go to church?

First of all, thanks to Boaz Michael and (my advanced reading of) his book Tent of David (TOD) and other influences, not the least of which is my Mom, I summoned the courage to overcome my own personal prejudices and start attending church again.

communityI was welcomed by lots and lots of people, but you’d kind of expect that in an authentic Christian setting. But what happened next, was unanticipated…I started making connections. I’ve had several interesting and compelling conversations with the Head Pastor and just last Sunday, I spent an hour talking to one of the Associate Pastors (when I should have been in Sunday School) in the church library. Not only that, but a number of people actually seem authentically glad to see me, not just because I’m a warm body showing up a church, but because of me as the person I am (or at least as they perceive me to be). In fact, I’m stunned that some of these connections have occurred so quickly and that I’m now even feeling a sense of belonging.

People have offered to pray for me. I’ve seen genuine caring and concern for the hungry, the sick, and the dying. They offer tangible, material support for the needy and for missionaries in many countries. There is a genuine heart for Israel and a desire for her posterity. It’s not just the occasional person, but to the best of my ability to tell, the human community within the church’s walls does look to Christ as Messiah and Israel’s King for salvation and sustenance.

In my talks with Pastor Randy (and they’re really quite candid), we don’t always see eye to eye, but you can’t believe what an incredible pleasure it is, even to disagree with someone and still have the encounter be illuminating, positive, refreshing, and friendly. Try doing that on the Internet!

I don’t know where all this is going to lead me, but for the first time in a long time, I not only have hope that I will find a place in the church and among the community of believers, but that the church itself is turning in a direction that will indeed be part of the healing between the Jewish and non-Jewish disciples of the Master.

I feel that I’ve failed in my comments on Google+ today and allowed my emotions to overcome my common sense. I could delete my comments, but they’ve already been read and responded to, so I might as well leave them up. In any event, God knows what I’ve said and done, so removing my annoyed comments won’t repair my relationship with Him.

But the realization, thanks to Judah’s statements (though he probably didn’t intend them the way I’ve taken them), that there really is hope for Christianity and a way forward in being part of “rebuilding David’s fallen tabernacle” is encouraging. It’s even better now that I realize it’s possible for me to have a small part in that “project” within the community of Christianity.

I don’t particularly mind if people don’t agree with my going back to church, and I understand that whenever you write and publish a book (such as Boaz Michael has), especially in such an emotionally explosive realm as religion, people are going to write critical book reviews. The only thing I mind about some of the criticism being leveled against Tent of David (and yes, I’ve read the reviews), is that it simply misses the overall vision Boaz is trying to communicate. I can appreciate people who have an eye for detail, and who may feel certain specific terms or other content wasn’t used with as much accuracy as they could have been, but look at the big picture.

In between the Gentile Christians going to church and those who have found a home in either a Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish congregation are just tons and tons and tons of people with little or no fellowship at all. Maybe they attend small home Bible studies or maybe they just worship with their families. Some, like me, may even seek fellowship over the Internet (which is problematic at best). But remember, seeking fellowship is seeking an encounter with God, and in my experience, many people who think of themselves as “Messianic Gentiles” are disconnected and isolated from other believers and, Heaven forbid, from the God who loves their souls.

symmes_chapel_churchThrough bad teaching, bad leadership, or bad experiences, they’ve become convinced that “the Church” (whatever you imagine the term to mean) is bad, evil, awful, pagan, lost, apostate, anti-Law, and so on…I mean all Christian churches everywhere. And, for whatever reasons, they haven’t found an alternative or the alternative that they’ve found may be a group that defines itself solely on being “anti-Christian,” as opposed to a community dedicated to discipleship under Jesus Christ and a sincere desire to meet with God.

If even some of those people can find in Tent of David what I have, then maybe they don’t have to be alone, either. I don’t think you have to agree with each and every thing Boaz set forth in TOD, but you can embrace the vision and let it take you where God wants you to go.

I am beginning to “fit in” with this church. I probably wouldn’t fit in at most other churches in my area. The fact that a set of unlikely occurences led me to this church as the first stop in my search for community I believe indicates the hand of God at work in my life.

You don’t have to like the fact that I go to church. You don’t have to go to church if you don’t want to. Really, no one is holding a gun to your head. However, I’d like you to consider two things. The first is that there might be a reason God wants me to go to church. The second is that God might have a plan for you that you don’t agree with Him about. That was me once upon a time. Could it be you, too?

That’s not all about why I go to church…but it’s a start.

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29 thoughts on “Why I Go To Church”

  1. It can be so easy to make mistakes when we communicate over the Internet. The lack of face-to-face confrontation can make it easier for us to speak out of turn, or in a way we wouldn’t in person. I often find I consider what I’m going to say a lot more in person than I do over text or on the Internet.

    Enjoyed your post, hope you continue enjoying being at church, because God will bless you in community as much as he does personally, he likes to do that. God bless.

  2. That’s great you fit in to your church. I also attend a church with my wife, in addition to leading a Hebrew Roots congregation. There’s lots good in the Church. Please understand that such a calling is not for everyone.

    My concerns with the book’s thesis — that gentiles should return to the Church — is that it will invariably lead to Messianic gentiles taking on the doctrines of the Church, which are often anti-Torah, and in some cases, anti-Semitic.

    This is why FFOZ’s “Tent of David” does not ask Messianic Jews to return to the Church. They will acknowledge it would lead to assimilation into gentile Christianity. If the lives and descendants of the pioneers of modern Messianic Judaism have taught us anything, it’s that assimilation is powerful. “Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.”

    If assimilation was such a problem for the early Messianic Jewish pioneers, how much easier assimilation will be for the Messianic gentile convinced he must return to the Church?

  3. My concerns with the book’s thesis — that gentiles should return to the Church — is that it will invariably lead to Messianic gentiles taking on the doctrines of the Church, which are often anti-Torah, and in some cases, anti-Semitic.

    To some degree, that depends on the church as well as the people re-entering it. First off, Boaz made a point that going back to church wasn’t an option for everyone. Secondly, most of the book is addressing people who are already integrated into a church who are becoming “judaically-aware” (for lack of a better term). The whole vision of TOD isn’t for the “Messianic Gentile” to assimilate into antisemitism but just the opposite…to be able to communicate a pro-Israel message in some manner or fashion.

    I know that sounds optimistic, but I’ve met Pastors who are successfully teaching that, including the one at my church. We have a number of disagreements in our conversations, but we also have many things in common about how we see the church, Jesus, Israel, and the future return of the Messiah King.

    I’ve said above that I probably wouldn’t fit in to most other churches in my area (or any area) and since I worship God, I can’t believe that it was random coincidence that I found a church like this one a mere 15 minute drive from my home. Judah, you don’t have to go to church and if someone can authentically worship God in a place that calls itself by another name, then they should do so, but also trust that God may make things possible that you think are impossible…or at least highly unlikely.

    1. James said: “The whole vision of TOD isn’t for the “Messianic Gentile” to assimilate into antisemitism but just the opposite.”

      A noble goal! But reality shows assimilation is powerful. We need not look any further than the 20th century pioneers of Messianic Judaism — and their children — to see that.

  4. And, as I (and Boaz) said, the vision of TOD isn’t for everyone. It also isn’t going to be easy. But if we want the church to hear the message of a “Jewish Jesus” and to be ready for the return of the Messiah King…if we want the church to come to the realization of the unique role the Gentile believers have in the restoration of Israel, then at least some of us must be the change we want to see in the church. Maybe we’ll fail, but we have to try.

  5. I don’t want to change the Church. I want to change people. God’s used Hebrew Roots congregations to do that in an amazing way. I mean, think about, isn’t it amazing that after 2000 years, gentile Christianity is drawing near to Torah, and embracing Israel? That’s from God, I’m convicted of it.

    The fruit of this Israel- and Torah-centric faith in gentile Christianity is Hebrew Roots congregations and gentiles being drawn to all things Messianic. It’s God at work.

    So while many are ashamed of gentiles in the Messianic movement, even sweep them under the rug or stop them from serving in Messianic Judaism congregations, or others telling them to go back to the Church, I rejoice and praise God for what he’s doing with gentiles today.

  6. Judah, the church *is* people. We’re not a thing or an object. At its heart, a church is nothing more than the people who occupy it with their love and their compassion and their desire to serve God. You see the message in TOD as some sort of dodge to fool the non-Jews to get out of the Messianic and Hebrew Roots movements and to return to the church. I see it as those of us with a valuable message sharing it with those who Hebrew Roots would discard.

    My understanding of your comment Judah is that Christians must “come out of the church,” go into another “believing faith” that has been “rebranded” to separate itself from Christianity, and accept that they are obligated to the full yoke of Torah (and if you’ve been reading my “Return to Jerusalem” series, you know my opinion on that), admitting they were sinners for not keeping shomer Shabbos and kosher.

    You see it as God’s work that some Christians have made a choice to leave a traditional church setting and join Hebrew Roots. There could be some truth in that, but not the whole truth. I also see God’s hand in the church, moving men and women who are in their 70s and who have been Christians the vast majority of their lives, past supersessionism and anti-Jewish thought and into a true love for Israel, the Jewish people and acceptable of Israel’s future as the head of the nations with Messiah as King.

    I believe God is preparing the non-Jewish believers for the Jewish Messiah King. I just don’t believe He put all of his eggs into the Hebrew Roots basket.

  7. Here’s an opened question for those who are convinced that sending Messianic gentiles back to the church is a good idea:

    If Messianic Jews in the church inevitably assimilated into Christianity, how will Messianic gentiles be any different?

    If your answer is, “They won’t assimilate; they’ll influence others towards Torah!”, then I ask how Messianic gentiles will be any different than the Messianic Jewish pioneers of the 20th century, all of whom have assimilated into classic Christianity.

    If your answer is, “It’s OK to assimilate, because Messianic gentiles are just Christians!”, then you deny the legitimacy of Torah observance for Messianic gentiles.

  8. If your answer is, “It’s OK to assimilate, because Messianic gentiles are just Christians!”, then you deny the legitimacy of Torah observance for Messianic gentiles.

    When did I ever say that I thought “Messianic Gentiles” were obligated to Torah observance?

    Again, this is a journey that’s not for everyone. If a person or a family believes they will eventually be assimilated into a traditional church theology and that’s not what they want, then they should probably make other arrangements for worship…if available (there isn’t a Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish congregation in every community).

    Let’s use a specific example. Boaz and Amber Michael attend a small Baptist church in Missouri and they’ve been doing so for a few years now (the foreword to TOD was written by Boaz’s Pastor). Are they likely to assimilate and become “typical Christians?” Why or why not?

    In my particular case, I don’t believe I’m obligated to the full 613 commandments, but do believe I can voluntarily take on additional mitzvot. My wife (who as you know, is Jewish) thinks I’m crazy for keeping “kosher style” since I have no obligation, but what is she supposed to say? The Head Pastor of the church I attend is rather unique and we meet once a week to discuss his viewpoints and mine on Israel, Judaism (he lived in Israel for fifteen years), Torah, halachah, and salvation (among many other things). One of the associate Pastors asked me to evaluate a small booklet he has that was written by David Stern in order to help him with being able to see the Gospels from a more Jewish perspective. One of the Sunday School teachers actually lectured me on why we Christians have a responsibility to help the needy Jews in Israel.

    Gee, I dunno Judah. I don’t feel my convictions and personal identity being particularly eroded.

    OK, each person, each church, and each situation is different. Your friend Peter said on his “Orthodox” blog that he also attends a church and he doesn’t seem to be worried about “assimilation.” You attend a church with your wife. We all have different ways of being who we are in church or anywhere else. You don’t have to believe that this is a viable option or that the church is a viable expression of the love of God for humanity.

    And I don’t have to believe that the Hebrew Roots movement is my only option for serving God.

    1. James said: “When did I ever say that I thought “Messianic Gentiles” were obligated to Torah observance?”

      Fine readers, notice how James has inserted “obligated” into the picture. No one here said a peep about obligation, but James inserted it, then argued against it. This is the classic straw man argument. He also did this with Hebrew Roots, rebuking the straw man by saying it’s not “my only option” for serving God. (No one said it was the only option; straw man.)

      Again I ask all the readers readers here to consider this question:

      If Messianic Jews in the church historically assimilated into Christianity, how will Messianic gentiles be any different?

      This question gets to the heart of the matter. Tent of David says gentiles should go back to the Church. The problem is, this will lead to assimilation. Messianic gentiles will pick up the theology of classic Christianity, which is decidedly against Torah observance for Jews and gentiles.

      James’ answer to this crux question, best I can tell, is a combination of, “Gentiles don’t have to keep Torah! And besides, I’m not assimilating.” His answer rejects the premise that gentiles keeping Torah is God at work, and then it denies the reality of assimilation.

  9. Fine readers, notice how James has inserted “obligated” into the picture. No one here said a peep about obligation, but James inserted it, then argued against it.

    There’s a reason I require certain blog posts to be approved on an individual basis. Nevertheless, I’ll approve this one too.

    But Judah, you surprise me. If you’re saying that we Gentile Christians are *not* obligated to the full yoke of Torah, then I’ve misjudged you and apologize. Perhaps we are not so far apart after all since I too believe that a Christian may take on additional mitzvot beyond our obligations without being obligated to them.

    We are arguing at cross purposes Judah. I answered your questions, I simply didn’t answer them on your own terms.

    Be that as it may, in order to assimilate into the church, a Christian going back to church after spending time in a Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish congregation has to be something else other than a traditional Christian. If that “difference” has to do with a Christian voluntarily taking on board additional mitzvot, then your concern is that by attending a church, they would give up that choice or somehow lose that ability. In that case, they probably shouldn’t go back to church. This is the third time I’ve had to repeat that point, Judah.

    I’ve also given examples of people who are attending church (including you and your friend Peter) who apparently aren’t assimilating, so I can only believe that the church doesn’t have full control of your behaviors or some other mechanism is in operation.

    On the one hand you say that Gentile Torah observance isn’t mandatory, but on the other hand, you say Gentiles keeping the Torah is “God at work.” You also say (by implication anyway) that attending a Hebrew Roots congregation and keeping the Torah isn’t the only option for a Gentile Christian to serve Messiah and worship God, and yet you obviously have “problems” with the church. You also seem to be implying that TOD is part of some sort of plan by certain elements of Messianic Judaism to drive the Gentiles from their midst and back into the churches (out of sight/out of mind I guess). There is another way of interpreting that as well, and I’ve blogged on that other perspective at length.

    It’s OK for us to disagree but I can see by the wording and “tone” of your last response that your ability to maintain a civil discussion is beginning to wear thin. There is nothing in what I’ve said or done, including attending a church, that inhibits your freedom of thought or action in any way. You disagree with me? I’m fine with that. You disagree that “Messianic Gentiles” may have a place in the church? I’m OK with that opinion, too. Will the vision proposed by TOD be a disaster? Maybe and maybe not. If it’s from God, then in spite of all odds and in spite of your fears Judah, it will succeed. Only time will tell.

    Keep reading my blog. I’ll let you know how it goes. Just be careful with the comments. One of the decisions I did make at the first of the year was to limit the amount of hostility I’ll allow from my “guests.” I assume you exercise a similar amount of control on your own blog.

    Thank you.

  10. James said: “you say that Gentile Torah observance isn’t mandatory”

    No, I didn’t say that. I said you brought up the issue of obligation and attacked it, even though I never mentioned obligation either way.

    It was a straw man argument, and I called you out on it. Now you threaten to censor comments.

    FFOZ is no stranger to censorship on their blog, either. Leman has done the same and continues to censor comments on his blog. With all this censorship, I get the feeling that challenges are not really acceptable in the Bilateral Ecclesiology community. We must all think uniform, happy thoughts.

    You did answer my question though. Thanks. Your answer is, best I can tell, “Gentiles don’t have to keep Torah, so assimilation doesn’t matter.”

    I prefer clarity over agreement, so I’m glad we’ve achieved clarity. Tent of David indeed is a wonderful book for those who believe Messianic gentiles should just become classic gentile Christians.

  11. No, I didn’t say that. I said you brought up the issue of obligation and attacked it, even though I never mentioned obligation either way.

    It was a straw man argument, and I called you out on it. Now you threaten to censor comments.

    So that means you are using this issue to create a smoke screen or at least to muddy the waters so you can avoid discussing the main issue. I fail to see why you can’t make your point without resorting to being abrasive, Judah. Also, I know you aren’t so naive as to believe a blog owner doesn’t have the right to control the content that appears on his/her blog. I’m hardly abridging your rights to freedom of speech. If you or anyone else chooses to edit or delete my comments on your/their blogs, I might not always like it, but I can hardly argue that it’s not your right to do so.

    Discussion is just fine. Disagreement is just fine. Poor attitudes are not.

    We must all think uniform, happy thoughts.

    Snarkiness, for instance.

    Judah, you don’t like my answer so you reduce it down so far that it no longer represents what I said. You say you prefer clarity over agreement, but your tactic is to reduce conversation to the sort of exchange you’d normally see in divorce court or on “Judge Judy.” Based on your blogging behavior of late, I thought you’d gotten past that “angry guy” attitude you presented to everyone and anyone who didn’t completely agree with your particular viewpoint. I guess I was wrong about you. I’m sorry.

    If you choose to feel threatened and defensive about the content in TOD, that’s not my fault. You don’t have to agree with it. But you’re not the book’s victim, either.

  12. James, I’d like to understand one more thing. You said,

    “a Christian going back to church after spending time in a Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish congregation has to be something else other than a traditional Christian”

    My question is, do you believe he is?

  13. James,

    This is a good post! I’m glad that your journey is moving in a positive direction. As a family we attended church two Sundays ago for the first time in 3 1/2 years. We liked it and were disappointed that weather kept us from going back this week (which was a surprise to me!). We have been encouraged to do this since reading Tent of David. We are those people sitting at home by ourselves with no fellowship. Living in a small rural area three hours from the nearest Messianic fellowship only leaves us with two options.

    In a way I understand what Judah is saying about assimilation because in my mind I have questioned that also. But, I have to believe that our new found understanding of Scripture can’t just be dropped and we will go back to what we believed before. What I found the most helpful about TOD is Boaz’s attitude. Stay quiet, develop friendships, let people get to know who you are and not be turned away by a superior attitude, an argumentative spirit, or an underlying scream.

    It is going to take time. Why would God send us on this journey to turn back to how we were before? The reason we were drawn to Messianic Judaism was because we knew there had to be more and our faith seemed so boring and blah. I really don’t want to assimilate back into that! But I do what to share the amazing things God has and is doing in our lives and how much more there is to our faith in the Jewish Messiah than we have experienced in the past.

    No matter how much as a gentile am not obligated to not eat pork I still won’t do it! I also can’t eat gluten. I may have two different reason for my diet, but if people can accept the fact my body doesn’t do gluten then they should be able to accept the fact that it doesn’t do pork either and not judge me or convince me otherwise.

  14. Judah, in order to fear “assimilatation,” one has to be different than the entity in which the assimilation may occur. Do I believe Hebrew Roots Gentile is a Christian? Yes. Certain concepts and practices may be different, but the core theology is the same. Frankly Judah, you are more Christian than you are not based on your core beliefs on the identity of the Messiah.

  15. Hi Kaye,

    You might consider continuing to attend the Messianic group sparingly due to the distance involved and attending the church more regularly. That way, you could still feel grounded in Messianic/Hebrew Roots beliefs and practices while attending a more traditional church environment.

    Churches, Pastors, and parishioner are all different, so your expereince at the church you’re going to may be quite dissimilar from mine. In spite of what I said, I don’t want to create an impression that you will smoothly integrate into the church. I lived with uncertainty for weeks and weeks about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I told myself that if it got to be too hard for me to maintain my personal convictions while going to church, I could stop going.

    I’ve been encouraged in my journey by a few friends, one in particular who I visit with on alternate Sunday afternoons. He’s been a Christian for many years and also been part of the Hebrew Roots movement in the past. We have faced some similar challenges but he’s faced more. I trust his judgment and his insights and he is a true man of God.

    Without going into a lot of detail, too many highly improbable events occurred that resulted in me finding the church I’m attending and then finding the support I needed to stay. I wish I could predict how everyone else’s experience is going to be, that each of us will have a unique set of encounters. If God is in it, He won’t be hiding.

    Blessings on your continued journey.

  16. Kaye raises a good point. I wonder if we’d all agree with this statement: “Better to be in a Christian congregation, then trying to go it alone.”

  17. Thanks for your advice James. We do plan on staying connected to the Messianic movement. Though we have never actually been to any of the Messianic groups in “Big City” we would be more than willing to do so.

    FFOZ has been and will continue to be one of our most valued connections. Our main source of fellowship has been via the internet but sometimes that just isn’t enough. I need to see people face to face and go out to dinner once in awhile and to do that in our community we need to be okay with where others are in their journey and not judge and condemn them or the Church.

    Our first experiences with Messianic Judaism was just that, arrogant, argumentative, judgmental church bashing. When you are drawn to the truth of what is said but find it hard to swallow because of the presentation things are rough. Thank GOD for FFOZ and their balance or we would be back at church without our hebraic understand or dead in the water without either one.

    I am so excited for the TOD classes and the FFOZ Conference!!

  18. I couldn’t disagree more with the mistaken notion that Messianic Gentiles will “assimilate” through fellowship with Christians. “Oneness” does not mean “sameness.” The HaYesod program does a great job of pointing this out and I believe Boaz and James and others are onto something that Mr. Himango doesn’t understand. It is more than just possible to be “different” within an accepting Christian environment, it is positive and exciting and refreshing and full of opportunities to help others see the beauty and grace of a more Jewish orientation to being discipled by the Master.

  19. @Rob: I agree with what you said about Kaye’s statement: Better to be in a Christian congregation, then trying to go it alone, though as you have seen, not everyone might agree.

    @Kaye: I think Dan Hennessy makes some good points that would really be helpful in your situation. You have the ability to make and keep the convictions you feel are important to you and don’t have to fear that what you’ve learned and what you know will “disappear” if you attend a church for a long period of time. As I mentioned in another comment, both Judah and Boaz Michael and their families attend church regularly, and yet they remain firm in their own beliefs and behaviors in terms of the Hebrew Roots and Messianic movements respectively.

    I recall another “Messianic” gentleman making a comment about his own recent church involvement and saying that he and his family have made a positive impression on the church’s Pastor. Although there have been some disagreements on certain topics, the Pastor remarked to this fellow saying, “I’ve been wondering why God sent you and your family to our church.”

    I’m glad FFOZ has been a good support for you. Which conference are you talking about. I’m going to try and make it to the Shavuot conference again this year (nothing’s confirmed yet).

  20. Just an update, and I expected this to happen. A few voices in the Hebrew Roots blogosphere have begun their own comments on what I’ve written, both in this blog post and in Return to Jerusalem, Part 6. I won’t link to them, but of course, one of them is on Judah’s blog (the other blogger called me “brainwashed”). I suppose I should be flattered that other people think my opinion is important enough to write about but then, I included the following quote in one of my “meditations” for a reason:

    If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

    -Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. president

  21. Sorry James, Yes, the Shavuot conference. This is our first opportunity to attend and we are really looking forward to it.

  22. “Judah, in order to fear “assimilatation,” one has to be different than the entity in which the assimilation may occur. Do I believe Hebrew Roots Gentile is a Christian? Yes.”

    James, you are quite correct. When people equate Gentile Messianic assimilation into churches with Jewish assimilation and its terrible effects on the Jewish people, what they are really saying is that being a Jew is not about being part of the people and family of Israel or a commitment to a covenant G-d has made with Israel (with everything that entails), but rather only a matter of specific doctrinal beliefs.

    Nevertheless, there’s indeed a such thing as assimilation for Gentile believers. I am talking about assimilation not into the church but back into the world of their ancestors who were without hope. I am talking about assimilation away from the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, away from the life made abundant by the G-d of Israel through his Messiah. Jews face such danger as well.

  23. Gene, I think that’s called “leaving the faith.” Ironically, when I left the Hebrew Roots world, Judah was quite worried that I would also leave the faith. He was (and no doubt still is) very concerned for my spiritual future, and I’m glad he showed such concern (thanks, Judah).

    But while not all Hebrew Roots people or congregations are like this, some still feel “victimized” by their experiences in churches as well as by their perception that “Messianic Judaism” is trying to take something away from them that they believe they own. People can become afraid when threatened and respond with anger.

    Sometimes, I feel like telling everyone who gets upset about all this stuff (including me) to “take a deep breath and then get a grip.” No one is threatening them just because they’re being disagreed with. The real problem is when folks respond by being “disagreeable,” and as I mentioned above, a couple of tongues are wagging on the blogoshpere already in reaction to what I’ve written.

    Really, is this any way for the body of Messiah to behave? I wrote tomorrow’s “morning meditation” before this whole thing started but it is certainly apt for today’s situation. What do we do as people of faith when we’re insulted and maligned, especially by other people of faith? I hope tomorrow’s answer will be satisfying.

  24. I’m in the midst of reading TOD, which my husband has already read. We also are just beginning to attend a church. He is excited about the prospect which I’m glad to see. I, on the other hand, am going because I know intellectually it is a good thing to do. I am convinced that connections/relationships are important and necessary. But my heart fears disappointment and shallowness. Fairly recently I was profoundly disappointed by a church that I thought was really different than the rest. So now I jokingly say my husband is bring his “near heathen” wife back to church. 🙂 I don’t fear assimilation. I know what I believe. I also know I’m not going to change the church. I have to change–a different perspective and attitude is needed on my part. Perhaps the rest of TOD will help and God will move in my heart. Otherwise it just sounds like an exhausting proposition, even though (since I live in a new city) I would like to connect with people. In any case, we are starting the journey. I’ll trust God for the rest.
    It’s been great to follow your journey. Your post was encouraging!

  25. I, on the other hand, am going because I know intellectually it is a good thing to do. I am convinced that connections/relationships are important and necessary. But my heart fears disappointment and shallowness.

    That was exactly how I felt when I approached returning to church as well. In my case, the church was more of a match with me than I ever imagined, and I can’t say you’ll have the same experience. It’s true that this journey isn’t for everyone and some believers will never be called to go back to church, but I agree Carol, that connections, relationships, and fellowships are important. We aren’t a body of believers unless we’re part of the body.

    I’m glad what I said encouraged you. Please let me know how your journey goes.

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