Many Christians have chosen the path of the Messianic Gentile. They have seen their lives changed for the better as a result of the strides they have taken towards an understanding of their Jewish roots. They have studied, learned, and grown. At a certain point in this process of growth, though, it is not always obvious what to do next. I am frequently contacted by Messianic Gentiles who are debating what do to with their new understanding. I have connected with many communities in which this is a serious problem.
For the most part, Messianic Gentiles want to share the Messianic renewal with other believers. Grasping hold of one’s Jewish roots is a wonderful thing. It is a beautiful feeling to learn about the biblical feasts, the Sabbath, and other Jewish practices which our Master embraced and taught. Our love for Yeshua makes these things precious to us. For disciples of Yeshua, finding our Jewish roots is like discovering a beautiful, long-lost treasure.
“Introduction,” pg 18
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile
Part of the Returning to the Tent of David series
Here is where I come in. I should say that I’m not really a typical “Messianic Gentile.” I think the model may have been more appropriate back in the day, but not so much anymore, primarily because I’m a believer going to a church, and the missus is Jewish and not a believer. Furthermore, as Boaz says several times in his book, a “Messianic Gentile” is indeed a “Christian.” I’ve adopted the latter “title” to clarify my vision: that there’s nothing about a Messianic perspective on Messiah and the Bible that should be considered separate or apart from Christians and the Church (big “C”).
The other reason I don’t call myself a “Messianic Gentile” is that I don’t “keep Torah” in many of the ways someone on a Messianic community might. Even at the height of my so-called “observance,” I still drove on Shabbat, cooked on Shabbat, ate what you might call “Kosher-style” rather than what my local Chabad Rabbi would consider kosher, used the Siddur poorly, had (and still have) by and large no command of Hebrew at all, and so forth. I was a lousy “Messianic Gentile” in my practice. But the study and the information flow was and is fabulous.
Among the many things our Master taught us was the command to love each other as he loved us (John 13:34).
This is a core of the message and the vision. If we don’t do these “Tent of David” experiences out of love rather than some other motivation, we lose and the Church loses.
And that’s not easy.
What is easy is to get involved in theological and doctrinal debates trying to show who is wrong and who is right. That’s no different from the typical “dust ups” we have in the religious blogosphere, and I’ve been critical of those before.
Becoming a living and active part of the church community isn’t always easy. I go to services, attend Sunday school, visit weekly with the Pastor, but that’s about it. Oh, I’ve taken on a special project that has required I work with one of the Associate Pastors and some of the staff, but I don’t know if that qualifies me as part of the community. Maybe it just takes more time or maybe I’m holding back.
Can one live as a Messianic Gentile among Christians who don’t yet embrace his lifestyle or viewpoint?
-ibid, pg 19
As Boaz says on the previous page, “Yet this is not always easy. Churches can be resistant to the message of the Messianic Gentile.” But is my mission and purpose to go into church with the idea of changing people? This is one of the most difficult parts of the “TOD” experience. The vision is vast and glorious, but living it out day by day is difficult, especially when I’m not a gifted teacher, theologian, and publisher, but rather, just a guy “on the ground,” so to speak.
I don’t really try to live my life as a “Messianic Gentile” in the church. I just try to be me, which I suppose is both my greatest strength and my staggering weakness.
And why should the church listen to the rather odd sounding message of the “Messianic Gentile?” I mean, it’s their home ground. They hold all the keys that open all of the doors in their realm. They are comfortable with what they are being taught and what they believe fundamentalist and evangelical Pastors and their books and sermons tell them. Saying something like the Torah is not canceled is not just different or new information, it’s radical and potentially “dangerous”. It flies in the face of everything the average Christian in the pew has ever been taught.
The Gentile believers, as part of the commonwealth, had a unique and vital role in the process of building the Tent of David, using their numbers and resources to empower and bless the Jewish community and spread the message of the kingdom in their own culture. In this way, the apostles envisioned the imminent restoration of the Tent of David and the establishment of Yeshua’s hegemony over the entire world…It would hardly be an overstatement to say that this apostolic vision is Christianity’s raison d’être, its reason for existing.
-ibid, pg 22
That’s only vaguely how most Christians and most Christian churches see themselves. Frankly, it took me awhile to even see this aspect of my “reason for existing” and even longer to get comfortable with it. A tremendous amount of internal struggle along with lots of prayer and studying had to take place before I was able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and to recognize that the completed picture was “me.” I’ve spent many months trying to communicate on this blog what I see and while the people who already share that vision are enthusiastic, those who don’t are going to be just as blind to it as I was.
As disciples of the Messiah, Messianic Gentiles must live out by personal example the teachings of Yeshua…
-ibid, pg 24
I read this sentence and immediately thought about Sukkot. I happened to mention to my Sunday school teacher that I built a sukkah in my backyard, as I do every year, and a little bit about the customs around Sukkot. He seemed interested and enthusiastic, but not in the way I anticipated. It was more like a novelty item to him…something interesting and curious to look at but nothing that had to do with him and his lived experience. The idea of him building a sukkah would be seen in the same way as the idea of living in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet for a year. A fascinating thought but in no way connected to his experiential reality.
Who will show the institutional church its blind spot?
-ibid, pg 26
Who says they want to see it? The most interesting part of this experience is not the response, but the silence. I recently had a bit of a disagreement with my Sunday school teacher over the meaning of Acts 15:1-2. He says that the Jewish people who stated that Gentiles needed to be circumcised were “Satanically-inspired” and I said that they were Jewish people who had a legitimate theological question that needed to be resolved.
But we were the only two engaged on this issue. Everyone else in the room was silent. What were they thinking? Did they imagine I’d flipped out or was I just a heretic? OK, probably nothing that strong, but I really don’t think most of the Christians in that room had a clue how to deal with the idea that first century Jews requiring Gentiles to covert to Judaism as the only way to be saved were at all people expressing a valid concern, as opposed to a bunch of trouble makers and Judaizers.
“The church desperately needs creative heretics. A “creative heretic,” an independent thinker, is an example of the “unbalanced” force to which Newton refers in his first law of motion. Only the person who breaks with tradition can change the direction of an institution. A heretic is not an enemy of God but one who is more interested in truth than in tradition.”
-John Sloat, A Handbook for Heretics
Imparting the vision of the “Messianic Gentile” within a church setting requires a great deal of tact. I’ve tried as best I can to restrain myself. I almost always pick just one question (out of the many I could cite) to ask in Sunday school so as not to appear like I’m trying to argue. I can be candid with my Pastor but that’s part of our relationship, and all of those conversations only involve the two of us.
This can only happen, though, if those Christians who understand their Jewish roots choose to remain in their churches as faithful congregants.
-Boaz, pg 26
I’ve had this discussion before about whether or not the “Messianic Gentile,” that is, “me,” should join the church as an official member. My good friend with whom I have coffee every other Sunday afternoon says absolutely “yes.” I must join the church as a full member in order to be accepted and integrated into the body.
But I don’t know if I’d ever by a good Baptist when their’s so much about the theology involved with which I don’t agree. If being a good Calvinist is required, then it’s a “showstopper.”
Which brings me to the question of who changes? Boaz mentioned previously in his Introduction about the challenges of living as a Messianic Gentile in the Christian church. Part of the difficulty as I see it is that the church is exerting an effort to change the Messianic Gentile even as the Messianic Gentile is making the same effort to change the church. Boaz says that all committed Christians want to know Jesus better, and while I believe that’s true, they also anticipate that Jesus won’t look too “Jewish” as they draw nearer to him. The portrait of Moshiach I have to paint is far more semitic than any Jesus they’ve ever seen or want to see.
The Tent of David book is designed to reach out to a vast population of Messianic Gentile and Hebrew Roots Gentile people in our country and either support them in the churches they already attend, or encourage some of them, like me, to return to the church as emissaries of the Messianic viewpoint on the Jewish Messiah. We’re not “secret agents” on a covert mission, we’re representatives of an idea and a perspective that isn’t common in the church. We’re part of Boaz’s vision of reaching the church with a new (or renewed) way of conceptualizing the Jewish Jesus. And we are only one stream among several they are trying to produce, another such stream being their A Promise of What is to Come television series (available for free over the Internet), which is designed to impart much of this information at a very accessible level for most Christians.
You are not required to complete the task, you are not free to withdraw from it … but be aware that the reward of the righteous will be given in the World to Come.
-Pirkei Avot 2:21
That sounds incredibly noble, but I’ve always had a tough time seeing myself as incredibly noble. I know too much about myself to see the reflection of a hero in the mirror when I shave in the morning.
So after nearly a year, who do I see when I look at my reflection? Most mornings, it’s easy to ignore the question. I’m getting ready to go to work or if it’s Saturday, I’m mulling over my “honey do” list for the day. If it’s Sunday, then I’m anticipating Pastor’s sermon and considering what I’m going to say in Sunday school, and then thinking about what the rest of the day will bring.
But this blog post series (assuming I write future entries) is about stopping and taking the time to look at the scruffy older guy in the mirror. Am I living up to my mission as an emissary to the church, as it were? Have I been successful in delivering my message and more importantly, in living it out?
I can’t say I’ve been wildly successful. A few people have expressed an interest in what I have to say, but they seem to only just get started on the trail and then stop. I have had conversations with one of the older Associate Pastors who is interested in Hebrew Roots but when I directed him to the First Fruits of Zion website to access some resources, I got the impression that he was quite overwhelmed.
I think there is a desire to learn more about the Jewish Jesus in the church, but there are two issues of concern. The first has to do with what Christians expect to learn. They expect that the Jewish Jesus will look and act just as they imagine him to be. They think the “Messianic Gentile” will teach them “more of the same” but maybe with some interesting but minor details. What they don’t expect is to learn anything different and especially anything challenging. The second issue comes out of the first: getting people to think outside the box without feeling like they’re being heretics or, heaven forbid, being brought “under the Law.”
That second part is really important, because if people aren’t willing to even consider a paradigm shift to a new perspective, they’ll never accept what the “Messianic Gentile” has to offer beyond the superficial.
My impression is that the mission of the Messianic Gentile in the church is a lengthy if not life long process. It also requires a great deal of commitment, not only to the church, but to God. My Crossing the Ford of the Jabbok blog post illustrates how I see what I need to do, not only for the sake of the mission but for the sake of my relationship with God. I do no one any good if I neglect dedication and devotion to Hashem, Master of Legions, Lord of Creation, while otherwise beating my brains out against the stucco walls of the church (or in the blogosphere).
If I am ever to be successful in showing the Christian world around me a true portrait of the Moshiach, the Jewish Messiah King who has come once and who will come again, then I must spend every possible moment at his feet studying, learning from his wise teachings, and becoming an ever more dedicated disciple of my Master.
Addendum: It has come to my attention that I need to be spending a lot more time sitting at the feet of my great Teacher than doing many other things. I’ll speak more on this in tomorrow’s “morning meditation,” but things are going to change.
24 thoughts on “Returning to the Tent of David: Notes from an Emissary”
While you’ve demonstrated now for some time that you’ve learned how to pursue Torah-style learning from Jewish sources (a la Acts 15:21), perhaps there is another Jewish view that would offer some help and guidance to further your progress along the path to which you’ve felt called. Jew learned long ago that the effectiveness and sustainability of Jewish praxis depended upon the presence of a minimum number of participants (e.g., the “minyan”, the community) to provide amplification and reinforcement. Perhaps the function of the “Messianic Gentile”, as you’ve tried to define it, also requires that an individual “apostolon”/emissary should not attempt to do it alone for too very long without finding or making at least one fellow disciple. During his ministry, Rav Yeshua sent out his disciples in pairs. Now it seems to me that you’ve been able to use this blog to obtain some of the needed reinforcement or encouragement, but you have not yet found or developed anyone with whom to form a “seed” of similar viewpoint, thought, and praxis, around which others can agglomerate as they discover the enrichment it offers to their own spiritual experience.
You’ve been trying to join yourself to a community; but perhaps it is becoming time to begin making community within the community, to work as yeast in meal. Now, I recognize the danger in this, because the existing community may react as if a foreign body had been implanted and do its best to root it out. A great deal of diplomacy may be required under such circumstances, along with much prayer and self-discipline. The groundwork you’ve been laying for the past year (and may need to continue for some time longer) will be your reference to justify that you are not a destructive interloper, but one of their same kind who nonetheless offers positive constructive benefit to the community drawn from his (your) own unique experiences. Holding a party in your sukkah next year may become a teaching opportunity in that direction, or you might even find some interest in a similar party within the church facility where an entire committee may become involved in building and decorating a sukkah inside the building (outside might be too chilly in your area’s climate) and preparing suitable foods. Messianic Gentile observance as a reflection of Jewish observance for other biblical holidays may offer similar opportunities. This year, Hanukah and Thanksgiving will coincide, not because they are related, but by an extremely rare coincidence of the Jewish calendar. While folks are in a holiday mood, it may be possible to draw parallels between the Thanksgiving offered by the American settlers and the Sukkot harvest festival that they emulated, as well as noting the unseasonably early festival of lights with Rav Yeshua’s commentary about his role as the “light of the world” and the servant candle of the menorah, not unlike his commentary at the Sukkot Hoshanah Rabba water-pouring ceremony when he spoke of living water for those who thirst. It may be easier to do this apart from conflicts with the non-Jewish 25Dec holiday. Nonetheless, you can see that I am suggesting a yet more active role insofar as you can discern when might be appropriate times.
Interesting thoughts, PL. One of my “failings” is that I’m not particularly a social creature. I’m aware that one of the things I should do better is to establish actual relationships with people in church outside of church. Part of the problem is that, since my wife is Jewish and not a believer, inviting people from church over to our house would make her feel really uncomfortable (and I’m sure I’d hear about it from her afterwards). We’ve been invited to lunch by one of the Associate Pastors and his wife, but my wife declined. It’s difficult to “go stag” to many church functions or other, smaller activities when it is known that you are married.
If I’m to do as you suggest, it would have to be away from my home, which means no inviting people over for sukkot or Chanukah (though those are good ideas) but establishing a one on one outside of my living environment. So far, the only really interested person is my Pastor, but as I mentioned before, while I’m trying to convince him, he’s trying to convince me. It’s an exchange of ideas with ulterior motives.
I had some other “nibbles” early on, but I think once the depth of what I was suggesting was perceived, it was just too different for most fundamentalist Christians to tolerate easily.
All that said, and echoing Boaz’s TOD book, if I was more a part of them, perhaps they’d be more a part of me.
Was sitting in front of the computer doing my Sunday school ‘homework’ when my wife came in and ask if I was going to church this morning or helping her paint the rest of the fence. As most married men should notice here, she was making me an offer I couldn’t refuse. This is actually relevant to today’s conversation for what I hope are obvious reasons.
James, you keep mentioning how much you have learned from Boaz and Derek, so why don’t you do what they did? Get a “conversion” and end this conundrum….
Hi James. I’m responding here rather than on your blog because it’s kind of private.
I resonate with the “going stag” comment. Not only was I a church-goer for many years before Jim became a believer, I was also a Messianic congregation attender for many years without him. He only became interested in things Hebraic when he was invited to a Shabbat home study by people who were already in our church, doing Torah. That group has since disbanded, and now we’re back to only occasional meet-ups … but still in the same church where we’ve been all along. It’s not easy …. especially when the pastor threw out all the Ray VanderLaan videos and preached against Messianics who believe we are saved by Torah observance …. (I gave him ToD recently …. *crickets*)
But here’s the “private” part. It’s YOUR home, too! I’ve had to play hostess to many a gathering that I would just as soon not, like car club meetings, Sunday school parties where the class social chairman thinks it’s hilarious good fun to have white elephant games that involve stealing each other’s presents, football-watching get-togethers, etc. For the ones that really made me gag (BMW club), I set stuff up – and then LEFT! I wasn’t part of the club, didn’t particularly like most of the people, and since the meetings tended to be rancorous, I found them distasteful. Sometimes I just left the room; hung out in the home office, etc. But Jim had/has a right to use our home, just as I do to host a bridal shower, or a Night to Honor Israel, etc.
I’m guessing your wife feels threatened because she left Yeshua and she’s maybe afraid that having people in your home would (a) expose her to scrutiny or threats of proselytizing or (b) cause her to re-evaluate, AGAIN, her faith/lack of, and she doesn’t want her own canoe rocked. But if she can’t stay and be a gracious partner, couldn’t she just leave for the few hours that someone would be there? Doesn’t she have any friends to go see, shopping to do, a chick-flick she wants to see, a grandkid she wants to take to the zoo?
I hope I’m not treading on thin ice or painful sores, here … but maybe inviting her to your “party” or graciously inviting her to find something else to do during those hours is something you may not have thought of? Is it possible that “hearing about it afterwards” is a price to pay for being an equal partner? (I hope I’m iron sharpening iron here, and not merely twisting a knife.)
Many blessings to you, my friend, as you walk this stony path. I read a good book not long ago and probably need to re-read it. Marriage sure is a walk, isn’t it?
It’s been a while since I left a comment. I haven’t read TOD yet. I have one foot in church and the other in a messianic congregation. I have been Baptist since birth. I look back on my journey of the last 7 or so years. How did I get here and the desire I have to learn more about Torah and embrace the Feast etc. I have tried to share and maybe “force” my enthusiasm for what I am learning on my Christian friends. I realized until something clicks in them to want to know about such Biblical things, Im wasting my time and theirs. Live and practice what you have discovered to be a beautiful blessing. Debates and conversation I don’t feel are productive. Unless they are searching to understand and see the beauty in the Torah and Feast. Like you and your pastor are each spending time defending your own understanding of Scripture. I assume you aren’t seeking his approval. I still attend church. Mainly I smile and wave. Yah put this desire in me to learn and study this. I have to wait for it to happen in others.
“Who says they want to see it? ” [referring to the institutional church’s ‘blindspot’]
I think that Boaz is right in just about all that he says in the book, but that it is not in our control as “believers of a Messianic persuasion” to get salve upon the eyes of the collective Church. Nevertheless, our “witness” must go on… whether “full-time” or “part-time” within a traditional church. It was the “us vs. them” syndrome that contributed to Christian antisemitism through the centuries and the rise of Messianic Judaism can help the Church – one who inflicted the pain – be healed of his intolerant preconceived notions through repentance arising from such awareness. It is for the sake of the Church, as I see it, not for us as “believers of a Messianic persuasion,” that we bear witness,a as Gentile believers, to the authentic truth about Jesus as the Jewish, not Christian, Messiah. It is out of love for them that we must move forward and bear witness. Also, for love of the Jewish people, as impressing the Jewishness of Jesus upon Christian hearts is like an inoculation or immunization against antisemitism/anti-Judaism within the Church as it breeds more intimate familiarity with all things Jewish (which is why I teach the Holocaust to Christian students with an introduction to the “Jewish roots of Christianity by way of preface). It’s not merely a right vs. wrong matter, a doctrine vs . heresy issue, as I see it, it’s a healing of the Church matter, and an “greater intimacy with Jesus” matter as it pertains to individuals, as well as a proscription-against-antisemitism-within-the-Church-matter in the long run.
I believe we have an obligation to show the Church its blindspots in these regards, if for no other reason than in response to the centuries of anti-Jewish behavior inflicted by the Church: both in support of the Jewish people and for the healing of those within mainstream Christianity. We must bear witness to the truth. We, I believe, as Gentiles, have an obligation to do so.
If our brother has lost something, we are instructed by the Torah to not ignore it:
“And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.” [Dt 2:3-4]
I see our mission to the Church as not ignoring something very valuable that they have lost. We must help them lift it up again. It’s a mitzvah, a gathering of sparks, a matter of love and tikkun… even if we may not finish the task, we must not withdraw from it.
I wish there was a Messianic synagogue near you, bro! You need a re-charge with other believers of like mind. Plus, I believe the Gentile church has inherited from Rome something they should have cast off 500 years ago: obligatory Sunday worship. Worship any time you want to, but don’t just follow Rome because you always have. They had no authority to change Sabbath. I don’t expect you’ll make them see that. I don’t expect the change to come before the Rapture and the rise of the 144,000. Oh well, just love on them and do your best! Shalom, James!
Your experiences are much more in depth than ours. We have remained ‘outsiders’ while our children grew up and now as we visit various churches in our community we find that there is much that we have in common and we get along great with the people we know at each church, but making a commitment to one church seems overwhelming. I agree with a previous commenter that not being alone is important. Your relationship with the Pastor is very important! And people are always watching you – watching how you carry yourself, your character and respect, etc. Even if they seem only interested in the novelty of something like a sukkah, it’s a starting point for people who have never been exposed to these things. I can guarantee that they are intimidated by you – by your knowledge! But they will still observe you from a distance and think about your questions during the week. You have been very patient, and HaShem is also patient. At some point another intellectual thinker will want to know more and you’ll have the opportunity to share more with them as that relationship develops.
You are absolutely correct in that we all need to be sitting at our Master’s feet more than we do. May you be a blessed with another man to walk the road with in your church community.
On a more personal level, with regard to the loneliness of inhabiting mainstream Christian space, I imagine it is like that for all pioneering folk… Abraham was simply told to get out of Ur; Joseph certainly didn’t feel at home in Egypt at first; Moses was moved from idolatrous luxury to the wilderness; and, of course, Messiah left ultimate majesty to create a path for us to return Home.
As for me, I work in an evangelical environment and spend much time in a Christian environment. I love these people but the un- or non- or sometimes even anti-Jewish theology of it all wears one down. It is the absence of a Hebraic/Jewish/biblical atmosphere, the awareness that I’m the only one who thinks the way I do and who sees “the Christian Jesus” as “the Jewish Yeshua” when on one else does. It may all focus on the same Messiah, a common Redeemer, but I know that the Christian perception of Him is so different from mine.
As a result of feeling this way, I hope to bring our Torah Club “beit midrash” study group back from hiatus soon. We eat and pray and study together in an informal setting and it satisfies my soul. Then, I can work amongst my evangelical siblings and maintain contact with Pastor Paul at the local church without being worn down by the sense of personal exile. God goes with us into exile, I know, but it is always good to return from exile, and the small beit midrash setting does that for me. Is there anyone, James, in your rather exilic habitat that might be interested in such a thing?
I don’t know how big the congregation is, but could you introduce a book, by buying a couple dozen copies to donate? Women tend to be more open than men, so here are some suggestions: “Jesus Said to Her,” by Skip Moen, and if you really want to start a riot, “Guardian Angel,” also by Skip Moen. This is sort of going in the side door. You demonstrate the biblically Hebraic role of women, and inspire an appetite for more along the same lines. Perhaps Robin Sampsons, “Biblical Holidays,” would be great for families. I am not talking about a book that would attack their doctrinal understanding, but would expand their thinking without being threatening.
First of all, I apologize for being MIA yesterday. Over the weekend, I had one item on my “honey do” list, but it was a big one: staining the fence. Believe it or not, it took eight or nine hours each day for two days to get the job done, and that was with my wife and I working together. I had to set aside all other considerations, including going to church on Sunday, and of course, being online.
Now on with my responses to all of your kind comments:
@Dan B: Hi Dan. I have no intention of converting to Judaism, but thanks for asking.
@Michele: I know there are a lot of families where one person is a church-going believer and the other isn’t. I suppose I could think of myself in that way, but I feel that my wife being Jewish changes the picture a little. Yes, it is my home too, but in many ways, a woman has more of a connection the home than the man does. This isn’t inviting a bunch of guys over to watch the Superbowl. If I invited Christian friends over to sit in our sukkah or for some other event, it would put her in quite a spot. Even if she went out while I had my Christian friends over, she’s bound to feel “kicked out,” so to speak.
I should mention that some years ago, when my “Hebrew Roots” group was between meeting places, I volunteered my home for Shabbat services. It was a tight fit but it worked. I’m pretty sure that the missus had left “Yeshua-faith” by that point, but she put up with the meetings for a long time…but it didn’t sit well with her and in the end, I pushed the congregation to find another place. Fortunately, God’s providence and timing worked out well, but his bit of history adds to my current rationale.
I’m not just factoring in general marital dynamics, but my personal experience of being married for over 31 years. Believe me, this isn’t an option that would work out.
@Joy: Hi Joy. Glad you commented. No, I’m not seeking approval from my Pastor or in the Church, but maybe a little understanding that classic Christian doctrine isn’t always right. There are many good and Holy people in the church. We can’t just walk away from them if we have the opportunity to be a light. We also must remember that those good and Holy people can be a light for we “Messianics” as well.
@Dan H: Thanks for the encouragement. I don’t think I could convince anyone to do a Torah Club study at this point. If it was at the church, it would have to have the approval of Pastor, and that’s not going to happen. If it’s someplace else, I’d be concerned that I might be seen as trying to “hijack” some of the church members to my viewpoint. As I reflect, I can’t think of more than one or two people who might be interested, but even that’s a long shot.
If we have an obligation to show the church its “blindspots” we have to be in a position where they’ll be willing to see. My first obligation, if I intend to pursue this course, is to just show up.
@David: Even if there were an authentic Messianic group nearby, I wouldn’t go to them right now. Part of the reason I left my “Hebrew Roots” group was the ongoing impact it had on my wife. Our little corner of southwestern Idaho is still small enough to where people know each other and what we do “gets around.” My wife is part of the community at both synagogues in town, and having a “Messianic” husband isn’t an easy thing. I’m not even sure having a church-going “Christian” husband is very easy, but at least it’s more understandable. Any “Messianic” connections I may have are online.
The other part of all this, and I can’t make this point strongly enough, is that “Messianic Gentiles” and “Christians” have got to stop drawing such a hard line between us. In the end, and Boaz says this repeatedly in his TOD book, we are all, in fact, Christians. The church will have succeeded when it has come to the realization that we are all Messianic, and that the true portrait of Jesus is one of the Jewish Messiah King and his throne is Jerusalem, City of David.
@Lisa W: The friend I meet with periodically for coffee on Sunday afternoons would agree with you. Committment to one church is important in order to develop relationships and to gain trust. Without those, there will be no transmission of the Messianic message. However, I haven’t built those relationships, except with my Pastor. A few times, I thought I had, but it was only superficial. I’ve described elsewhere the barriers to socialization, at least on the level of “married couples” and “families”. I don’t know if I should just shoehorn myself in somewhere or wait for God to provide the obvious opportunity.
@Chaya: I don’t feel going through the side door, so to speak, is the right entryway. There are lots of things I could say and do, but I want them to be open and above board. To the degree that even saying certain things in Sunday school elicits significant pushback, the door doesn’t feel open to challenging the status quo beyond that point. My friend I have coffee with is right, if I depend on my own efforts, they’ll amount to nothing. If I depend on the Spirit of God to give me what I need, nothing can stop me.
Apropos of my previous mention of Rav Yeshua’s model of sending out disciples in pairs: I wonder if any parallel may be drawn with your situation. They were sent out to fellow Jews within Israel, to a familiar “in-house” environment, with an intriguing message: the kingdom of heaven was close enough to reach out and touch, but repentance was a pre-requisite. You also have been sent to a somewhat familiar in-house environment (though not the same house) with a similarly intriguing message — except for the addition that this kingdom was designed for Jews and to be ruled by the Jewish Messiah Your problems might be rather curiously comparable to theirs.
The complication is convincing the Gentile Christian world just how Jewish their (our) King is.
I don’t mean to go in the side door. Did you ever had a kid who wouldn’t eat something, but you found a way to get them to taste it, and they liked it? Some materials demonstrate the richness and beauty of a Hebraic worldview that are not directly threatening to someone’s tradition and doctrine. I remember the first time I had “real,” sushi that was raw fish, not a cooked California roll, I was in my twenties. I think I had a couple sakis first to steel my nerves 🙂 I remember thinking that it did not taste the way I expected it to taste; it did not taste fishy. Sushi is now my favorite food.
So, perhaps the problem is people have a false, and distasteful expectation. I like Skip Moen’s material, and he has some stuff on leadership that pastor might like, including a daily email that doesn’t take long.
A person may be intelligent and rational, but that doesn’t mean that they apply that intelligence and rationality to their spiritual walk, at least not all the time.
The “couples thing,” is an issue in many churches and other faith communities too. I am so happy it is not an issue in my group, as we are small and have no separate groups for youth, singles, etc. I think your situation is very different from mine, in that they may not “get,” the things I do, but they are very kind and respectful. One time a lady made two crockpots of chili for a picnic; one with beef instead of pork just for me. I was touched, and would never have asked someone to do that. Perhaps one issue is that your church is made up of people who are in the mainstream. Japanese Christians are a small minority in their culture, so are more attuned, I believe.
Obviously, I don’t have all the backstory, but it looks like wife is not playing fair. She doesn’t want you in the Jewish community, doesn’t want you in an MJ/HR group and really doesn’t want you to go to church, although this is tolerable. So, what does she want? You sit at home and do nothing or play golf on Sunday like my hubby does? Perhaps it would be easier to say, “My husband is a Buddhist,” although you might not find them in small-town Idaho.
I’m not going to judge my wife, Chaya and hopefully no one else will feel it necessary, either. I can only present an incomplete picture of my circumstances here. The full picture would probably modify things greatly, but a blog conversation doesn’t lend itself to that level of detail. Suffice it to say that there are certain things I will not do out of love and respect for my spouse. I ask you to leave it that way as well.
I think the idea of “returning the donkey,” makes a lot of sense. But the idea that all or most of the “church,” belongs to Messiah is also naive. You can’t return the donkey if it doesn’t belong to them.
@James: Understandable. At our church, Pastor Paul had at least two couples and one family leave the congregation when we ran the HaYesod program. Even though we enrolled 24 people, the local congregation suffered, at least superficially, in terms of numbers.
@Chaya: As J.R.R. Tolkien says “All who wander are not lost,” but in this case, you are no doubt correct. We can only return the donkey to its previous owners, who would likely be those who apprehend understanding the Jewishness of Jesus to be an increase of intimacy with Him and who therefore have an open heart. So… exactly how DO you identify a legitimate donkey owner? By its LACK of stubbornness! Hee-haw, hee-haw! (My apologies… I couldn’t resist… :))
But the idea that all or most of the “church,” belongs to Messiah is also naive.
Who are Messiah’s and who are not is not in my hands. Only God knows. I will just have to proceed hopefully.
A donkey owner, upon seeing his long lost donkey, would rejoice, and you would see the recognition in his eyes. Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart is the highway to Zion. There is something in the heart that knows that something is missing, and knows when it has been found. Otherwise, like Bila’am, they just beat the donkey.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me…
You make known to me the path of life…
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
~ Isaiah 58:11
How ironic that I should be reading Frank Herbert’s novel “Dune,” just now.. Dune, where water is the currency of life, and in our world, Messiah is the living water, without which we would perish, the currency of the spirit.
And that you are reading it as we just passed through Sukkot, with its Hoshana Raba, last great day, with its water pouring ceremony, at which Messiah called out to the crowd that He was the mayim chayim, living water… the Author of the curriculum come to teach the truth of it to His people first-hand…