Walking to the Temple

Sampling Tent Builders

The church is supposed to be a partner with Israel. If it doesn’t see this then it’s not fulfilling it’s function.

-Boaz Michael
“Envision the Ideal Church” session
Tent Builders presentation

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d received a DVD in the mail from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) providing an eighty-two minute “sampler” of the day-long conference called “Tent Builders” which is meant to accompany and augment the message in FFOZ President Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile.

I’ve read Boaz’s book more than once but never had any of the education or training that is supposed to equip the target audience on methods of approaching the Church with the Messianic message of just how Jewish the Jewish Messiah is and what it means to “partner” the Church with Israel.

The sampler DVD is divided into four portions:

  1. Envision the Ideal Church
  2. The Strategic Mission
  3. Interview with Boaz’s Pastor
  4. About the Book Tent of David

This review focuses on the first two portions which were taken from a presentation Boaz gave in Atlanta, Georgia. I won’t try to dissect everything Boaz taught and certain sections of his teaching came, more or less, out of the book, so if you’ve read “Tent of David,” you already have some familiarity with the message. The sampler disc contains excerpts of what I imagine is supposed to be a DVD containing the entire conference sessions, so that people who weren’t able to attend the in-person conferences, could still benefit from everything that was taught. It’s also meant to be accompanied by a workbook and presumes that the audience has already read “Tent of David.”

The goal of the conference and of participation is to become a “sent out one” or an emissary into the Church, to share the wonderful message we as “Messianic Gentiles” were given in order to assist the Church in ceasing to be the stumbling block standing in the way of Israel seeing the truth of Messiah. One of Boaz’s key phrases is that we must change the Church for the sake of Israel.

This was actually born out of Boaz’s own experience at a small Baptist church in Marshfield, Missouri where he and his family have been living. He actually began attending this church almost by accident, thanks to a visit to Marshfield by Rabbi and Messianic blogger Derek Leman. It was out of the development of the relationship between Boaz and his wife with the members of their local church that Boaz realized this “model” could be replicated “on the ground” so to speak, by many, many other Christians across the country.

For over two decades, FFOZ has been producing books, magazines, seminars, and many other educational materials trying to get its message out, but in spite of the expectation that at any minute, the floodgates would open and the Christian Church as an entire unit across the world would “see the light,” nothing happened. Groups of Christians would leave the Church disillusioned by shallow teachings and Christian disdain for Israel, and they would join small groups of like-minded Gentile believers, but over the years and decades, these groups didn’t grow, didn’t show fruit, and nothing happened. The Church certainly didn’t change and most of these small groups stayed small groups, generally spinning their wheels and sometimes complaining about “Christians.”

BoazOccasionally, through his contacts, Boaz would know of a motivated family of Gentiles who were “Messianically” minded and know of a willing and open Pastor in the same community. He’d put them together and the combination would result in change in the local church. Boaz and his wife Tikvah in their own local church had the same experience. It seemed like something that could be replicated on a large-scale, but at the grass-roots level.

But it’s not that easy. It wasn’t easy for Boaz and Tikvah and it isn’t easy for anyone else. While some churches have managed to change trajectories away for teaching supersessionism and toward an enlightened view of the Jewish Messiah (which is a lot more than just saying “Jesus was Jewish”) and the significance of Israel and Torah, it required tremendous sacrifices in time, money, and participation in portions of church teachings that are not always spiritually enlightening. It also isn’t always accepted and Boaz even said that it’s a message the Church usually doesn’t want to hear.

Boaz challenged his audience in the first session to envision the ideal church, write down their description, and then participate in making that ideal church happen at the local level.

I have a vision about what an “ideal church” would look like too, but I haven’t the faintest idea how to make it happen, especially all by myself. But as I listened to Boaz, I began to feel guilty because he described many Messianic Gentiles as either complainers or just people who wanted others to do the work of changing the Church for the sake of Israel. Am I a bad, complaining, lazy person for feeling discouraged?

Moving to the “Strategic Mission” session, Boaz expanded on what was needed. He used to think that having a good message was enough, but that hasn’t worked for the past twenty years. He finally discovered, though a gentle rebuke by someone he trusted, that without the involvement in the Holy Spirit and without relationship and familiarity, the message was never going to be successfully delivered.

The core of “Tent of David” is derived from a passage in Amos 9:11-12 that’s quoted by James in Acts 15:16-18. You can look up the text, but it paints portrait and prophesy of a time when the people of the nations will partner with Israel in rebuilding the fallen tent of David and restore Israel in the Messianic Age. James, leader of the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem saw the participation of the first Gentile disciples in the Jewish movement of “the Way” as the beginning of the fulfillment of that prophesy. The prophesy of Gentiles coming alongside Israel to strive for a mutual goal without requiring that those Gentiles convert to Judaism and take on the full yoke of Torah. In fact, the prophesy can’t be fulfilled if Gentiles convert to Judaism or otherwise are circumcised to become “pseudo-converts” with the belief that they are obligated to the full yoke of the mitzvot in the manner of the Jewish people. Jews and Gentiles must continue distinct roles and identities within the body of Messiah and become interdependent elements in the creation of the Messianic future.

ChurchIs this how the Church sees its role in relation to Christ? In most cases, probably not. In fact, the apostles including Paul, would not even recognize what most Churches teach today as having much or anything to do with the original gospel message they transmitted to Jews and Gentiles in the first decades after the resurrection and ascension of the Master. The Church, for the most part, thinks the greatest revelation and the only revelation of Jesus has already happened: the message of Salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Of course that is amazingly good news, but the story doesn’t stop there and in fact, according to Boaz, the best part is yet to come…the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom with Jesus on the Throne of David in Jerusalem, raising Israel to the head of all the nations, returning all the exiled Jews to their Land, and establishing a reign of world-wide peace. It’s the promise of what is yet to come.

And the Church has missed it. Oh sure, churches talk all the time about the “end times” and the “return of Jesus” and how “the Church” will be the thing that’s elevated and glorified, but at the end, people go up to Heaven as opposed to what it actually says in the Bible of God coming to earth and living among His people as He once did in Eden.

Boaz unpackaged the message that he believes the “grass-roots tent builders” need to be taking back into their local churches. I won’t go into all of his points, but I want to cover the one that I think is most important but also the message that the Church will find most difficult. The centrality of Israel. What does that mean?

The Church believes that it’s all about “the Church.” The Church will be raptured to Heaven, the Church will return with Jesus, the Church will rule and reign.

In reading the Bible, if I substitute the Greek word “ekklesia” for “church,” and I realize that generically “ekklesia” just means an assembly of people gathered for a common purpose, the “magical significance” of the word “church” is taken down a peg or two. When Jesus speaks of his “church” he is speaking of an assembly of human beings gathered together to begin to fulfill the prophesy of Amos (and many other prophesies) to establish the first fruits of a partnership of Jews and Gentiles together in the body of Messiah, to ultimately summon the coming Messianic Age which will see Jesus as the King of Israel who will bring total peace to humanity.

ancient_jerusalemBut this requires we realize that in all of the ancient prophesies and how they were understood by the apostles and first century Jewish and Gentile disciples, it was always Israel that was restored, and Israel that was central to God’s entire redemptive and restorative plan, and Israel that was the center and lynchpin of the entire Biblical message and the good news of Messiah. This is not the message Christianity has promoted and instead, they have caused the basic concept of “ekklesia” to evolve, morph, and develop into a separate and self-defined entity known as “the Church,” which across Christian history and into modern times has wholly separated from Israel, from its original purpose and mission, and has watered down the gospel message into “merely” one of personal salvation, denying the vast, panoramic scope of the Messianic Kingdom to come that we must all strive to bring to fruition.

As Boaz continued to lay out everything involved in this grand plan, I started to feel overwhelmed. Every time he said something meant to inspire his audience to greatness, I compared it to my actual experience in my local church. Boaz sees success in the Tent of David plan because it puts together enthusiastic Messianics with Pastors in local churches who are at least receptive to relationship and partnering, but what if the local church leaders are so assured of their theology and doctrine that they see the relationship as one where the church needs to convince the intelligent but misguided Messianic that Church tradition based on the Reformation, Calvinism, and Dispensationalism (none of which existed in the time of the apostles) is actually the true message of Jesus Christ?

So my primary take away as I ejected the DVD from my computer and prepared for bed was a combination of guilt and feeling overwhelmed with more than a hint of failure added to the mix.

Boaz ended his “Strategic Mission” session with a story about his daughter who is currently serving with the IDF. I don’t know how much I should reveal about her, even though she has been uncompromising in her devotion to Messiah and has not hidden this from anyone who knows her in Israel. Also, as Boaz said, he’s a public figure, so it wouldn’t be hard to find out who his daughter is and what her family believes.

It’s actually an amazing story. I knew some of it just because I’ve briefly spoken with Shayna a few times and am her “friend” on Facebook, but Boaz filled in the details as only a very proud father can. Boaz and Tikvah raised all their children with a strong sense of mission. I guess growing up within the context of the development and progression of First Fruits of Zion’s mission must have had a strong impact.

Boaz laid that sense of mission and dynamic struggle squarely at the feet of his audience. Of course, I only got to see a small portion of the conference and nothing at all about how the students received the message or interacted with Boaz and each other. I have absolutely no idea at all how this is actually playing out in churches across America and I don’t know anyone else who is a “Tent of David” graduate and how they have met with success, failure, or anything else.

Boaz in churchBoaz said that in the church he attends, two HaYesod classes had been taught, one Torah Club cycle had been completed, and there was a group viewing the various episodes of FFOZ’s television series A Promise of What is to Come and using them as topics of discussion.

I won’t lie. That really sounds wonderful, but in my current context, none of that will ever be received. I previously mentioned that having Tent Builders graduates attempt to go into some place like Pastor John MacArthur’s congregation would likely result in a less than enthusiastic reception. It is true that time, relationship, and familiarity helps the “Messianic Gentile” in church gain credibility and even a minority voice in Sunday school discussions, but there will always be churches that will listen and decide that they see and hear nothing that should deter them from what they have always believed to be true about the Bible, about Jesus, and about God, Judaism and Israel notwithstanding.

I’m enjoying D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon series Holy Epistle to the Hebrews and recently I discovered the sermons of Rabbi David Rudolph. I can “feed my head” all I want and struggle in my personal relationship with God and what all this is supposed to mean, but except for how some people see my blog as a positive or even inspirational influence, that still has little or no effect at the level of the local church, and it certainly isn’t a testimony to changing the Church for the sake of Israel.

Do I think the “Tent Builders” mission is good? Yes, of course I do. You may be surprised to read that sentence after everything else I’ve said, but I still think it’s essentially sound. The thing that Boaz didn’t say in the DVD sampler though he mentions it in his book, is that the mission isn’t for everyone. He also doesn’t mention, though it should be obvious (it certainly is to me) that not only does the Church not want this message, but in some cases (how many, I don’t know), the message will be continually resisted, regardless of relationship, and ultimately rejected.

The Messianic Gentile can then decide (assuming he or she hasn’t been ejected from the local church) to either continue going for the sake of fellowship (which Boaz recommends) and perhaps with hope beyond hope that eventually some people will be more accepting of the paradigm shift Boaz suggests, or that Messianic person can leave.

I don’t know if there’s a “plan B” built into the Tent Builder’s mission profile. Try again at another church after months or years at the first? Try a less formal venue such as a local Bible study or home fellowship? Retire into the world of virtual study and quiet contemplation? Boaz maps out a highly public, visible, dynamic mission of reaching out to the local church, all of the local churches with the Tent Builders message built on relationship and familiarity, inspired and supported by the Holy Spirit, with the ultimate end goal to show the Church their true priority and purpose in partnering with Israel to bring the time of the return of the Messiah.

a-better-placeI suspect that it is not going to come very quickly. Conferences aside, it’s like the ads for going back to the gym that are popular right after New Years when people are feeling the remorse of eating too much during the holidays. People get pumped up and excited and join a gym, but I can tell you from personal experience that after the enthusiasm wanes or, in this case, the conference is over and months have passed, there’s only you and the weights. You either show up each morning and start working, or you stay home and get fat.

This metaphor breaks down when you realize that exercising is between you and the exercise machines. All you need is motivation and the will to carry on over the long haul. In the local church, what people think about you, about your message, about Jews, about Judaism, and about the very real threat that change represents makes a huge difference, and you have control over none of that. You can do everything “right” and still fall flat on your face.

There are no “magic” answers. Win, lose, or draw, there is only God.

Good Shabbos.


5 thoughts on “Sampling Tent Builders”

  1. It is part of the Tent of David training also that certain denominations are less receptive than others or not really receptive at all. From what I’ve seen you have done a great job of being faithful, loving and gentle spirited toward your pastor and church. You have approached the church in all the right ways. What comes next is not always up to you.

  2. Thank you James. Your meditations are always encouraging, even as you are discouraged. I actually have something similar to share, but I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post. Shalom.

  3. @Sean: Thanks for that. I don’t have access to the wider collection of experiences of other “Tent Builders” (a discussion forum would be nice) so getting any “insider’s” perspective is extremely helpful.

    @genevievevictory: Thanks for the complement. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

  4. I’m aware of one church who took issue with the idea that Christians should keep even the Ten Commandments. The messianic individual involved kept having to answer to the pastor and the elders for saying even that.

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