Sunset over Greek Church

Apologies and Farewell to Church

If the Shofar is sounded in the city, will the populace not tremble?

Amos 3:6

The blow of a Shofar is a call to arouse us from the lethargy of routine in which we have been immersed and to stimulate us to teshuvah. But what if someone hears the Shofar and is not moved by it?

A village blacksmith’s assistant once visited a large city and sought out the local smithy. He observed that the workers there used a bellows to fan the flames in the forge. The bellows were much more efficient than the exhausting manual fanning which he did back in his master’s shop. He promptly bought a bellows, returned with great enthusiasm to his master, and informed him that there was no longer any need for them to exhaust themselves fanning the flames. He then set out to demonstrate the magic of the bellows, but alas, regardless of how vigorously he pumped, no flame appeared.

“I can’t understand it,” he said. “In the city, I saw with my own eyes the huge flame produced by the bellows.”

“Did you first light a small fire?” the master asked.

“No,” the assistant replied. “I just pumped the bellows.”

“You fool!” the blacksmith said. “The bellows can only increase the size of the flame when you begin it with a spark. When you have no spark or fire, all the pumping of the bellows is of no use.”

Like the bellows, the Shofar can only arouse us if we have in us a spark of teshuvah, just a rudiment of desire. If we feel ourselves unmoved by the Shofar, we had better try to light a spark of teshuvah within ourselves.

Today I shall…

…try to begin teshuvah, so that the service of the approaching High Holidays will have the desired effect on me.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
from “Growing Each Day” for Elul 26

I’m writing this on Sunday instead of going to church, though you won’t be reading this until Tuesday morning. Given what I wrote in last week’s “What I Learned in Church” blog and subsequent commentaries, I’ve come to the realization that I owe Randy and everyone who reads this blog an apology. Regardless of my reasons, I took my criticism of Randy’s sermon way too far and I probably shouldn’t have written anything public about it at all.

But that’s water under the bridge and the damage is done.

I emailed Randy on Shabbat after much consideration and prayer with my personal apology and asked him for forgiveness. As I write this, I haven’t heard back, and perhaps I shouldn’t expect to. In addition to writing him though, as I said, I need to make my apology public just as I made my criticism.

preachingAlthough I don’t think religious leaders should be “criticism-proof,” so to speak, they also should command a certain amount of respect, and just because we have a difference of opinion, even about the important matters of Biblical interpretation, the fact that we disagree doesn’t mean he did anything wrong. His sermon was well within the norms of Christian Fundamentalism and it is backed up by a great deal of research on his part. He has the right and responsibility to “feed his flock” with the “spiritual food” he believes is beneficial for them, and I have no right to stand in his way, not that I could really affect anyone’s viewpoint at church about his sermons.

But realizing what I’ve done and how often I’ve risked collapsing the Tent of David (with apologies to Boaz Michael), I feel that my time at Pastor Randy’s church has come to an end. It had been my hope that I would provide added value to discussions in Sunday school, my personal discussions with Randy, and anyone else who wanted to interact with me. Two years ago as I was approaching this path back to church, I had high hopes that I could live out Boaz’s vision as chronicled in his book, but I see now that instead of being a light in the church, all I’ve done (for the most part) was act as an irritant.

Even those few people who were interested in what I had to say, particularly about the New Covenant, once they fully realized what I was communicating, acted confused and hesitant. I guess I was asking far too much of the people around me and my basic theological foundation, which makes a great deal of sense to me, is a strange and alien land for most Christians, particularly Fundamentalists.

It’s my place to be an opportunity of sorts, an option, a door to another perspective, not a hammer hitting people over the head. Over the past two years, although I tried to make a niche for myself in the humble walls of that little Baptist church in Meridian, Idaho, I never truly found a place where I fit in. I look like everyone else and I go through the motions of singing the hymns and shaking hands during services, but what I understand about the Bible might as well be light years away from the people I’ve “fellowshipped” with.

Please understand, I bear no ill will toward Randy, the other Pastors, the board members, and the people I’ve worshiped and studied with. I regard them all with the warmest of feelings. That we disagree doesn’t mean I think they are bad or even wrong. We’re just very different and I have no desire to hurt anyone or get in the way.

I suppose I could still attend the church and just keep silent, but that wouldn’t work for two reasons. The first is that my very presence is likely to continue to irritate or annoy Randy because of the aforementioned offending blog post and my general disagreement with him. The second is I seriously doubt I could rein in my verbal and written responses to the sermons and Sunday school lessons, at least for very long. I’d be unhappy at my self-imposed censorship and when I finally opened my mouth, I could possibly say something unkind or at least unwanted.

I want it to be known that the only person responsible for these events and their outcome is me. It’s my responsibility to conduct myself as a true disciple of the Master both in church and everywhere else, both in my spoken word and in what I write.

Erev Rosh Hashanah is tomorrow at sundown (as you read this) and in the spirit of repentance and renewal, I must offer my sincere public apology to Randy, his church, and you readers, and also I believe it is the best choice now to end my sojourn at church.

The Results

It may sound strange, but in being inspired to return to church, in part by Boaz Michael’s aforementioned book, I’ve thought of my return to Christian worship as something of an “experiment,” and I don’t mean that unkindly or clinically. As I said before, I had hoped to be a light and to represent a particular viewpoint as illumination. Did I fail completely? Did I just waste the last two years of my life in church?

I would say not, although I think I gained more from the experience than the people at church gained from me. What I know about “formal Christianity” including the history of the Church as been quite lacking, and Randy opened all that up to me. He has an excellent command of Christian history and for a year or more, he guided me on a personal journey on what it means to be a believer, particularly from a Fundamentalist point of view. I also learned how friendly, kind, and generous the people around me were, and how patient and tolerant they could be to an “oddball” like me, especially Randy.

No, it was hardly a waste of time. I only regret that they could have as much of a benefit from my presence as I did being among them.

I can only hope that others like me in other churches have better outcomes in terms of the impact they have on their fellow congregants.

The Future

Once again, I’ll be without a congregation. What will this mean for my faith? I may not be going to church, but I haven’t left faith in God or discipleship under the Master behind.

HaYesod ResourcesWill I try to find another church to attend? Not at present. I don’t see it working out any better in another Christian venue than it did in the one I just left, and I have no intention of adding insult to injury, so to speak. Inflicting myself on another Pastor and another congregation will just make matters worse. I’ve heard stories about how well some Messianic Gentiles find it in some churches. They are invited to teach HaYesod and other related classes and, according to reports, the information is well received.

But that requires two things: the right kind of environment and the right kind of presenter. I know that the church I’ve attended just wasn’t ever going to be receptive of such a view of the Bible and certainly the perspective was not requested nor required. I was wrong to force it on anyone without being asked.

Also, since I know Randy’s views on what he wants taught at his church, the fact that I was speaking to anyone at all about my opinions was risking the integrity of the doctrine being taught and I can only guess from Randy’s point of view, represented “wrongheadedness” and even a potential threat to anyone who listened to me and took my words seriously.

So no, I’m not going to seek out another church. Even if an appropriate Messianic congregation was available in my area, as I’ve said numerous times before, I wouldn’t attend, at least regularly, out of consideration for my wife, who is Jewish and not in the least Messianic.

I’ve been talking with a friend about starting up a Torah study between the two of us. The only thing in the way is working out the timing in our schedules. Even he and I don’t see precisely eye-to-eye, but we have more in common than I have with most Christians.

I’ll keep blogging as usual, but this will be the last time I intend to mention Pastor Randy or anything about the church he shepherds. I wish them all success, peace, and the presence and blessings of God.

Since the New Year is upon us, I suppose this is the perfect time to retool my studies and rededicate myself to my understanding of what it is to be a Messianic Gentile.

Someone said in a comment on one of my recent blog posts that if “a Christian is truly repentant then he will extricate himself from an anti-Judaic religious system (i.e. Christianity) and cease to identify as a Christian.” I disagree. There are many fine Christians and many fine churches, including the one I used to attend, and they perform many kind and generous acts of “Torah” (though they don’t call it that), such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and loving each other. I’m not ending my relationship with them because they are not good and kind people, but only because I’m not a good fit for them (nor sadly, they for me) and I have no desire to continue to be an irritant in their presence.

walking outI know that some people like me there and maybe would even be surprised if they read this blog post, but most of them don’t really know me. If they did, I’m not sure what they’d think. It’s better that they don’t find out. God doesn’t love them or me any less because of our divergent perspectives. In the resurrection, if not before, He will guide us all to a better understanding of all truth in Him through Messiah.

May he come speedily and in our day.

May you all be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good year.

To Randy and his church, I again offer my sincere apologies, beg for forgiveness though I don’t deserve it, and offer my fondest farewell to you all.

36 thoughts on “Apologies and Farewell to Church”

  1. Do you mean that you’re not even going to wait long enough to see if Pastor Randy agrees that you ought simply to fold your tents and leave quietly? Who knows but that he might actually value the opportunity for his flock to meet the challenges posed by your “unorthodox” views, if he is the intellectually honest person you’ve portrayed (despite the presuppositional lens that defines your conflict)? So far, I do not see that you have done more than to state disagreements publicly that you have already done privately. You have never been disrespectful or dismissive of your pastor; and you have been intellectually honest about what you believe and why, as well as your hopes that other Christians with whom you interact would re-examine doctrines that deserve criticism from a biblical and historical perspective. It is not even wrong to express profound frustration over hearing supposedly authoritative teaching of views that have had severe consequences in history and that suggest a continuation of such errors into the future. MJs live with it continually from both sides of the ancient polemical conflict.

    While you may hold a more well-defined set of views than most congregants, which views conflict with his, surely he doesn’t think that every one of his congregants is an intellectual child who believes only what emanates from his pulpit, or that they all agree fully with the perspective he espouses (whether or not he thinks they should). Are they disciples of Rav Yeshua or of Randy? Are they students of the bible or of Baptist Fundamentalism (particularly if there should be noted some distinction between them)? That is the type of decision which every pastor must make, in determining the intellectual environment of the congregation for which he has accepted certain responsibilities.

  2. James, you have my sincere empathy. Unlike you I was raised in church. Have my formal university degree from an accredited Christian institution and, many years ago, worked vocationally in churches. In this one area of life my life experience is greater than yours.

    After reading Boaz’ book I was highly skeptical of his thesis based on my experience. Finding a church that is open to the perspective you sought to share is finding the proverbial needle in a hay stack. They’re out there but they are exceedingly rare.

    No matter what one thinks of the Charismatic/Pentecostal renewal movements from decades past if you ever saw how denominational and congregational leaders and laity treated people you would know that otherwise kind and generous people can get pretty vicious. In no way am I saying you are saying nor am I asserting you were treated with that level of vitriol. But, I am saying that I and others have personally been on the receiving end of that level of church reaction.

    My personal view of Boaz’ book was that it was an invitation to Gentiles to please leave us messianic Jews alone and go back to gentile Christianity… where you belong. It seemed to me to be the left foot of messianic fellowship, sending us to a place where the probability of getting the boot again was high.

    If one takes his view POV to heart then Messianic Gentiles are persona non grata on any front, with rare exceptions.

    Fundamental and evangelical Christians expect LDS, as an example, to step outside their preconceived beliefs to take a fresh look at scripture. Yet, they themselves will do no such thing. They think they are Bereans when they are more like the Pharisees they so despise and mock.

    I’m glad you aren’t moving your experiment to another church. You have saved yourself and others from more bad experiences.

    My present belief is that when Messiah returns both Jews and Christians as well as myself will be shocked at how far we are from His Way. I wonder if some hardcore Christians will not even recognize Him because they KNOW with absolute certainty that this Jew cannot be Messiah. If that happens they will be repeating the experience of those they harshly judge in the gospels.

    I have no pre-organized options for you. Even Hebraic churches are still churches.

    I look forward to your journey.

  3. ProclaimLiberty, in my experience the majority of congregants ARE disciples of denominations or pastors or authors or Rush Limbaugh or… not Yeshua.

    They don’t take the time nor seemingly have an interest in studying for themselves. They are mirrors of the culture. They spend hours devoting themselves to Oprah, football, careers, but exhibit no real signs of building the skills to study scripture.

    That’s not to say they won’t argue with you with 100% certainty that they are right.

    Are there exceptions? Absolutely. But, in my life they are few and far between.

  4. I took my criticism of Randy’s sermon way too far and I probably shouldn’t have written anything public about it at all.

    Although I don’t think religious leaders should be “criticism-proof,” so to speak, they also should command a certain amount of respect, and just because we have a difference of opinion, even about the important matters of Biblical interpretation, the fact that we disagree doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.

    I guess by those standards you own John MacArthur a public apology as well.

  5. Going into the Church to bring them a better perspective on the Jewishness of Scripture almost never works. I am not sure I understand why you would not attend a Messianic congregation, should one arise, in order to honor your wife. She felt no dishonor in your attending a church? What is the difference?

  6. This saddens me James. But it affirms, in my mind at least, that the best place for non-Jewish Messianic believers will be in Messianic congregations that uphold both Messiah and Torah, for both Jews and non-Jews, and do not put up artificial walls between the brethren.

    I will keep you in my prayers this week brother, that you find a congregation to attend quickly. Satan does love to pick off the sheep that go off on their own.

  7. @PL: I’ve disagree with Randy on my blog before, but I think using the word “eisegesis” was probably taking it too far, not because it isn’t true, but because it so goes against Randy’s intent and beliefs about his interpretive praxis.

    He certainly is aware of my “unorthodox” views and I know he is very protective of the congregation. When he can’t be present to give the sermon, he hand picks who will be speaking and makes sure the material is strictly in accordance with what he believes is “sound doctrine”. I don’t think he wants his flock to have to encounter my particular views, at least beyond my periodic interaction in Sunday school

    I think his specifically calling out Messianic Judaism as a “misuse of the Law” may have been an attempt to counter anything I might have said that could present MJ in a positive light. I don’t know that for sure, and I’ve never actually said the words “Messianic Judaism” to anyone in church, but allowing the congregation to directly encounter with my theological position would create quite a mess, at least potentially.

    Besides Randy, I’ve given the URL to my blog to three parties, two young men, and one couple. The couple just stopped speaking to me after reading my blog (they were enthusiastic in conversations with me prior to that point), the second had been planning to move back to Southern California, so I have no idea what he thinks, and the other young fellow has been listening to Lancaster’s “What About the New Covenant” lecture series CDs, which I loaned him. He’s listened to them all once but says he needs to hear them a second time. I guess all this stuff seems (and maybe is) revolutionary to the typical Baptist church goer.

    I don’t know that anyone is a disciple of Yeshua without passing that relationship through a few theological filters. If what I present and represent strongly conflicts with what they see through those filters, it’s going to elicit at least confusion. A good friend of mine who’s been around the Church for forty years correctly predicted how Randy and others at church would react to me. Once you cross a certain line, people start thinking you’re involved in a cult. As outspoken as I think I’ve been, I’ve also held back quite a bit because I know people would either strongly disagree or just let the information slide over them without any reaction at all (I’ve seen the latter happen a few times in Sunday school).

    @Daniel: This particular congregation has very strong beliefs, so it probably wasn’t the best church at which to air my views, but I can only believe some churches out there would be more open.

    No one’s been vicious or even unkind, but I do think that Randy sometimes is wearied by my insistance in my particular point of view. Actually, it would have been easier of someone on the Pastoral staff or board had gotten mad and asked me to leave, but actually, everyone’s been very friendly. Some people have even told me they appreciate (certain aspects of) my perspective, so it hasn’t been a terrible experience certainly. I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot about Christians and the history of the Church.

    It’s tough, as I’m sure you know, to question your own fundamental belief system. I’ve had to do that at least twice in my life, and I can tell you that it’s really painful and nerve-wracking. Most people don’t want to throw themselves into a crisis of faith in order to really, really make sure the Bible says what they’ve been taught it says. More than that, once most people have been assured by various means that what they’ve been taught about the Bible is factual and “the truth,” they have no reason whatsoever to question their basic assumptions again.

    Rest assured, I’ll continue to blog my journey so everyone will know what I’m up to.

    @Steve: I wouldn’t go that far. There are at least a few Messianic congregations in the U.S. that welcome non-Jewish Messianics. That said, they’re few and far between, at least the ones I’d consider authentic and doctrinally reliable.

    @Keith: The difference is that I don’t have a personal relationship with MacArthur. Plenty of people criticize him and as far as I know, he isn’t hurt by it. I have a personal relationship with Randy, so what I say and write has the potential to hurt him emotionally. Also, I’ve been present in his church for nearly two years, so it’s kind of hard to ignore me when he can see me sitting in the back of the sanctuary as he preaches, and he knows I’m in one of the Sunday school classes, the one that discusses his sermon (which is periodically attended by both church board members and Pastoral staff).

    I’m sure John MacArthur doesn’t know I exist. Randy, however, is acutely aware of what I think and communicate.

    @Cindy: The difference is that me being a Gentile Messianic is a lot more embarrassing to her than me being a Christian, although my being a Christian certainly has its impact on her. Remember, I originally (after my first church experience nearly two decades ago) attended a One Law congregation, so I was wearing a tallit on Shabbat and praying in very bad Hebrew (using a transliteration of the text). In the past, some of my former associates attended classes at Chabad and occasionally were a pain in the neck to the Rabbi (fortunately, these One Law folks weren’t close associates, let alone friends), so people of my ilk have gained a rather poor reputation among the two synagogues here. I left One Law for a lot of reasons, but one of them was to spare my wife of me performing some sort of “Evangelical Jewish Cosplay” by “dressing up” in Jewish “attire”. I’m willing to take my wife’s perspective and feelings into account when I make decisions about where to worship for the sake of her peace of mind. The things we do for love.

    @Rob: Thanks, but sometimes these things don’t work out. As I mentioned in my blog, the fault in all this is mine, not Randy’s or anyone else’s at church. It’s their place and they have the right to teach and worship as they see fit, just as Jewish people have the right to define their own space and practices.

    That said, if others are having more success with the “Tent of David” model of introducing a more “Messianic” perspective in other churches, and I’ve heard this is happening, I believe it’s the right thing. When Messiah comes back and Christians realize that God’s promises are all to Israel and not “the Church,” it’s going to be a terrible shock to most Gentile believers. I think communicating how the New Covenant really works and the role of Gentiles in receiving its blessings needs to be taught to as many Christians as possible now, before they collide into that reality with Messiah’s second advent.

  8. Well, James, this is very saddening, although I understand and respect your decision. It’s heartbreaking that you are now without community. Like I said before, it’s tough being the odd man out.

    It also saddens me that Pastor Randy hasn’t responded to you, although I understand that he was very upset, even as you were. He’s as human as any of us are, but I would hope he would take the higher road as a leader and pastor to make reconciliation. Having “irreconcilable differences” in theology makes that difficult.

    I’ve seen too many times over the years that when there is an “irritant” in a pastor’s congregation, and it comes to the point of that person leaving, the attitude all too often is “goodbye and good riddance.” But this is not the heart of a shepherd; this is flesh, which we are all required to put to death in our own lives. May this not be the case in this situation.

    On the other hand, perhaps he has responded by now. I sure hope so.

    It’s good that you may have a “study buddy”. While I don’t know if this is feasible in your area, it would be great if you at least had a small study group that could meet regularly.

    I wish you all the best and pray the Lord somehow brings good out of this.

    1. @Linda: It’s been rather interesting that I haven’t been particularly sad at my decision, which I suppose is a terrible thing to say. Part of me experiences a sense of relief, although I also will miss certain people at church, including Randy. I kind of hate to disappear and leave people wondering where I went, but on the other hand, it would be pretty awkward to try to explain why I’ve left.

      Actually, I’m just hoping Randy got the email. He changed email addresses when the church’s website was updated and they purchased a new domain name and I sent my email to the new one. I know he was receiving email at that new address, but sometimes technology doesn’t work as we expect. I sent the email Saturday. Sunday is his busy day naturally, and he’s out of town and away from a computer on Monday which is his day of rest. Today would probably be the first chance he’d have to respond to me, if he’s going to. I don’t know if he’s upset or not but if he chooses not to respond, I understand. I just wanted to make my peace, as best I can anyway, and stop being a minor irritant in Sunday school and by my critiques of Randy’s sermons online.

      Hopefully no one harbors me ill will and are especially happy to see me go. Most people I have interacted with at church have been friendly toward me, so I don’t think it’s a matter of “good riddance” or anything like that.

      I’ve been without a congregation before and been OK, so I’ll be OK now as well. Thanks for your support, Linda.

  9. “…all I’ve done (for the most part) was act as an irritant.” Isn’t that how we get a pearl? I don’t know. ( I heard a teaching from a Rabbi that we need to train our mouth to say that. 😉 ) In the words of Cornelius in Rudolph, ..”Even among misfits you are a misfit!” How often that plays in my head because of what I know and understand now! I don’t know if you should quit. Perhaps wait and see what happens. Reading your blog was making me consider going back. Perhaps if I could encourage them to see that teaching Jewish context and learning The Feasts is not for salvation but for understanding. Just like the Baptist treat baptism, it won’t save you, but it is public confession and obedience. Don’t take yourself to the woodshed to harshly. Sometimes we listen to the voice of our Accuser and not to the tender voice of our Savior. Shalom

    1. I hope you don’t let my one example deter you from your plans, Cynthia. Each church is different and each person is different. Maybe you’ll encounter more fertile ground and your presentation and way of being around people might make people receive what you have to say more easily. My decisions, both to go back to church and now to leave again, are mine alone. They were both good for me but that doesn’t mean my decisions should be applied to anyone else.

  10. Your apology is most admirable & Christlike. You’ve always taken great pains to not disrespect the pastor, and I don’t think your now infamous blog was disrespectful (as evidenced by the fact that you never gave the name of your church or the pastor’s full name).

    Paul’s challenge to the Bereans should be the way of every pastor/rabbi. Absent that, how will we grow (provided we understand the need to grow and that no one has all the answers). “As iron sharpens iron …”

    Whatever you do, don’t give up blogging – it’s become a regular part of my educational diet as I continue on my journey.

    1. Thanks, Jim. I have no plans of giving up blogging (although the thought crosses my mind from time to time, usually when I’m feeling “grumpy”) and in a way, I’m actually looking forward to what happens next. We’re coming to the end of one Torah cycle and the beginning of another. I’ve just finished reading the Bible all the way through for a second year in a row (something I can thank Randy and his church for encouraging) and the future is looking bright. What happens now is up to God.

  11. Amen Daniel
    That hit home about me.

    ProclaimLiberty, in my experience the majority of congregants ARE disciples of denominations or pastors or authors or Rush Limbaugh or… not Yeshua.

    They don’t take the time nor seemingly have an interest in studying for themselves. They are mirrors of the culture. They spend hours devoting themselves to Oprah, football, careers, but exhibit no real signs of building the skills to study scripture.

    That’s not to say they won’t argue with you with 100% certainty that they are right.

  12. I had thought about quitting church but our church has a awesome youth group. I must say they are very effective in teaching our kids about overcoming our culture. They have great Bible studies, mission trips, and lots of fun activities. I have 2 kids that are very involved and it woulds cause family issues if I quit church. However, their doctrine is typical American upper middle class Christian views. I keep silent and remind my self of the good they do and their good intentions.

    1. I think it’s different when your whole family attends the same congregation, especially where your children are benefiting. If any of my family were involved in the church, I suppose that would have colored my decision and maybe even changed how (or if) I interacted there.

  13. I keep silent and remind my self of the good they do and their good intentions.

    I understand that most people don’t like to confront disagreements because they don’t want to rock the boat, especially if they have family there. But is it really good to keep the peace at all costs and just sweep it under the rug?

    In my opinion, this way of doing things doesn’t work. Yeah, everything seems to be rocking along decently. You just keep burying your feelings, but guess what, those feelings aren’t like a funeral. They aren’t dead when you bury them. Those feelings are very much alive under all that “dirt.” They continue to grow and fester. And 9 times out of 10, you have an exploding volcano on your hands one day down the road. Or since I used the “burying alive” scenario, you’d have a Night of the Living Dead on your hands. 😉

    1. One of the reasons I decided to leave is so I don’t have to bury my feelings or otherwise restrict self-expression. If I don’t listen to sermons or attend Sunday school, I won’t have anything to talk or write about them.

  14. I was quoting Mike. I guess I should have made it known I was directing it more toward Mike, but others are welcome to comment about it too.

    Yeah, James, I already knew that that was one of your reasons for stepping away. I think that you made the right choice.

  15. I have metaphorically speaking, been shown the door on a few occasions… But it sounds like you are showing yourself the door before they do… which might be better.

    1. Not sure if they would ever have shown me the door unless I did something really out of line, Zion. I think it was always Randy’s hope that I’d eventually come around to his way of thinking.

  16. Daniel said:

    in my experience the majority of congregants ARE disciples of denominations or pastors or authors or Rush Limbaugh or… not Yeshua.

    They don’t take the time nor seemingly have an interest in studying for themselves.

    Sadly Daniel your experience isn’t rare.

    “[The] people love to have it so,
    but what will [we] do ?”

  17. @James, I only know you via social media. But I get the sense that you are the sort of person who second guesses his decisions and agonizes over words and actions excessively.

    No “name,” or, “authority,” has the right to issue directives from on high to people he/she does not know for the purpose of furthering his/her agenda. At least you are demonstrating that one needs to be aware of the likely negative conclusion that may occur for many first.

    I also can’t say that Randy or the church is not doing exactly what God wants them to do at this time and place. I’ve realized that sometimes, to try to break a chick out of the shell is counterproductive at the wrong time. The Holy One is perfectly able to speak to those who wish to hear.

    I know in my experience, I am not necessarily looking to change people’s minds to view things my way. I am only looking for others to respect and support me in my walk, and not feel the need to get my vote for their particular theology or practice.

    I think the major conflict both of you encountered was that each entered the relationship with the hope of changing the other, or at least gaining the understanding of the other, and this wasn’t exactly put on the table.

    I had a bit of a different situation in the church I was a part of, in that they did not feel the need to change either my belief nor practice. However, I felt, and I think everyone feels this way, the need to be valued and useful for what I have to offer, rather than when I actually revealed more of who I was, what I was learning, how I was changing, it was seen as threatening to people who deeply desire to be kind, loving and accepting.

    Your study partner situation sounds wonderful. May the Holy One bless and grow this as you enter a new phase of endeavor. If you have a partnership where you can study anything, discuss anything, investigate anything with no holds barred – that is an incredible opportunity.

    If our kingdom is not of this world, we really don’t have anything to fight about. It is not something anyone can take from us, and there is no real estate to protect or expand.

  18. James, I’ve been watching this discussion since the sermon review blog that started the ball rolling. Interestingly, I’ve had a similar experience as you. I live in a very rural area with few churches to choose from. The one I attend seems to be the closest fitting that allows some open dialogue and questions. By close fitting I mean the same way that an older brother’s clothes are passed down and don’t quite fit right but there isn’t another option…

    Despite the differences, and my openness with the pastor, I was asked and allowed to teach the adult Sunday school last year. I taught the book of Galatians over a 4 month period from a very Jewish perspective. I taught that Paul was not teaching against Torah observance, but only teaching against circumcision as a means to salvation. The attenders seemed to really enjoy the depth of the study and how thorough we cross referenced Paul’s arguments with the Old Testament. All in all it went very well from the feedback I was given directly. I did this all while talking to the pastor and ensuring that I never taught anything that directly went against the church’s overall doctrine. Even though I disagreed, I knew I had to respect the church that was allowing me to teach and therefore I was putting myself in submission to their authority.

    The pastor and I have had a handful of very respectful meetings discussing our differences in how we viewed scripture. I even pointed him to D. Thomas Lancaster’s book “Elementary Principles,” which he ordered while FFOZ was offering for free.

    Four weeks ago the pastor emailed me his sermon notes on a Saturday evening and apologized that he was going to preach a sermon which included many arguments against my beliefs and that he had to take a stand as the pastor of the church. I read the notes, was taken back a bit, but attended the next day anyway. There are a handful of us that are all studying from the same angle, but attend this church as a home and all of us were there to hear the pastor take us to task. In his sermon he told the congregation that any teaching that supported Sabbath, Holy Days, food restrictions, or following any of the “old law” was garbage. To be fair he claimed Paul would argue that the old law was garbage. He used the analogy that he didn’t see any of us sacrificing animals or stoning adulterers, so we must agree that parts of the old law are not worth following and to pick and choose was wrong.

    He and I met the following Tuesday, which I explained my hurt. The meeting was short and I was told I would not be teaching any more and to please understand that “my viewpoint is confusing new believers in the church.” I never did get an answer how I was confusing new believers because I only discussed my belief differences with the pastor and did not talk about Sabbath or Holy Day observance in Sunday school.

    I’ve listened to his sermons online and that was part one of three, apparently. The forth sermon seems to have settled down and gone back to a more neutral message.

    I haven’t returned yet, but plan to. I don’t plan to change, but I plan to not really share unless asked questions. I plan to continue attending because, like in Mike’s scenario, my family attends. My wife was equally hurt, even though she is not as convinced as I am of the Messianic Gentile movement, but she is definitely convinced that to be a disciple of Jesus we must be open to the idea that he was Jewish and that could mean more compliance to the Torah than what the typical church teaches.

    My point, after a long post is that it is interesting that within a week our respective church pastors preached very difficult sermons against what we believe, over 1,000 miles apart.

    I pray the Messiah returns and establishes his kingdom, which I would agree is going to surprise all of us with just how far off the mark we really are. Hopefully I am humble enough to recognize my mistakes and conform to his teaching.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Terry. I got an email back from Randy this morning. It was pleasant and complementary of all my contributions to the church (I implemented their current website). It also laid out a list of what I’d written that directly contradicts Pastor’s teachings. The upshot is that we respectfully agree to part company which is understandable, since if I stayed, I doubt if I could restrict myself from writing about my continued experiences in church, and out of respect, if I censored myself, I’d just be unhappy going to church each week feeling like the odd man out.

      Doctrine is deeply embedded in many churches such that it is set as established fact to the same degree that we all accept that the Sun rises in the east each morning, and the color of the grass on our lawns is usually green. A lot of people on this blog, in social media, and via email, have been making various suggestions about fulfilling my community needs. While I understand that community is important, and I accept that no community is perfect, it’s taken more effort than I expected to pull away from church and I’ll be considering my options for a time. I’ve considered listening to the remainder of Pastor’s sermon series online, but I’d rather not fall into the temptation to review his sermons, so I’m going to let it go. Better to pursue studies that I feel will continue to move me in a direction I believe is more consistent with God’s overarching redemptive plan for Israel within a Messianic context.

      Peace and be well.

  19. I want to thank you for posting this, and just so you know, I haven’t had time to read all the follow-up commentary but this article and it’s predecessor (What I Learned in Church Today; The Consequences of Disagreeing) is ringing familiar to myself and my husband. You see, because I had a big part in helping start the only Messianic congregation within 50 miles of where we live, and because it was started in a more modern, non-denominational church as a ‘cell group’, I felt like I had to go to both, since one came out of the other. Sadly, I was despised by the modern non-denominational church and eventually forced out of the Messianic congregation because of how it was more a ‘show’ than Torah-teaching/Ruach HaKodesh led. Don’t get me wrong, I love them all and will forever have a particularly strong appreciation for the Messianic education and experience that I got there. But when it comes down to form over truth, I had to part company. Which was difficult in regard to both places. I wound up being religiously/spiritual/emotionally abused at the modern church and offered the door at the Messianic congregation because I was coming to a deeper understanding of Hebrew roots and Torah observance.
    I pray that WE ALL remember that we may not know everything about Torah and how to keep it perfectly until Yashua returns, but may we also remember that trying counts, but only if it is out of love for Yahweh and His Messiah, Yashua!
    Shalom ~ Marie

    1. Thanks, Marie. There’s nothing wrong with religious communities except that they have imperfect human beings in them, but of course, we’re imperfect, too. May God grant us community with Messiah’s disciples and give us the grace to be among them in peace.

  20. I read this with great interest. We (the world) are going through hard times. But the light dawns! I’m so glad that you keep the faith and going further on the path of learning. “In the resurrection, if not before, He will guide us all to a better understanding of all truth in Him through Messiah.” That also keeps me moving! Peace and God bless you, shanah tovah!

  21. It is always difficult to be a square peg in a gathering of people that really only want round pegs to join them, so that all may comfortably fit into their rounded pews.

    What remains difficult for those of us that are resolutely square, or rectangular, or octagonally shaped Believers is that we are really looking in the round pewed places for information and a meeting of the minds, the spark of interest that would lead to a mutual search for the truth. But truth seekers are few and far between, while comfort seekers are plentiful. And a lot of people only seek community to be comfortable, and not alone, and thus feel less afraid of the unknown.

    Jew or Christian, our friends and family that are seeking to fit into a peg hole leave us feeling rather stranded, both theologically, and socially. We would like to have a community, but community without mutual meeting of minds is a rather cold, stark affair. So, if we are to be alone in public, continuously reminded that we are not round enough to mingle, it is just as well that we stay at home.

    Abba, fortunately, loves us all, no matter our shape, and in the silences of our homes, speaks quite distinctly…perhaps even more so because we are alone, and might just hear Him the better for not being filtered though another man’s understanding.

    Praying for you in this new year, that it will grow to be sweeter than last year, or the years before.

  22. James, a faithful reader and friend of mine directed me to your blog because she understands that my wife and I are in a situation that has some parallels to your own at church. We have spent most of our adult lives in a mainline Protestant denomination, even after catching a version of the Jewish Roots fire over seven years ago. We had some limited success interjecting commentary from our new perspective at our former church. We had high hopes when we moved to Austin because Austin has a reputation for tolerating diverse viewpoints.

    The church we now attend has Baptist roots though the name has been changed to appear more tolerant. The pastor is a good man asking the congregation to rise at the reading of God’s word and frequently teaching from the Hebrew text. We our currently studying the life of David as a pattern for the Messiah.

    Our difficulty comes during our Bible Study class, where 8-12 of us are going through the Book of Hebrews. I knew Galatians and Romans to be contentious at times, but never appreciated the disputable areas in Hebrews. A typical study goes something like this: We read a chapter, The leader than reads out of Galatians and Romans to impress on us that the Hebrew author is not saying what he said, People then interject whatever comes to mind, and I get in trouble for trying to bring us back to the Hebrew passage and complaining that we did not study the chapter when people are ready to move on. That’s my rant, and here’s my analysis.

    Whereas, I believe the Jewish Roots opens up a believer to embrace the glory and vastness of God’s nature, provided that a position can be supported with scripture “as it is written”, most Protestants find comfort in believing the same things, with or without basis, and do not want to be challenged to grow. I also find a confusing animosity toward God’s inspired word (the Law), and Jewish interpretations of the Tanakh. I find this difficult to reconcile, for how can people be so opposed to words which they claim have no application to their lives?

    Recently, I have questioned the value my wife and I provide in asking questions (This is why I greatly appreciate your recent perspective.). However, two things keep us in this class for the moment. First, we have become good friends with one couple in the class who are very supportive, though they do not always understand our statements. Second, we have the opportunity to recharge, like Moses, away from the class when visiting old friends who believe as we do, and we see the potential for finding a few in our new town.

    Why stay in this class? I guess I have deep roots and friends in the Protestant movement. I feel that there is an effective way to reach them, I just have not yet found it. Further, scripture teaches that there is greater reward for the greater struggle, although I don’t want to drive anyone away from the faith. Finally, although the majority of my class does not want to hear this, in the end, “I (God) will put my Law into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts,” (Heb 8:10). Daniel Lancaster sometimes expresses the frustration that he feels when fighting with the text because of transnational issues. I agree, but two struggles come from Hebrews (8:10, 10:16), where the Greek word “nomos” is translated as “laws”. The other 193 times it appears in the Greek text, it is translated as “law”, at least that’s what my Olive Trees indicates. I think it’s easy to speculate why the translators were not consistent.

    In the first covenant, man was called to write the law on his heart “You shall…” (Deut 6:4-6). In the new covenant, “I (God) will…”. In the new covenant, I see both the Law and grace through the Spirit (Ezek 36:27), working together to change a person. It’s not one or the other, as we commonly hear. When it comes time for God to complete the writing of His Law on our hearts, some people will just need a few touch ups, but I suppose I will still require a major make over.

    Thank you for the blessing of your blog. I pray that you can find a local group of like minded believers so you can recharge, prepared to engage the greater assembly. May God bless you from the storehouse of His infinite blessings.


    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Scott.

      I think one of the major differences between your situation and mine is that you say you and your wife have been involved in the mainline Protestant church most of your adult lives.

      I haven’t. I came to faith in a Nazarene church many years ago, but only spent a few years there before transitioning into Hebrew Roots congregations and small fellowships. That’s where I spent most of my life as a believer (I didn’t come to faith until after the age of 40). I finally concluded I had to leave Hebrew Roots/One Law because my rather lengthy studies resulted in me shifting my conceptualization of how Torah is applied from “one law for all” to a more “differentiated model” of application between Messianic Jews and Gentiles.

      Another major difference is that my wife is Jewish and not in the least Messianic. When we married over thirty years ago, neither one of us was religious and so being intermarried presented no issues. We both became religious but in different directions, so she has no faith that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Messiah.

      So when I went back to church after a lengthy absence, I went back alone. I had/have no other family members to tie me to church attendance. Probably my best friend at church was (and hopefully still is) Pastor Randy, the head Pastor. For the first year of my attendance, we met almost weekly and discussed matters that we probably couldn’t have talked to anyone else in that church about.

      Admittedly, we were both also trying to convince the other that our way of interpreting the Bible was more accurate, but in the end, neither one of us changed our minds. In fact, I think my dedication to my current interpretive praxis became more cemented and I know his perspective shifted not even a little. Even having spent fifteen years living in Israel, knowing Hebrew fluently, having many Jewish friends, and being a diligent student and teacher, Pastor never really understood why Messianic Judaism needed to be a living, practiced Judaism.

      I probably would have stayed in Church, but the circumstances chronicled in this blog post resulted in my making a decision to leave. I’ve a number of options for continuing fellowship which I will pursue in the next few weeks.

      Thanks for your comment and please continue to read and explore my blog.

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