Messiah’s community is a single community expressed in diverse forms within the Jewish community and among the nations. All are called to a dedicated life of worship, neighborly service, and public testimony to Yeshua. Unity and love throughout the entire community confirm Yeshua’s role, as the One sent by the Father, and God’s purpose in Messiah for Israel and the Nations. (John 17:20-21; Acts 21:20; Gal. 2:7-8)
-from the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) Statement of Faith
I came across this link somewhat at random, and it reminded me of a question I wanted to ask the Internet.
Typically non-Jewish believers in Rav Yeshua (i.e. Christians) become aware of movements such as Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots through a sense of dissatisfaction with the Church, the feeling that something is missing. I remember having that sense early on in my “Christian walk”. My wife, who is Jewish, also felt something was lacking in our church experience, and when we encountered a local Hebrew Roots group (this was many years ago), she was immediately “hooked”.
It took me longer to get onboard, but eventually, as I started learning more, I began to realize that what the Bible actually said about the Jewish people, Judaism, and Israel wasn’t what was being preached and taught in most churches.
My wife and I have since journeyed on separate trajectories relative to our faith and I respect her decision. She’s Jewish and she needs to be in Jewish community and to embrace Jewish identity.
My identity is less traditional and I’ve gone through a sometimes convoluted developmental process, finally arriving where I am today (though I don’t think God is finished with me yet).
Someone recently said (Don’t make me regret posting this link, Peter) that “Judaism is a communal faith and not designed to be practiced in isolation.” So is Christianity. The ideal is to find a like-minded community of fellow believers and to “fellowship” with them.
Over the years, I’ve transitioned between numerous communities, starting with a Nazarene church, then a Hebrew Roots/One Law congregation, then to a Bible study/home fellowship, then (eventually) back to Hebrew Roots, and most recently, I attended a Baptist Church for two years (and have since left). There were times in that history when our family was just alone in our faith, and times, including the present, when I am alone as an individual.
No, I’m not revisiting the idea of community for myself. As nearly as I can tell, that door is closed for more reasons than I can list in this brief blog post. However, it did occur to me that there are very few paths to community for someone, particularly a non-Jew, who generally believes in the tenets of faith as described by the UMJC (no, I’m not affiliated with them, and no I’m not specifically advocating for them — they just happen to be a handy example).
Even if there were a Messianic Jewish community in my area, and even if I felt I’d be welcome there, I probably wouldn’t attend out of respect for my wife’s sensitivities on the matter.
But what about other non-Jews who have my point of view?
There are plenty of Gentile-only Hebrew Roots One Law/One Torah congregations out there of various sizes and configurations. Some have a few Jewish worshipers, but they almost always were not raised in a Jewish home nor had the benefit of growing up in Jewish social and religious community. Those Hebrew Roots groups are also almost always run by non-Jews, although their leaders may wear a tallit and kippah and even call themselves “Rabbi”.
But there are also a number of non-Jews who have a more “Messianic Jewish-like” perspective on the Bible, the centrality of Israel, the primacy of the Jewish Messiah King, and how all that relates to the people of the nations. A view I advocate here on my blog.
If they don’t live within reasonable distance of a Messianic Jewish congregation established and operated by Jews as a Jewish community which graciously also admits non-Jews, where do they go?
It would be like being a traditional Noahide and not having a nearby Jewish synagogue to attend. I know of intermarried couples who attend both our local Chabad and the Conservative/Reform group here in my area, and the non-Jewish spouses are Noahides in Jewish community, not unlike how I think of non-Jews in Messianic Jewish community.
But what if there were a group of Noahides who lived nowhere near a synagogue? What if they weren’t intermarried to Jewish spouses, but through some other process, came to the realization that being a Noahide was what the Bible required of them in order to worship Hashem?
Apply those questions to those of us who are “Judaicly-aware” non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua. Where would such a group of Gentiles go to find worship and community? Could a group of Gentiles band together to practice something analogous to “Messianic Judaism?” What would you call it, “Messianic Gentilism?”
I was wondering if those organizations that generally call themselves “Messianic Judaism” (such as the aforementioned UMJC) have established any guidelines for non-Jews who want to come alongside them but who geographically are too far away from a Messianic Jewish congregation to attend. For that matter, that group of Gentiles may not even have a skilled teacher or leader among them. They probably could use a lot of assistance and guidance.
Although the community in ancient Antioch (Acts 13:1; 15:1-2), to the best of my understanding, had both Jewish and non-Jewish members, the Apostle Paul (Rav Sh’aul) also founded many Gentile-only communities, the one described in his epistle to the Galatians being the one that immediately comes to mind. Paul “kept tabs” on these various groups, when he couldn’t visit them, through his correspondence, but the vast majority of the time, for day-to-day operations, they were run by the local members.
What did a Gentile-only “Messianic” community look like in those days? We don’t really know. Probably they looked at least somewhat “Jewish,” if for no other reason than because that was the only communal model available to them.
But this is nearly two-thousand years later and a lot has changed. Yes, ultimately the Gentiles broke away from their Jewish base and invented Gentile-only (unless a Jew wanted to leave Judaism and convert) Christianity, which almost completely rewrote how the Bible was to be understood.
Judaism too has gone through a great deal of development, and what we think of as Rabbinic Judaism today (which, in my opinion, includes at least some Messianic Jewish groups) is not the same as the Judaism(s) practiced during the late Second Temple period.
So theoretically, if a collection of “Noahide” Judaicly-aware non-Jews wanted to pursue a community consistent with how we think of Gentiles coming alongside their Messianic Jewish counterparts, is there anything or anyone they could contact to help them? What resources should they consult so they wouldn’t just be “shooting from the hip?”
And no, I’m not thinking of starting such a community here, but I’m thinking that this is an area where others like me in the world are underserved and, left on their own, are perhaps forming groups and fellowships that might be less than optimal. I think they could use some help. I’m just wondering if such help exists and if it is even possible to create viable, sustainable congregations of Gentiles who worship and live consistently with how Messianic Judaism envisions Gentiles in Messiah.