Some people object to this. When they see Messianic Jews declaring the Gospel to other Jewish People and to Gentiles, they say, “Why are you doing that? That’s not Jewish. We Jews are not a proselytizing faith.” Well, that may be a popular notion to many people, but it isn’t true. In Matthew 23:15, Yeshua says, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees. You hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert and, when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Clearly, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were proselytizing. They were telling people about God. They were winning converts, Yeshua says. So, sharing our faith is deﬁnitely Jewish. Not only was it true in the First Century, and before Messiah came, but it is also true today.
“Good News for Israel”
Jewish Voice Ministries International
Last Sunday afternoon, I had my regular “coffee meeting” with a friend of mine. We meet every other week to talk about all sorts of things, but mainly to maintain relationship, friendship and community in Messiah. My friend is one of the few people in my life (face-to-face or online) who can really challenge me and present me with questions that make me stop and think. It’s not always comfortable but is it always inspiring.
Over lattes, he asked me how I’m personally sharing the good news of Messiah to the people around me as a Messianic Gentile. He didn’t word it exactly like that, but I have a reason for expressing the query this way.
Just about anyone I can think of who is involved in either Messianic Judaism or some aspect of the Hebrew Roots movement entered these movements by way of a Church experience. Before I entered Hebrew Roots and then became more Messianic in my practice and study, I came to faith in a Nazarene church here in Southwestern Idaho. Even the Jewish people I know, with rare exception, entered Messianic Judaism after coming to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah within normative Christianity.
In other words, it wasn’t a Messianic Jewish or Messianic Gentile evangelist who shared the good news of Moshiach and the coming Kingdom of God with any of these folks. For me, a more traditional Christian evangelist (in my case, a youth Pastor and friend of my brother-in-law) asked me that standard question, “If you were to die tonight, do you know where your soul would go?”
That’s a horrible introductory line in my opinion, and the actual process of me coming to faith took a large number of specific steps and encounters over a six month to one year period of time. But in the end, I made the initial baby steps of coming to faith and then my life fell apart.
But how would a person with a Messianic Gentile perspective on the Bible come to evangelize, not Christians in the normative Church, which is what we’re used to doing, but atheists or even people from completely unrelated religious traditions, telling them of the plan of personal salvation through Christ?
It’s not an easy question to answer, because I believe the “good news” of Messiah is so much more than just a plan for personal salvation. Scot McKnight expanded on this idea in his book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited and I agree that we (the Church) have reduced the actual gospel message down to a bullet list of talking points centered around individual salvation so that a person may be forgiven of their sins and go to Heaven when they die.
The gospel message of Jesus is often simplified down to believe in Christ and your sins will be forgiven and you will go to heaven when you die. In episode eight this common misconception will be challenged. Viewers will discover that the main message of the gospel is one of repentance and entering into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not the place we go to when we die but rather God’s kingdom coming down here on earth. The gospel message is about preparation for the Messianic Age.
from the introduction to Episode 8
The Gospel Message
from the First Fruits of Zion television series
A Promise of What is to Come
The episode is only about thirty minutes long and free to view by clicking the link I provided. It offers a more expanded understanding of what the good news or gospel message of Messiah is really all about.
But that story is aimed at people who already have faith in Christ and who are looking for a deeper understanding of what that faith actually means based on a Hebraic examination of the scriptures.
How do you introduce this sort of stuff to people who have no background in it at all? If I go up to someone, tell them I’m a Christian, and ask if they would like to talk about Jesus, they may say “yes” or they may say “no,” but they’ll at least have some idea of what I’m talking about. If I go up to that same person and tell them I’m a Messianic and ask if they would like to talk about the coming Kingdom of God and the blessings of the Messianic Age, they’d have no idea what I was saying and would probably think I’m some sort of religious cult nut.
The Sunday before Easter, one of the Pastors at church announced from the pulpit the opportunity for anyone who desired, to join with others on Good Friday to go door to door in the neighborhood offering to share the gospel message and to pray with people. For a brief instant, I imagined myself doing such a thing, but then all the questions about the true nature of the gospel I mentioned above came flooding in.
I want to share my faith, but it doesn’t always have a lot in common with the doctrinal position of Evangelicals, so how could I employ Evangelical religious tracts and Evangelical language and concepts in any program of sharing faith as I understand it?
Arguably, there are only two populations that Messianics attempt to engage: normative Judaism and the Church. Messianic Jews attempt to communicate to wider Judaism about the Moshiach, Yeshua HaNazir, and the New Covenant promise of a restored Israel and a reunited Jewish people as the head of all peoples and nations of the Earth. Messianic Gentiles and Hebrew Roots Gentiles tend to try to convince people in the Church or people who are disaffected and who have left the Church, that the Messianic and/or Hebrew Roots perspective on scripture tells a more authentic and accurate story about the relationship between God and humanity.
But how do we (or do we ever) communicate our message to people outside of those frameworks, people who don’t have the theological background we usually require of our audiences, and help them understand what it is to be a disciple of the Master?
I know of only one, single missionary effort currently operating, in this case in Uganda, that works to evangelize unbelieving populations directly from a Messianic perspective: Acts for Messiah. As the introductory text regarding their mission states:
ACTS for Messiah serves to follow in the footsteps of Yeshua and the apostles, providing for the needy, feeding the hungry, and providing a home for the children left in the streets. Our current area of operation is in Tororo, Uganda, where Emily Dywer brings ministry to small villages and runs an orphanage rescuing children from desperate and dangerous situations, giving them hope and a future…
That might be the answer or at least part of it. It’s not just what we say, but what we do and how we live. The answer may not be in the differences in perspective between Christians and Messianics (and of course, Messianics are Christians who simply view scripture from a different and more Hebraic perspective), but the similarities. At the end of the day, it’s all about humble obedience to the teachings of the Master, following the path, feeding the hungry, providing clothing, offering comfort, showing kindness, even to the unkind, for they are the ones who need kindness the most.
I’m not a big fan of knocking on doors and offering to share the good news with strangers. I’ve been at the receiving end of door-to-door evangelists of one type or another and an unanticipated visit is usually an interruption. On the other hand, I am discounting the Holy Spirit and encounters previously arranged outside human awareness.
We have to start somewhere. We can’t just talk to ourselves about what we already know and we can’t just target limited populations if we really believe we have a good message that people need.
But where to begin? If you call yourself a Messianic anything, do you share your message with strangers or at least with atheists with whom you’re acquainted? How do you talk to someone about faith in a Jewish Messiah within the context of Messianic worship and faith?
The comments section is now open.