Us versus Them need to stop now! As people slowly being transformed by Yeshua into his likeness, we often hold onto old habits and old world views. Our pride elevates our egos whispering self confirmation that our ideas are better than their ideas. My way is the right way. My ministry is worth more than your ministry.
I grew up being involved with Jews for Jesus and in the middle of the Messianic movement. I have witnessed foolish disagreements tear relationships apart. I now work with Jews for Jesus as their film producer. I have had many amazing opportunities to reach out in a new way through creative media. I also got a chance to travel the world through a program called Massah.
One of my favorite memories was going to Goa, India on the hippie beaches that are still populated by smelly long haired flower power people. It was the last few weeks of a 7 month adventure and I was exhausted. Our team got wind that there was another team from another Jewish ministry preparing to do outreach on the beach. We got a chance to connect with them and worship and pray. During that time I felt a tension in the room that put everyone on guard as if any sec a fight would begin. It was difficult to bare and I silently prayed that God would brake all of our pride and unite us all in peace. As I was praying this one of the others spoke words that I will remember forever. He said he wanted to apologize on behalf of the messianic movement for not loving us and for making life harder because of the rejection. This broke the tension and our pride. After he said that, many words of encouragement were shared on all sides and we were united.
Since then I have had a heart for reconciliation for those in the messianic movement and Jewish ministry. It is a complicated problem that I want to try and explain. It is the reason my family left the movement near the beginning.
The reason it began is because Jews in the 70s were getting saved and they wanted to keep their heritage. So they created a format of worship that had more Jewish flavor, worshiped on the Sabbath (Saturday), read from the Torah, spoke traditional Hebrew blessings, and some even kept kosher. It was good, everyone did what they were convicted to do and Yeshua was the center. Our congregation was made up of about five Jewish families and soon grew to larger numbers. About a year in we had a large number of non-Jewish families who came from Seventh Day Adventist Churches or who discovered that their great x5 grandmother may or may not have been Jewish and that they felt it in their blood that they were now Jewish. This was not when it became bad, just a little awkward because the Gentiles were acting more “Jewish” than the Jews. The day it became bad is when the Gentiles pressured the leadership into being more Jewish. My congregation began to expect that all men wear a kippah. Soon people began to keep kosher to Rabbinical standards and they expected everyone else to do the same. Many of the original families, including mine began to see that legalism was taking over. (note: this is how I remember this experience) Approaching the leadership became tricky, we were now the minority and our leader did not want to offend the majority and lose people. So they continued to be more and more Jewish until just saying the name Jesus in English was offensive, Christian holidays became taboo because of their Pagan roots. Salvation required not only a belief in Yeshua, but also the keeping of the laws. After a Saturday service where Yeshua was not mentioned once, my parents decided it was time to get out. Though many of our friends stayed, we left and began going to a non-denominational church. I remember how appalled some people at the congregation were that we were going to a church. When this happened I was still very young, we did not leave in anger and we still were in good standing with many. In fact, I was Bar Mitzvahed by the leader several years later and even would visit their youth group every once in a while. I still have wonderful memories of those times.
Jews for Jesus came into play when I was seven years old, my parents were trained in San Francisco to reach out to Jewish people on the streets. They started the first Jews for Jesus chapter in Sacramento and coordinated outreach throughout the year. I passed out my first broadsides (pamphlets) when I was eight. It was the Bart Simpson broadside. It was always hard getting volunteers because talking to strangers on the street was always difficult. Facing rejection all day is never fun. We were accused of being fake Jews by angry Jews and being unable to be Christians by Gentiles almost always Catholics. I knew that what they were saying to me was not to me and I never took what they said personally.
In high school, this new idea of friendship evangelism became very popular in both my church and in the messianic movement. Reaching out was now easier than ever because you just wait for someone to ask you why your life is different, or you do nice things so that people will want to have whatever you have. My church began sending youth to Mexico to build houses and the Messianic Congregation stopped reaching out entirely and stopped growing. Passing out Broadsides in the streets was not the way to do it anymore because it might offend someone and push them away from Jesus. Today, this is still a very popular idea. It is funny how sensitive people get when you hand them a broadside and they yell, “Stop forcing your message down peoples throats.” This is a typical reaction of someone who has been affected by the message. I know many who have come to faith and when they first encountered the message they also had the same reaction. Back to my point, direct evangelism was getting a bad rep because of these reactions.
Just to make things clear:
JFJ is a one issue ministry, to make the Messiahship of Yeshua and unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide. They do this through proclamation and have a very direct approach on the street. When someone comes to faith through the ministry they are connected with a local church or congregation where they can be discipled and grow. CPM, on the other hand has a focus on planting new Messianic congregations as well as direct evangelism and discipleship. The Messianic movement is made up by the UMJC and MJAA and then there are congregations that are independent. This is all very complicated I know. My point is not to bash any one organization or individual or anything. I report it as I see it and this is what I have seen.
Going back earlier to my story of how my congregation became legalistic and unhealthy, this is a well known issue in many congregations. Leaders have to balance the Judaising issue because if they don’t they will be useless in discipling any new believer that comes. JFJ recognized this problem and out of concern for the new believers that were reached through their ministry, stopped connecting people to congregations that focused on Judaising . As you can imagine this caused much strain as there was an unspoken expectation that a new Jewish believer belonged to the Messianic movement. So fingers were pointed at JFJ and JFJ pointed fingers right back. It was a mess. It was Paul and Barnabas at it again.
Many bridges were burnt and there was much collateral damage. Generations later bitterness resides. But there are some who are’t going to stand for this nonsense. There are those who are still working in the Messianic movement who are transforming it from the inside out. They are rebuilding bridges and connections. Reconciliation begins in your heart and we are called by Yeshua to be reconciled to God and to one another. Both CPM and JFJ are amazing ministries that give spectacular opportunities to share your faith with our people. I have friends who have worked with both and have reconciled.
If you hold any bitterness in your heart towards these ministries in general or someone specific, it is time to take steps and be reconciled.
Life is messy and our pride makes it worse, but that is why Jesus died for us. Please do not squander in bitterness any longer.
Matthew 5:23, 24
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
If anything I wrote struck a chord in your heart, please “like” and “share” and comment.