Dan Juster

Restoration From Zion
"Today we could use some of Manny's obsession with evangelism ..."

There have been three men in my life who lived Jewish evangelism: the late Manny Brotman, Sid Roth, and Josh Fischbein (a pseudonym). Each of them functioned out of their calling as a gift ministry evangelist (Ephesians 4:11,12). Ironically, I found every one of these dedicated men of God to be quite frustrated. Why? They strongly believed that God's people could be much more effective in winning Jewish people to faith in Yeshua.

Manny was one of the original fathers of the post 1960s modern Messianic Jewish movement. Though a proponent of Messianic Jewish congregations, it disturbed Manny that our congregational services were so focused on the already-won, and scarcely at all on "inquirers". He thought our concentration on the members was self-centered. Today we could use some of Manny's obsession with evangelism to bring balance where we have become "fixated" on meeting the needs of the flock. During Manny's time as a Messianic Jewish congregation leader, he gave constant evangelistic invitations, and many Jewish people came to real faith in Yeshua.

Then there are Sid and Josh. Both are very similar in that they are always sharing their faith. There is a real anointing on these men. They can easily start up conversations and people respond to them positively, some even pray to receive Yeshua. Whether in a restaurant, on a street corner, or at a railway station, there is a drive in them to be led by the Spirit to begin conversations about life, its meaning, God and Yeshua. I was recently with Josh and watched him dialogue with a restaurant waiter with amazing effectiveness. He knew the questions to ask. The waiter opened up and was happy to share contact information. People like Josh see the fields as white for harvest. They see an open-ness to the Gospel where others do not.

This leads me to some comments about the Messianic Jewish movement in America. It began as an evangelistic movement with many coming to faith. We invited all who wanted to be part of this new move of God to join us, both Jew and Gentile. We created a Jewish context so that Jewish people would remain Jewish and would continue to reach our own people, and we trained the Gentiles who joined with us. We did not teach Gentiles that they were required to live a Jewish life. We did not worry much about what Gentiles could or could not do in a Messianic Jewish Congregation. The culture was Jewish. The Gentiles were thrilled to see Jewish people coming to Yeshua and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I wonder if some of what I see as imbalance in the Messianic Jewish movement is due to our need for an outpouring of the Spirit of evangelism. There is a concern about authenticity. Some think excluding Gentiles will make our congregations more authentically Jewish and that more Jewish people will join us. I greatly doubt this. Some think we just need to have more rigid standards of what Gentiles can and cannot do in our midst so that Jewish people are clearly distinguished. Some Gentiles are in a great quest to practice what they see as the true form of New Covenant Faith in which they keep the Mosaic Law. These are all imbalances.

The real issue is that without a passion for reaching Jewish people, and then being occupied with their discipleship, the other questions become unfruitful, self-focused preoccupations. It's true that biblically, Gentiles are not responsible for living a Jewish life in the same way as Jews. There are legitimate distinctions of calling and promise to Jews and Gentiles. But when we are passionate and successful in evangelism, our time and energy are given in ways that help things more naturally fall into place. Gentiles will not have to worry about the lie that they are second-class. And Jewish believers will not be anxious about being swallowed up by a non-Jewish majority. They will both be too busy reaching and discipling new believers.

Josh believes that members of Messianic Jewish congregations can be trained and enter into an effectiveness in a Spirit of revival that they have not yet begun to envision, to see a harvest of many in each congregation and not just one here and one there from time to time. He is expecting this to happen. The intent is not for the congregational service to become an evangelistic service, but rather that it be a time of worship and teaching that empowers those already following Yeshua to share their faith with boldness and effectiveness.

I pray regularly for the equipping gift of the evangelist to be much more significant in our congregations in Israel and the Diaspora - so that they will be able to equip others to be effective as well. I pray for God's people to be empowered and effective far beyond what we now think possible.

By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster is on the board of Tikkun International and oversees the Tikkun America network of congregations. Donate to Restoration from Zion.
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21:02 03May17 Sz -
This was a wonderful lesson that needs to be spread through the congregations.

10:55 04May17 Pastor Mark -
Positing that the real problem in Messianic Jewish (MJ) congregations is the lack of passion for reaching Jewish people is thought provoking, but I also think that the elephant in the room that holds the Jewish part of the Messianic movement down is not going away anytime soon. That elephant is the one that results in Messianic Gentiles being wrongly treated as if they are second-class citizens, or adopted children in the midst of natural born children.
The result has been that Messianic Gentiles are waking up and leaving MJ congregations and returning to the Judaism of Messiah (AKA Messianic Judaism). In terms of congregational/communal life, Messianic Judaism is not preoccupied with Jewish ethnic status (circumcision) or Gentile ethnic status (un-circumcision) what matters is keeping the commandments of our Father in heaven (1 Cor. 7:19).
Messianic Judaism not only opened the door to Gentile inclusion, they grew to celebrate and rejoice in it. The Apostles did not buy into a bilateral ecclesiology that would lead to birthing ethnic centric congregations i.e. separate MJ congregations and MG congregations where each would seek to win their own ethnic groups and pretty much at the exclusion of others. In Acts and the Epistles it appears that MJs and MGs are united in vibrant local churches where they live out together the Torah written on their hearts as they share the Gospel of Messiah with any and all who are interested. This may be the answer to the bigger problem.
In my opinion, emphasizing "Jewishness" and creating congregations that focus on ethnic status, will certainly slow down Gentile interest. Couple that with losing the passion to focus on winning Jewish people, the Messianic Jewish congregations in the Messianic movement risk fading away to irrelevance. MJ evangelism will help remedy the problem, but MG inclusion just may save it and cause it to thrive again. Thank you.

  -- Dr Juster replies: We wrestle much with the questions in your response. My view is that there are many MJ congregations that embrace Gentiles fully. Look at most of ours and Baruch Ha Shem in Dallas with 400 Gentiles and 100 plus Jews. My view is that what is crucial is not that there be ethnic separation, but that any congregation with Jews has to encourage them to maintain their Jewish identity and to stay a part of their people in some way. This can be through study groups, discipleship and feast celebration for some that are interested or all, but need not be a bi-lateral ecclesia view. The latter may be condensation due to the Church orientation to assimilation and the loss of the Jewish identity of Jewish members. In Jewish Roots I argue that a MJ congregation is not for exclusive membership but is a form or expression of the Body that will disciple and encourage Jews to remain a part of their people and still be the "saved remnant of Israel." I have stood pretty consistently against exclusive membership ideas.

10:02 05May17 Jay Axtell -
Equipping (in love) is so important, I agree. My experience has been that those mature leaders in the MJ movement are so much less threatened by what or who is Jewish and what or who is not than the MG. I believe distinction is so important because that is how new life is born, not in uniformity, but in unity. If the concept of authority is grasped, then I believe that the flow of life can be perpetuated. The authority in the MJ congregations is not that of a church, nor should it be. If a MJ member tried to go to a church to evangelize and straighten everyone out, that would only widen the divide. Deferential ministry takes maturity in love. How this is walked out practically and in acceptance is a great question.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Asher Intrater: Three Priesthoods
Eitan Shishkoff: Meeting Moussa
Michael Zeitler: Prison Miracles
Leon Mazin: Open for Prayer
Humanitarian Aid
Ariel Blumenthal: What Are Jewish/Hebrew Roots?
Motti Cohen: More Tel Aviv Testimonies