Mattityahu 5:17,18 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in NO wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
What are Missions?
A mission usally is something you have to complete in a certain amount of time.
Others believe missions is a word centered around congregation planting and evangelism.
But what are Missions?
According to the Scriptures, they are a message sent by God. Thus says the Lord Let us listen to it withreverence. Return to the Lord, your God, for gracious and merciful is he. (Joel 2:13) Let us bereconciled to God … It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. (Rom 13:11) Oh sinners, be converted to your God who is so benign, so merciful, who loves you so, who has been seeking you for a long time. Now is the time for you to set aside that worthless and evil-filled style of life; to putaway those bad affairs, to end those scandalous ways, and to make retribution for stolen goods etc.It is the hour. How is it possible to have such lack of understanding or coldness or such stupidity in so many believers!
Missions is evangelism and congregation planting. If what we do is not part of a plan to present the Gospel in order to either plant a local church or grow an existing local congregation, we are not doing missions.
Very few congregations are truly engaged in missions as we understand the Biblical imperative given in the Great Commission. Love compels and motivates us to care for the sick, downtrodden, hungry, and we should always be doing these things wherever it is we live. But “making disciples” of the nations is another thing what we have been charged with by our Lord.
Doing missions is a physical involvment on the part of one that intentionally reaches into the live of someone in order to bring that person to a saving knowledge of Yeashua’s Teaching. If our mindset is to give a glass of water and a sandwich to someone to say we are doing missions, then we have missed meaning of missions. The glass and sandwich are nothing but tools needed and used in order to present the Gospel.
This is the time when God is calling out to you, that God is showing you the disillusion of earthly things and that they are nothing more than sheer vanity. How is it that we cannot be awakened from that profound sleep of death that oppresses us! How can we be so deaf to the many words of advice! Oh! The ineffable goodness of our loving God who, rather than hurling bolts of lightning toward usin righteous justice and condemning us to perdition, is rather moved with compassion (see Luke15:20) toward each sinner, as he exclaims: “Your soul is buried in vices and you are yourself yourown tomb. Presently, the Lord is drawing near to you; he will let you hear his voice and he willlead you once and for all from that miserable state in which you exist. Oh misled soul, he calls out to you, he invites you, he encourages you, he arouses you by saying, I say to you, rise. (See Mark 2:11) Oh Christian, will you be even more insensitive than a dead person? God is commanding you to rise … rise up.
My most beloved people, this is what a Mission is! In the Old Testament, God sent prophets – now he is sending us, the ministers of his sanctuary. Thus, he chose a Moses, a David etc. But then, you too. As a consequence to this, note that onemust take firm hold of the Mission as holy and with fullness of heart and decision of will to become holy. Return to me with your whole heart; (Joel 2:12) Rend your hearts. (Joel 2:13) Oh sinner, be courageous! God could have stricken you with an unexpected death – but no, because he wants you to be saved and hence is sending you another of his ambassadors – Return promptly since if today you hear his voice etc.(Psalm 95:8) With a generous heart, be converted. The kingdom of God suffers violence, etc. (see Matt 11:12) This is how you are to receive this Mission and what dispositions you are to have. … you must now place yourself in that state of soul that you would like to have at the time of your final moments.
Mission to the Jewish People
There are two aspects of the Jewish missions world that I think are helpful to understand: their role in history and what divides the missions from the so called Messianic congregations.
From the perspective of history, there would be no Messianic Judaism or Biblical Judaism had it not been for the Jewish missions, such as in the recent past starting in USA through the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now Chosen People Ministries) and Jews for Jesus. Jews for Jesus in particular was the catalytic organization for the Messianic Jewish movement in the 1970’s. Sure, it was the Messianic Jewish Alliance and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations where the congregational movement began to take shape. But Jews for Jesus led the way in establishing a groundswell of Jewish faith in the Yeshua’s Movement.
Today, the congregations and the missions are divided. There is disagreement over methodology and even the meaning of Jewish identity. To put it simply, the missions value the work of obtaining decisions for Yeshua by Jewish people and work to produce such decisions. They hand out pamphlets and work with churches to meet with Jews who have Christian friends. Although cultivating some type of life in Messiah (discipleship) is a value, it is the proclamation of a decisional message that motivates more than anything else.
The congregations value life lived in Messiah. For congregations, decisions are not enough and an over-emphasis on decisional proclamation is a problem. From our perspective, inclusion in a local community of Jewish followers of Yeshua’s Teachings is the measuring stick. Also, a decision by a Jewish person to follow Yeshua’s Teaching is of limited value if that Jewish person then assimilates into “Christian” culture and essentially neglects or abandons their identity as Jews.
Sadly, the congregations and missions began to divide in the 1980’s, when the revival of Jewish faith in Yeshua was beginning to fade and the glory days were starting to disappear.
The thing is that in USA Messianic Jewish congregations value participation in the Jewish community, a strong Jewish identity built on relationships with Jews in the mainstream Jewish world and not primarily in the “Christian” world but certain Jewish mission organizations are much more in the “Christian” world and leaders in Jewish missions almost without fail worship in “churches”. I hear talk from some of them to the effect of, “We support both churches and Messianic synagogues as places for Jewish believers,” but this is not something productive or positive in long term. The funding for Jewish missions comes from churches and it is their primary place of identity.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no qualms about the validity of Christianity or churches in general.
I just don’t believe that churches are the best place for Jewish followers of Yeshua. There is no social support for Torah living in churches. Quite the opposite, eating a ham sandwich is practically a rite of allegiance to Christ for many churched Jews. To not eat the ham sandwich is taken by well-meaning but tragically misinformed Christians as a form of legalism or Judaizing.
Most importantly, Jewish identity is not passed down from generation to generation by Jews whose primary community is in a church and participation in the life of Klal Yisrael (the wider community of the Jewish people) is virtually impossible for Jews enculturated in Christianity.
It is important for me to say that there are good reasons why some Jews who follow Yeshua’s Teaching choose churches. In many places where Jewish people live, there is no viable Messianic synagogue nor Biblical Judaism synagogues or groups. By viable, I mean a synagogue which actually has Jewish people in it (it’s tragic and ironic that in USA we have produced more Gentile Messianic congregations in many places) and where the teaching and community are balanced and healthy. I find that some Jews in places without a viable Messianic synagogue or Biblical Judaism synagogues or groups make good choices, belonging to a church and a mainstream synagogue, in order to make the best in their situation.
So, to summarize, in USA LCJE represents the Jewish missions. The MJAA, UMJC, and IMJA represent the congregations. There is still interaction between the missions and congregations, but very little in most places. Tragically, the missions and congregations need each other, but to work together there would have to be some major paradigm changes. The issued that divide are simple and I could list them as follows:
–The missions see Christianity as the primary community of Jewish followers of Yeshua while the congregations see Klal Yisrael as the primary community.
–The missions tend to view Torah observance and traditional Jewish life as optional or even in some cases forbidden, while the congregations overwhelmingly view Torah as a continuing obligation for Jewish followers of Yeshua.
–The missions emphasize proclamation and decisions while congregations emphasize community and the living out of Jewish life in Messiah together (the missions might say I am being unfair here, but I could be glad to elaborate).
It should bother more and more that some methods were and are confrontational. It seemed a scandal that belivers today led a Jewish friends to join churches where their Jewish identity would be further suppressed. I realized more and more that the biblical gospel is not decisional but communal. That is, the priority of getting people to make decisions to follow Yeshua’s Teaching was misplaced. The true priority of the gospel is the healing of Israel and the nations in Yeshua, a total redemption of body, soul, spirit in a corporate sense and not individualistically. People are saved into a community called to transform the world, not into a private contract with God guaranteeing bliss in the afterlife. A decision for Yeshua ‘s Movement without ensuing involvement in a community of Jews living Yeshua’s teaching together has been or is a very short-sighted goal.
You might say, “But if these Jews were placed in church communities, that was fulfilling the need for community and transformation.” The problem is, it was not fulfilling the need for Jews as Jews to be in community and transformation. It was transformation from Jewish life to Christian life. And in too many evangelical Christian churches, transformation is not even an option. Their theology is so decisional, people attend church to hear that they are saved and not to go out and heal anyone or anything.
I wonder myself as in USA the movement is stronger and more organized than in Latin America. Will the missions accept some of the priorities of the congregations? Will the missions find a place someday working with the congregations? Will churches support a kind of Jewish mission work that is transformed into a Messianic Jewish or Biblical Judaism mode or will churches always be suspicious of anyone who says that Jews belong with Jews in community?
I don’t know. But I do sense that leaders in Jewish missions are at some level dissatisfied as I was. Perhaps they want congregations to change, to emphasize Torah less. Michael Brown, one of the best known Jewish missionary leaders, read a paper last year calling for Messianic Jews to be more Messianic and less Jewish. Maybe the missions would want us to make Torah optional and reject rabbinic tradition’s authority over our lives so that they would feel comfortable sending their disciples to us. We don’t place rabbinic tradition on top or higher than than Torah like ‘ Talmudic Judaism does, but we believe is important to learn from it as an auxiliar source to help understand certains decisiones and things that happened.
But I know that many of these leaders are on a journey to a holistic gospel. I know that the disciplined reading of biblical texts is doing its work in all of us. And biblical texts support a gospel that is far beyond decisions and converts. Perhaps many mission leaders want to see Jewish communal life for their disciples but feel the congregations would require doctrinal change before they would be comfortable sending disciples into our congregations.
It would be good to have more people working together in this great idea of the renewal of Israel in Yeshua. May God help us all to be free from pride and to be transformed by his Son that we might heal others as we have been healed.