A Tale of Two Churches
Yesterday Boaz Michael announced that I am the newest member of the FFOZ creative team. I have to say, it's great to be working with First Fruits of Zion. My family and I have greatly benefited from their commitment, scholarship, and dedication for the past five years, and it's a thrill to be able to join them in bringing the message of Messiah, Israel, and Torah to the nations.
I am an evangelical Baptist pastor. That is my "day job." My small faith community, Union Church, has a long history in the little town of Quincy, Michigan. For almost one hundred years, it has operated under two denominational charters.
In 1914, two churches in Quincy were failing: the Baptist church and the Presbyterian church. Neither could afford a full time pastor. No one knew what to do.
Those of you familiar with Christian polity will know that there are big differences between the Baptists and Presbyterians. They have different theology. They practice differently. They are organized differently. People used to a Presbyterian form of worship would normally balk at going to a Baptist church, and vice versa.
However, these two churches made a startling decision. They decided to put their differences aside and join together as Union Church. With only one pastor to support and one building to maintain, these two churches together had enough resources to keep going. Ninety-eight years later, we're still here.
Not only that, but we still have Baptists and Presbyterians. We haven't forgotten who we are or where we came from. The Presbyterians still baptize their infants, and the Baptists still wait until a faith commitment has been made before baptism.
Amazingly, no one here fights about theology. (That doesn't mean we never fight, but that's a different story!)
I think my little church has learned a lesson that many of us in the Messianic movement have forgotten. Many of us, myself included, have acted at times like there is no hope for reconciliation between Messianic Gentiles who have left the church and their Christian brothers and sisters. We have given up on having any positive impact on the church. Many of us have experienced bitterness, isolation, and sadness as a result.
How much more impact would we have if we were able to put aside our differences with our Christian brothers and sisters, and continued to have a positive and meaningful relationship with them? Like our Baptist and Presbyterian congregants, we would still remain different, but that doesn't have to stop us from talking to each other, from being friends, or even from being family.
As a Messianic Gentile who is also deeply involved in the church, I hope to be able to bring a perspective of moderation, of conciliation, and of dialogue and communication between Messianic Jews and Gentiles and regular Christians. I believe that Christians are more than ready for the message of Jesus the Jewish Messiah, of the beauty and relevance of the Torah, of the centrality and continuing role of Israel, and of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven.
My work for First Fruits of Zion will entail creating resources that are designed for regular Christians--people like those in my congregation, the people I interact with every day. I want to be able to put books and articles in the hands of Christians who have never heard of First Fruits of Zion or the Messianic movement. I want to make our message easy to understand, to give people an open door, and make it easy for them to walk through it and see the wonderful things God is doing through ministries like FFOZ.
Those of you who have been part of the Messianic movement for a while might think that my contributions to FFOZ's line of materials aren't very deep, that they are not taking you further in your faith or revealing new insights into the Scripture.
But that's okay! Think about it this way: if I were trying to tell someone how to get from their house in Quincy, Michigan, all the way to the Temple Mount, I wouldn't begin on Derech Jericho! I would begin on Chicago Street, and tell them one step at a time.
Some of us are already in Tel Aviv and we're nearly there. Some might be on the plane. Some are stuck at the airport. But most of us Christians, the vast majority, haven't walked out the door yet. We are still in our homes, waiting for someone to give us directions.
God willing, I hope to be able to give people that first set of directions, that first wake-up call that says "Hey--Jesus was Jewish!" or "I never knew that God really expected the Jewish people to keep the Mosaic law" or "Wow, the Sabbath is really a joy and not an irksome burden."
In my blogs for FFOZ, I hope to be able to give all of you some ideas and tools for communicating your faith to others, telling them about Jesus' Jewishness and why it matters, about the greatness of the Torah and how to use it as a guide for life. I hope to be able to make it simple and make it stick.
Please keep me and my family in your prayers as I undertake this mission with FFOZ. It will be difficult to balance this work with my obligations to my family, my pastoral duties, and my education, but ultimately, the reward of seeing regular Christians discovering their Jewish roots for the first time will be priceless.
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