Look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. (Exodus 18:21)
Who will take over First Fruits of Zion when I am gone? I’ve been leading First Fruits of Zion for twenty-five years. It’s been twenty-five years since my wife and I inadvertently launched the ministry by publishing a small Jewish-Roots newsletter.
If God is pleased to give me another twenty-five years, I will gladly continue to serve in this role so long as I am able, but who will pick up the mantle when my wife and I are gone and when my colleagues and I are no longer able to carry it?
You Are First Fruits of Zion
I don’t consider First Fruits of Zion to be just a ministry. The name “First Fruits of Zion” refers to the prophecy in Isaiah where the people from the nations say, “‘Come, let us go up … that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go the Torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3).
You are the “first fruits” of that prophecy. In the Messianic Jewish movement, all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, are the first fruits of those who are ascending to Zion to learn God’s ways, to walk in his ancient paths, and to take hold of his Torah. If you are a disciple of Yeshua who is learning God’s ways, walking in his paths, and taking hold of his Torah, you are one of the first fruits of Zion. In that respect, First Fruits of Zion should be a movement of people, a group of disciples who share in a mission and a message.
The true leader of this movement is the Good Shepherd Yeshua who leads us into his kingdom. Nevertheless, we need leaders, as it says in the Torah, “Look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens” (Exodus 18:21).
The First Batch of Leaders
From the earliest years of the ministry, I dreamed about creating a network of local leaders across the United States and around the world. When we first released HaYesod, it wasn’t on video. We tried implementing a program of training local leaders to teach the HaYesod material live. We launched the program with leadership training and the idea that all these local leaders would be the HaYesod teachers in their communities. We would provide the training, the material, and all the resources they needed to promote, organize, and teach the class. They would teach the weekly lessons, answer questions, and introduce people to First Fruits of Zion resources.
That was the plan.
It didn’t work out very well because we did not have the infrastructure to support those leaders, nor did we have the staff resources, at the time, to maintain those relationships. The response from leaders asking for training and support was overwhelming. We realized right away that we were in over our heads. We were unable to sustain the network, meet their needs, provide accountability, or keep in communication with so many leaders. After only a year, the program failed, and we had to scramble to re-release the material as a VHS program with pre-recorded teachings. Thus, the HaYesod program became merely a resource rather than a movement of people as we had dreamed.
Torah Club and Bible Study Fellowship
That was more than two decades ago. I learned a lot from that experience, but I have never given up on that dream of raising up, establishing, and equipping an army of trained leaders and teachers who share our vision for the kingdom and who are carrying out the mission of bringing Messianic Jewish teaching to Christians and Jews. I have struggled to find a platform that could make that vision work.
To some degree, on a small scale, this has happened naturally with pioneering individuals leading Torah Club groups forcing the content into group study formats. Torah Club is our year-long Bible study/commentary materials that provide weekly studies on the Torah, the Prophets, and the New Testament. It’s a fabulous set of Bible studies, life-changing and transformative. Our ministry has poured more time, effort, and money into the creation of the Torah Club materials than any other venture or resource. At the same time, Torah Club is our most under-utilized resource. In fact, it frustrates me that the important teaching locked up in Torah Club is available to so few people. I want to find a better way to disseminate that teaching, and I believe that Torah Club group studies will help accomplish that goal.
Ordinarily, people study Torah Club independently, but sometimes Torah Club groups form. Typically, a group of people agrees to study through a year of Torah Club together. One of them leads or facilitates the group, and they purchase the group subscription version of the materials for the members. A lot of those Torah Club study groups formed when veteran students of the popular Bible Study Fellowship, a fabulous biblical literacy program, began learning Torah Club. Many of our most effective Torah Club group leaders are previous BSF members or teachers.
Last year, my colleagues and I began talking about merging the two concepts. What if we retooled the Torah Club program and membership so that it functioned more like Bible Study Fellowship with group study and fellowship becoming the point of focus rather than extensive commentaries? I’m not talking about rewriting the material. I’m talking about reimagining the way that people access the material. To put it another way, what if Torah Club became the Messianic Jewish version of Christian ministries such as Bible Study Fellowship, Precept Ministries, or Community Bible Study? Those are all ministries that focus on bringing people together into community groups to study God’s Word in a structured and disciplined manner. More than just Bible study, those ministries give people a place to belong, a social group in which to spiritually grow, and a sense of identity in the organization.
Torah Club Reboot in the Fall of 2018
Starting in the fall of 2018, we hope to launch a whole new way to do Torah Club. It’s my vision to see Torah Club, beginning in the fall of 2018, become a catalyst for the message of the kingdom, the Jewish Messiah, and the Torah going forth from Jerusalem—through a massive network of trained leaders and tens of thousands of passionate disciples. I want to see us touch the world with the truth of the Bible as we never have before.
We have a solid plan for how to accomplish this; we believe that the ministry of First Fruits of Zion has been prepared by God for this huge endeavor, but we will need to do this together with you to realize the vision.
You already know that theological confusion and modern nearsightedness have badly blurred God’s truth. Now more than ever, the world needs focused, biblical teaching, moral clarity, and a clear vision of the coming kingdom. The disciples of Jesus have not heard the message of the Bible in its Jewish context. The theologically sanitized and de-Judaized presentation of the gospel has watered down the Bible, weakened Yeshua faith, and lost the concept of discipleship. To rectify this, I envision Torah Club becoming a grass-roots movement of disciples who have chosen to follow the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it draws others near, inspiring them to follow the paths of discipleship, too. We want to see Torah Club become a social and spiritual movement among the disciples of Yeshua.
- Imagine the Torah Club study materials made affordable and accessible to the average person through participation in a study-fellowship.
- Imagine thousands of Torah Club study groups meeting all over the world, all studying together, enjoying like-minded fellowship, and being renewed in the Word of God.
- Imagine these study-fellowships giving the disciples of Yeshua a new vision for following the Master, with a love for the Torah and a commitment to the land and the people of Israel.
I want to see hundreds of healthy, growing, Torah Club groups. I am asking you to stand with us to accomplish that goal, and I need you to pray about becoming a Torah Club Group leader. Most of the content for this initiative is already in place through our extensive, already-existing Torah Club commentaries. However, we need leaders like yourself to step forward and take responsibility for forming, nurturing, and leading Torah Club Groups. We also need financial support to create the infrastructure necessary to raise up and support leaders, groups, and a movement of people passionate about studying the Bible.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, I want to begin passing the torch of First Fruits of Zion to the next leader of First Fruits of Zion, and I want that next leader to be you—and several thousand other Torah Club fellowship leaders, teaching the Word of God to a hungry world.
This is an exciting new season for Torah Club, for this ministry, and for all of us “first fruits of Zion.” As I look back, it is clear to me that God has had all this in motion for many years. He has prepared this work for this time with this new far-reaching and influential effort to spread the teaching of his kingdom. Now it’s your turn to play your part. Help us raise the money. Help us raise the leaders. Become a leader.