In the early 1970s, a significant number of Jews committed their lives to Yeshua and came to the conviction that they should call themselves Messianic Jews rather than Christians. There were several reasons for this. One was the history of institutional Christianity and its impact on the Jewish people.
From a Jewish perspective, Christianity was a movement of semi-paganism, oppression and anti-Semitism. We wanted to project ourselves in such a way that the Jewish people would take another look at Yeshua without the barriers of their pre-formed perceptions of Christianity.
In addition, we really wanted to promote the truth that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are still called to identify and live as part of the Jewish people. Romans 11:29 states that the Jewish people are the subjects of an irrevocable election and calling from God. Romans 11:1, 5 identifies Jewish believers in Yeshua as the saved remnant of Israel.
“I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! … Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
We wanted our people to see that embracing Yeshua does not mean betraying and abandoning our Jewish heritage. If we do not live as part of our people, we are not showing ourselves as the saved remnant that sanctifies the whole (Romans 11:16).
Planting Messianic Jewish congregations was considered a central part of the vision. We also saw Jewish believers in Yeshua living and identifying as Jews as a key to ushering in the last days and the catalyst toward all Israel being saved.
Some of us also understood how important it was at the same time to live out the truth that we are one with the body of believers as a whole. This was somewhat controversial since we were the only movement that professed oneness with the body of the Messiah that did not use the word Christian as our self-designation.
The history of the last 35 years has been one of great gains in the Messianic Jewish movement; hundreds of congregations have been planted in the United States, hundreds more in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine and about a hundred in Israel along with scattered congregations in South America, Africa, and Australia. All these grew from a mere handful of congregations before 1975.
The Present Situation
Today we still find that the great majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua are in Christian churches and identify themselves as Christians. I
n addition, this great majority is not living a Jewish life and is often strongly resistant to the Messianic Jewish call. They and their children are assimilating into the Gentile world and do not strengthen the saved remnant of Israel. They are, instead, weakening the numbers of the Jewish people. It is likely that later generations may not identify as Jewish in any way.
On one occasion I spoke to a Jewish missions leader who recommended church membership to Jewish Yeshua-believers. He was totally blind to the diminishing of Israel/Jewry that was taking place. Assimilation was not a problem for him. I pointed out to him that if it were not for assimilation, there would be hundreds of millions of Jews today.
Wars and pogroms alone where many were killed cannot explain the demographics. We are a small number of only 13 million according to mainstream Jewish statistics. Messianic Jews who count children of Jewish fathers add many millions to these figures, but it is still a small number in world population terms.
Are we willing to lose what may amount to hundreds of thousands of Jews in churches who are assimilating? (There are of course exceptions, and there are some examples of Jews in churches committed to Jewish life.) Is there a mission to them, something that can be done to recover them and their children to be part of our people?