Current events in Israel have brought much to mind regarding those in Messianic ministry today. Whatever the sociopolitical problems faced by those ministering in Israel, too many engaged in reaching the Jews are misunderstood. So, my review here is with an eye toward equipping leaders to help others understand this timely, prophetic and uniquely difficult ministry.
And this ministry is timely, to say the least. A century-long move of the Holy Spirit has been fulfilling the Ezekiel 37 “dry bones” vision, and a spiritual harvest is afoot among God’s ancient, chosen people. Prophetic developments in Israel and among global Jewry ignite any thoughtful soul witnessing God’s sovereign hand at work regathering the lost sheep of Israel. Their regathering to His land is probably the single most significant sign of the nearing of Jesus’ second coming.
From Herzl and the birth of the Zionist vision (1890s-1917), to the horrors of the World War II Holocaust as 6 million European Jews were slaughtered in the Nazi death camps (1939-1945), to the founding of the modern state of Israel (1948), ongoing events have kept Israel in the international spotlight for a hundred years. Whether people recognize it or not, God is trying to get the world’s attention.
A mixed response. Christian response to these events has varied widely. Many show unawareness and passivity, knowing little history or biblical prophecy, while others reveal interest and passion, but not always with discernment in their response or efforts. But for me, a basic understanding of a few key concepts sharpened my perception, helping me respond to the Holy Spirit’s renewing and reviving ministry in this regard.
I came to realize that what God is doing among Jews and in Israel needs to be seen as being as much a renewal as the Spirit’s revitalizing the church in such arenas as worship, the fullness and gifts of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the believer. I began including some of the following in special teaching occasions, and found this helped people better see God’s present purposes in Israel and among Jews, while also clearing their thinking about Messianic ministry.
“Messianic ministry” is relatively new terminology and is used today by most who seek to touch Jewish people with the gospel. Their outreach is commonly assailed by the Jewish religious community, and thus by the press, accusing “Messianics” of proselytizing and attempting to steal Jews away from their Jewishness. However, Messianic evangelism is clear in its focus and message, seeking only to invite Jews to faith in their Redeemer without becoming any less Jewish.
Misgivings and misfirings. It’s that last phrase–“without becoming any less Jewish”–that bewilders many, both Christians and Jews; it’s a bewilderment that often breeds resistance to Messianic ministries. As I travel, I am surprised at the frequency I encounter both misgivings and misfirings concerning ministry toward Jews.
The misgivings are found among sincere believers who are unaware of key concepts undergirding Messianic ministry. The misfirings are the often sorely misguided “shots” at saving Jews taken by equally sincere believers whose absence of seeing the historical context of Jewish-Christian relations boomerangs their intended love for the Jews into being seen as a crusade against them. Thus, these evangelists end up shooting themselves in the foot. The rejection they meet, attempting to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ or seeking to convert or “complete” Jews, too often leads to feelings of being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (see Matt. 5:10).
The fact is, their approach is too often dominated by ignorance, however innocent, and even a few points of review regarding Messianic ministry might have helped. Let me suggest those that helped me begin:
1. Messianic ministry does not begin with excitement, but with exposition. It is predicated on the Bible’s revelation that God has never forgotten nor rescinded His timeless covenant with Israel and the Jewish people (see Rom. 9-11). Many Christians are not aware that a powerful residue of anti-Semitism present in the 16th-century Reformers shaped a theological stance toward the Jews that dictates against the sensitivity needed in today’s environment.
It is worthwhile to gain at least an elementary grasp of this issue and its resolution. Two highly recommended books on the subject are Israel, the Church and the Last Days, and Jewish Roots, both by Dan Juster. They may be ordered online at www.tikkunministries.org.