This past week I and seven of my Messianic Rabbi friends visited Beltway Park Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas. I met Pastor David McQueen at the Jewish Voice Leaders’ Roundtable in November and asked him if I could come and hang out with him and learn about leadership. He encouraged me to get a group of young Messianic leaders together to come and his church would foot the bill.
I love leadership. I love learning about leadership. I love reading about leadership. I love being with people who are awesome leaders. David McQueen has seen his church grow from about 150 people to 4,000. I know, you don't care about numbers. But, numbers represent people, people who need God. And if there is a place that is reaching people with the Gospel and changing peoples’ lives, I am game to hang out there.
So we went to Abilene -- 8 messianic leaders under the age of 40: Myself (Beit Messiah, Seattle, WA), Jude Caracelo (Kol Mashiach, Melbourne, Fl), Jesse (Fl), Tim Hyslip (Baruch HaShem, Phoenix, AZ), Cosmo Panzetta (Beth Yachad, Phoenix, AZ), S.K. (Raleigh, NC) Ari Waldman (Baruch HaShem, Dallas, TX), and Troy Wallace (El Shaddai, Frederick, MD). We went to watch and learn.
What impressed me the most was how excellent everything was -- from the screens, microphones, iPads for the worship team, to the soundboards (yes, that is plural, as in several rooms had their own). With large numbers comes lots of money and with lots of money comes great stuff. Beltway has great stuff. But more than all of that was the excellence of their people -- from the full-time staff, to part-time staff, to the people who attend on Sunday morning, to the Poormans who let us stay in a great little ranch that met all of our needs. They really went out of their way to pour into us and treat us like kings. I hope to be able to do the same for people that want to come learn from me in 15 years.
I go to a lot of leadership conferences. I read and hear a lot of messages on leadership. What I have not had the opportunity to do was be in the meetings or the back room conversations involving that leadership. I see a lot of services and have planned many myself but to be in on the conversations of such a great congregation was a once in a lifetime chance (let's call it twice in lifetime because I plan to go back!). Sitting in on meetings with the senior leadership team and the elders was awesome. Watching how their sermon and creative teams worked to come up with different ways to present the message was inspiring. Seeing the kids’ service, the teen service, and the adult service was fantastic. Even more, each service had a great ministry time that was not only purposeful and effective but geared to each specific group. Of course I cried through all of the services because that's how I roll. I felt the presence of God from the time we landed to the time we went home.
Spending time with my young leader friends, the "future" of Messianic Judaism, was really outstanding! It's funny when people refer to us as the future since we are all leading congregations right now. It's also interesting to note that in our movement we are considered young when in reality the majority of us are approaching forty years old. Not so young considering that almost everyone in leadership at Beltway Park is the same age as our group (Even the senior pastor is not that far off). No one at Beltway looks at them as the future but rather just the leaders who are leading now. But, I digress...
Probably the most significant part of the trip was the time the senior leaders spent with us and how they openly shared everything about their church with our group. Pastor David and Pastor Keith really spent a ton of time with us and let us ask all kinds of questions and they really took the time to pour into us as leaders. We walked away from this trip with a sense of how awesome it is when brothers and sisters gather together in unity and what it means to be a part of the larger body of Messiah!
We realized that during our time the Torah portion for the week was Yitro. Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, comes to Moses and teaches him all about leadership. Man, did we learn from some amazing Jethros! If you think I am implying that I and my friends are Moses you would be right. In the end, as a group of 8 leaders, we committed to making ourselves better so that we can lead our Jewish people to Yeshua and to the salvation that He offers to all who call on His name. There were times where in the words of Cosmo we felt "like hobbits among the nephalim"! Even their teenagers were giants! Ok, Maybe just me and Cosmo felt that way. We are short but we are confident in ourselves.
Some Messianics have asked me, "Why go to a church to learn?" The short answer is they are better than we are in so many ways. Many in our Movement think that if an idea is not Jewish in its inception then it has no merit. For me, I see great value in learning from our brothers and sisters in Yeshua (they call him Jesus ;). They are Jethros for us. Many in the Church use the language of older brother and younger brother. As Jewish followers of Yeshua, we are "older brothers" in terms of faith and heritage. But, in terms of building communities dedicated to sharing the message of Yeshua with all people, we become "younger brothers." The Jewish part and the Gentile part of the Body of Messiah have much to learn from each other and much blessing to share with each other as well. And man were we blessed! (Yes, that is a fried egg on my TX Burger!)
Thank you Beltway Park Baptist Church. Thank you Pastor David, Pastor Keith and the whole staff who showed us what a heart for Israel and young leaders looks like. Don't worry we will be back!