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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Life Changing Observations From Two Great Pastors

I went to Abilene Texas to visit Beltway Park Baptist Church in January with 7 other Messianic leaders. We went to spend time with Pastor David McQueen and his leadership team/staff.  It was an amazing trip on so many levels (read about it here).  Pastor David has relationships with many Messianic leaders and has great insight into our community and leadership in general.  He made a statement concerning Messianic leaders that has stuck with me.  He said, "It seems to me that unless an idea is Jewish in its inception many Messianic leaders will not consider using it." Boom!  I have found this true, even in myself, far too often.

Ideas are not legitimate/illegitimate because of who/where they come from.  Great ideas and bad ideas come from everywhere. In particular, the Church has so much to offer Messianic Judaism.  I know, "They don't get us" or "They are theologically opposed to us".  I know. But, that shouldn't keep the Messianic Movement from using great ideas that come from the Church, especially when it comes to reaching people through culture and working to reach this present generation.  We make statements like "Well, that works for them but Jewish people are different." Are we so sure we get our own people?  Sometimes I think we forget that people are people.  We are all affected by culture.  We all have the same hurts and pains.  We all need the same Yeshua (salvation).  

I recently had coffee with Pastor Joe Fuiten from Cedar Park Church in Seattle.  He is an incredibly gracious and well-rounded charismatic pastor.  He made some observations that were fantastic.  I asked him for some tips on congregational growth. He said, "Messianic's have a tendency to think that growth will/and should come from the specific message you offer.  But, real growth will come from people having encounters with God." Shazam!

I believe in what I preach.  I believe that we need to restore the Jewishness of the Gospel.  I believe Messianic Judaism is an end-time fulfillment of prophecy.  But, if people's lives are not changing, who cares? If people are not having encounters with the God of Israel, Yeshua, our Messiah, why does any of it matter?

I am grateful to these two men of God and the time they gave me. Let's be real, Messianic Judaism isn't working in my generation.  The message isn't the problem.  Yeshua is still king over all the earth.  Perhaps some of the things we hold to as "this should never change" or "but that's how we have always done it" are actually holding us back from doing our part to build the Kingdom of God?

What do you think?

For more on this click here!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Without Unity We Might As Well Give Up! Grassroots in Seattle 2013

"What is Grassroots?" is the common question asked by anyone who hears of it. Grassroots is not an organization.  It has no affiliation.  It has no money of its own.  It has a core team of leaders who lead it.  But, it is a team that leads together.  My congregation, Beit Messiah in Seattle, had the pleasure of co-hosting a Grassroots event on the weekend of March 8-10 along with our sister congregation, Beit Tikvah in Newcastle, WA.
From the event on Facebook for the weekend, Grassroots is "an intentional set of relationships among young people across Messianic Judaism. We are committed to seeing the younger generations within the Messianic Jewish community get to know each other and to take ownership in the future of our respective organizations. One way that we act this out is by joining together for a weekend on a yearly basis, providing opportunities to unify through worship, prayer, and fellowship."  That's it. Many people seem to want more information but there really isn't anything more to it.
I am reminded of one of the closing scenes of History channel’s "Hatfields & McCoys."  The leader of the Hatfields speaks to the ongoing feud between these two famous families and says to his son, "You gonna have children one day; your children are not going to care about our old grudges and slights from long ago. And their children won't even know about it. It's time to move on." - Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner).
Grassroots began with a desire from a set of people who grew up in the Messianic movement that were disappointed that they did not know each other. They wanted to be intentional in creating opportunities for young people that grew up in different organizations to get to know each other. That was seven years ago.  Many events later Grassroots continues to grow.  Not as a group or an organization but as a movement with the Messianic movement.  It is a movement of young people that strive for unity among each other, our congregations, and even to the existing organizations that we each represent and participate in.   
For Grassroots, this was the first event on the West Coast and about 80 people came out for the weekend.  We all met for a great Shabbat dinner hosted by Beit Tikvah and put together by Eliza Latimer.  We said the blessings for Shabbat and a great time of worship followed dinner.  On Shabbat morning the Grassroots attendees came to worship with us at Beit Messiah.  We hosted a lunch made by Janelle Behrens of Beit Messiah and then took everyone over to Gas Works Park which looks over the Seattle skyline and beautiful Lake Union.  Saturday evening we said the blessings for havdallah and worshiped together again.  It was during this time of worship that the core team of Grassroots felt that the Lord's desire was to have a time of repentance between those of us from the congregational side of the Messianic movement and those of us from, the missional side of the Movement, represented by Jews for Jesus.  
Jonathan Moore, from Israel, talked about the heart of Grassroots from the beginning.  It is a set of ideals not even an event.  The idea being that what happens at Grassroots events would take root in the attendees and it would change the way we view each other and endeavor to take unity back to wherever we are from.  Then, I was asked to remember Jhan Moskowitz, one of the founders of Jews for Jesus.  I talked about his recent passing and the heart that he had for unity in our Movement regardless of organizational affiliation. Jhan was the best of us.  He was loved in and out of Jews for Jesus.  He was loved by leaders of every Messianic organization even in times where organizations had issues with each other. No one had issues with Jhan.  His heart was for all of us to be together and at his memorial it showed.  Both in New York and Chicago Jhan was remembered by representatives of every Messianic organization. I recalled what my dad, Rabbi David Rosenberg, shared at Jhan's memorial in New York City. He pointed out that even in death Jhan was bringing us together and in his absence we have a responsibility to do the work of unity that Jhan hoped for.  Jhan, many months after his passing, was the catalyst to what happened even at Grassroots in Seattle.   
The mic was passed to Troy Wallace, assistant leader of El Shaddai Congregation in Maryland, and Vanessa Leef who lead us in a time of repentance -- for those who have distanced ourselves from Jews for Jesus for all kind of reasons in all kinds of conversations; for those of us who have said and thought negative things towards J4J as an organization and against the people who do the work of this important Messianic institution.  Aaron Trank, minster at large for J4J, and Aaron Abramson, branch leader in Manhattan for J4J, came up to the mic and shared their heart for repentance from the missional side towards the congregational side and made a renewed commitment to support the congregational side of the Movement.  We prayed for each other. We cried with each other.  We felt and experienced the kind of unity that Jhan always talked about. We dedicated ourselves as representatives of different groups to trusting each other and working through our differences towards something greater, unity!
For me, the event was summed up by Troy Wallace on Friday night when he said, "I believe in a diverse Messianic Judaism that dwells in unity!"  Grassroots is not something we pay dues too. We all belong to different Messianic organizations that all do great things.  Grassroots is not even so much an event or events.  It is a time of intentional relationship that serves as a catalyst to change us.  The Messianic movement is made up of people.  People wound and hurt each other.  We didn't promise to stop hurting each other.  We committed to working through our wounds and hurts and letting God move through us with the goal of one Movement with different parts, all doing important things for the Kingdom of God, trusting each other’s roles.  Disagreeing on form and method but united in the idea that Yeshua our Messiah has so much more for all of us, together!
What is Grassroots? That’s a great question!  While I do not represent the core team in any leadership capacity, in my mind it is an opportunity to learn from and trust each other beyond the groups we belong to.  It is an opportunity to let the God of Israel move through His people in unity.  It is something to take home and bring unity to our congregations and communities.  It is a desire to stop speaking against each other and support each other even with some disagreement.
I was so blessed to be a part of this event.  Beit Messiah was blessed and honored to help co-host grassroots.  I know it will affect Messianic Judaism in Seattle.  My desire, which is shared by Rabbi Hylan Slobodkin of Beit Tikvah and Rabbi Jason Forbes of Beit HaShofar in Tukwila, WA, is to see God show Himself among our Jewish people here in a new and fresh way in Seattle.  The more we work together the more I am confident He will!  For the Messianic movement as a whole, the more we take hold of the unity God desires in our Movement the more movement we will have.