Post-Missionary Outreach to the Jewish People #1 – Instead of Missionaries, What?

I gravitate toward ideas that just might change the world, or at least a small part of it. That’s one reason why the vision statement of Messianic Judaism Media is “Changing the world through changing minds about Messianic Judaism.”  Today, I would like to change some minds about Jews who believe in Yeshua and our posture toward outreach toward other Jews who do not believe in him.  I invite you to consider an idea that just might change the world of Messianic Jewish outreach.

I think mission to the Jewish people as normally conducted has an expired shelf-life, not because the cause is a bad one (sharing Yeshua with other Jews) but because the assumptions underlying the enterprise need to be reexamined and, yes, replaced.

Mission to the Jews as I have known it destroys or disrupts Jewish communal cohesion and covenantal fidelity.  Indeed, all or nearly all missionaries to the Jews I know view Jewish Torah fidelity as at best “an acceptable option if that’s your style, provided you don’t go overboard or expect others to do as you do.”  Many view Torah living to be an expired way of life, little more than a cultural souvenir.  I find this to be a grievous state of affairs, although, truth be told, it did not always bother me.

So what would I advocate instead?  What alternative do I offer which might just change the world or at least a part of it?  It is this:  we Jews who believe in Yeshua should see ourselves as prophets to our people, not missionaries.

  • Missionaries  are emissaries sent by one community to another to spiritually enlighten members of that other community.  In contrast,  prophets arise within a community calling that community to a deeper fidelity to its historical and/or covenental legacy, responsibility, destiny, and experience with the Divine.   Although I am well aware of prophets like Jonah who was sent to a pagan people, normally, prophets are cultural insiders acting as prosecutors who indict the people of Israel for covenant violation, and/or as defense attourneys pleading their case before the Divine throne, calling Israel back to the paths from which they have departed.
  • Missionaries are outsiders coming in: prophets are insiders speaking out.
  • Missionaries call people to something entirely new: prophets call their people to a deeper commitment to something old. And while missionaries to the Jews can and do neglect or disparage the old paths of Torah which the Jewish people have alternately followed and departed from, Messianic Jewish outreach prophets must call our people back to these paths through Yeshua and in the power of the Spirit.

What would Messianic Jewish outreach to our people be like if we functioned as in-culture prophets rather than as post-Jewish or out-culture missionaries?  How might this change our world?

 

 

About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at ShalomTalk.com. Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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16 Responses to Post-Missionary Outreach to the Jewish People #1 – Instead of Missionaries, What?

  1. JD says:

    prophets, not missionaries…
    This is really good. The other day I was thinking something along the same lines as I read Mat. 5:14-15 where it says “You are the light of the world. A city that sits on the mountain will not be hidden, nor do people kindle a lamp just to put it under the eifah, but upon the menorah, to illuminate all who are in the house.” (DHE)
    Here I believe the Jewish believer is called to be a light IN the house, not a light coming from outside (as a missionary) but from inside the house of Israel, separating oneself willingly from one’s comunity will not acheive this.

    • I think it is not only “really good,” but absolutely crucial. Since matters related to outreach are central to my passions, education and calling, I will be developing this concept far more deeply in connection with workshops I expect to be designing and teaching. It all falls under my rubric of Affirmative Outreach, which I will explain at another time.

  2. Russ Resnik says:

    Compelling–“in-culture prophets rather than post-Jewish or out-culture missionaries.” I find that right on target theoretically and personally challenging. I just read a surprisingly good article by Richard Averbeck, “The Message of the Prophets and Jewish Evangelism,” in “To the Jew First,” edited by our friends Mitch Glaser and Darrell Bock. This article didn’t get into the Prophets as apologia for Yeshua, but instead showed how prophecies of the outpouring of the Ruach are fulfilled in the coming of Messiah and the equipping of his followers to ALL be prophets. Evangelism as prophetic witness of Messiah. Great support for your model from a surprising source.

    • Thanks for your comments, Russ. There are two books by Roger Stronstad, a Canadian theologian, which explore this issue, especially the most recent one “The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology.” However, it is clear that the application to the Messianic Jewish context is more pointed: the prophets of ISRAEL were tasked in the manner I described, and the people of Israel are already the people of the True and Living God. As Paul’s ministry demonstrates, the goal of outreach to Gentiles was to turn pagans to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes 1:8-9). In the case of Jews however, the task was turn the people BACK to the ways of HaShem, as I described in my posting. Outreach by Messianic Jews to other Jews is intrinsically different and categorically unique. I am seeking all opportunities to change the world through changing Messianic Jewish minds and activities concerning outreach. We have not yet even begun to see this paradigm take root. And so we labor under older, and in my view, ineffective and inappropriate paradigms.

  3. This is very encouraging. There are many disagreements within Judaism over a whole range of issues, I strongly beleive that the debate over Yeshua is returning to the Jewish matrix. For the larger part of the past 2,00o years the issue of Yeshua was a threat/debate from outside of Judaism. I believe now with continued, dedicated and consistent message of Yeshua’s thoroughly Jewish message to the Jewish people we can see a restoring of his message to the Jewish people, and the debate over his Messiahship will once again become a Jewish debate within the Jewish community, not a threat from an outside religion.

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  5. Yasher koach, R. Stuart!

    My own experience, which involved plenty of evangelical Christians trying to save my poor, benighted soul as a child, is that people trying to “convert” or “save” me only caused me to dig my heels in further and become intensely allergic to Jesus/Christianity. Ultimately, I didn’t change my mind through external pressure or great intellectual/apologetic arguments, or Scriptural/prophetic proof – it was only through my own experiences, in a somewhat roundabout way. Conversion, even if one views it as remaining within Judaism, is anything but simple.

    Further, I think even raising the issue of Christ/Yeshua with fellow Jews requires a kind of tact, spiritual maturity, and acknowledgement of deep responsibility that most of us don’t have right off the bat, at least. Being a prophet is not an overnight, DIY “I just found Yeshua and I want to convince EVERYONE NOW” kind of calling.

    • As indicated in my posting, I agree entirely with you that “being a prophet is not an overnight, DIY ‘I just found Yeshua and I want to convince EVERYONE NOW’ kind of calling.” I must emphasize again that I am leery of people who are eager to be prophets, who readily, glibly, naively, assume they have this mantle because they (1) want it so badly, (2) think everyone else is in such horrible shape that they need to help them NOW, if not sooner, and/or (3) are juiced up on their own spiritual experience. The issue for me is not recruiting a thousand candidates for prophet to the Jews, God forbid, but rather to challenge Messianic Jews to view their appropriate stance as being prophetic–that is, rooted in calling our people more deeply to covenant faithfulness (Torah living in harmony with Jewish communal precedent) and passionate relationship with God, through allegiance to Yeshua the Messiah and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, it is not a matter of office or title (!!!) but rather a matter of stance.

      Missionaries to the Jews on the other hand seem nearly universally indifferent or hostile to Jewish covenant faithfulness and communal cohesion. This is the antithesis of a prophetic stance. And, as mentioned, missionaries are outsiders coming in, while prophets are insiders speaking out. I believe the latter is a far better paradigm for Messianic Jews sharing their faith commitments with other Jews.

      • Agreed. And to be a prophet, one must speak the language of the people – which means possessing Jewish knowledge and being immersed in Jewish vocabulary. To do otherwise only reinforces the stereotype that it’s only secular, uninformed Jews who are “led astray” by Christianity.

      • Though reclaiming the prophethood of klal Israel is another interesting way to look it – as Moshe says in Shemot, “Would that all the people were prophets!”

  6. Michael G. Bryan says:

    Shalom Stuart:

    As always, this article is a reflection of your brilliant mind and ability to conceptualize and still make “the rubber meet the road.” Just thinking that perhaps part of the reason for our lack of ” success” is our (historic) self-image as ‘grasshoppers,’ in the sense that we buy into the lie that we are not really part of the Jewish community. Of course, too, the influence of “Christian missiology” on our movement has been disproportionate in the past. Just thinking.

    Blessings,

    • Thank you, Michael. I am touched by your kudos. You bring up some interesting issues.

      While I think you are right that we tend to have an inferiority complex (your “grassphoppers” reference), we must realize that the propriety of any claim that we make to being part of the Jewish community must be assessed against the evidence that we share/do not share a common ritual and communal life with other Jews. If evidence of such loyalties and engagement is lacking, it reduces our claim to polemical rhetoric. At a recent conference in Europe, I saw Jewish Yeshua believers who “feel more Jewish than ever” now that they believe in Yeshua eating ham and bacon on Tisha B’Av. I won’t weary you with explanations as to why this brings their claim to Jewish status under question. Being a Jew is more than genetics–it is a communal identity, requiring of us some attention to and respect of Jewish norms and communal engagement.

      While some would be quick to say that many mainstream Jews would eat ham and pork on Tisha B’Av without their Jewish identity being brought into question (a debatable point for some), the situation for Messianic Jews is different. We claim in some sense to have “arrived” in the Messianic Age. Jews have a right to believe that the Messiah will confirm Jewish norms rather than trashing them. Yet too many Jewish believers in Yeshua disparage Jewish norms, in my terms, are post-Judaism in their ideology and practice. This undermines the credibility both of our claim to Jewish identity (how can you rightly lay claim to what you have left behind?) and our claim that Yeshua is the Messiah (what kind of Messiah is it that causes Jews to abandon and demonstrate contempt for Jewish norms?) And it will do no good to reinvent Judaism and then call your adherence to your invention evidence of Jewish identity. It doesn’t work that way. There has to be substantial continuity, even in the midst of inevitable and healthy variation.

      If there is a flaw in my argument, I would appreciate knowing what that is.

      As for Christian missiology, you will be fascinated to learn that many Christian misisologists are light years ahead of most people in the Messianic Jewish movement in their zeal for and readiness to see Messianic Jews living as Jews, as cultural insiders. They see this as a desirable norm for other cultures as well, what they term, “Insider Movements.” Those of the old school of missiological thought, who advocate for a more culturally imperialistic, neo-colonial view, are a dying breed that has almost entirely lost its audience in the field.

      Thanks again for writing. Great to hear from you.

  7. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Rabbi Stuart,

    Excellent post!

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  9. Scott says:

    Thanks, Stuart – fine words as always.

    A few years back, speaking to my congregation, I asked the rhetorical question: Is it Jewish to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah? My answer was, “Not yet.”

    The hallmark of Jewish continuity is the transmission of our covenantal identity from one generation to the next, and also to the next. Yet, Jews who have believed in Jesus have historically failed to make good on that requirement. Instead one or two generations later you cannot find the offspring anywhere in the Jewish community. The justification (rationalization) is that at least they believe in Jesus.

    So, in other words, at least they are going to heaven! Without arguing the eschatology of this position, I will at least comment that the soteriology leaves something to be desired. If the New Covenant includes a unified Jewish community, right relationship with Torah, a commitment to the Land of Israel, along with a new heart/spirit, forgiveness of sins, and obedience to King Messiah, then those who abandon Jewish convenantal living to accept Jesus are only HALF-saved (consider my mathematical bent when interpreting this: six hallmarks of New Covenant faith with only three fulfilled)!

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