New Perspectives on Outreach/Inreach (1) – Some Lessons from Frost and Hirsch

One of the matters to which I have been attracted for nearly fifty years is outreach, known as “inreach” to some. The latter term emphasizes that when Messianic Jews, living in solidarity with wider Israel, express and communicate their Yeshua faith to other Jews they come not as outsiders but as insiders, and they do not come to extract Jews from their own context to bring them into another.  Thus, “inreach” emphasizes the intra-communal nature of such an enterprise.

Today I begin a series on this subject,  hoping to share some creative ideas that go beyond sharing new techniques, to sharing new perspectives on what our task is, and what Jewish people should look like and act like if we have done our outreach/inreach job well.

Today I begin with some pointers extracted from a very good book on what is called “mission” which we might too briefly define as “the people of God  extending and expressing themselves in the world as agents of blessing, judgment, and redemption in service to the mission of God.” The book is Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission. (Peabody, MA: Henrickson, 2003), 111-133.

The authors express their longing that the church would return to Jewish ways of thinking about what it means to live and obey as the people of God. Following are ten points extracted from a chapter in this book titled “The God of Israel and the Renewal of Christianity. ” This outlines some aspects of what they believe the church should look and feel like if it is really in touch with who God is.  But see if you don’t agree with me that our Messianic congregations also really need to learn from this list. And again, these are areas where hold that Christians need to learn from Jewish ways of being and doing. That is the unifying factor.

Read these ten bullet points which I developed in reading on of the chapters in the book, and ask yourself how the task of Messianic Jews commending Yeshua to the wider Jewish world  would be more vital and compelling if congregations lived this way:

1.     We need to move toward praxis and away from a fixation on ontology—God gave himself a Name (this is specific and personal) rather than speaking in notions (Heschel). This means that God’s default means of introducing Himself to us is personal, not conceptual. Yes, we know that God is Love (a metaphor for his lovingness), but this statement is a conclusion based on generations of God demonstrating his lovingness.  In discussing our faith, we have been conditioned often to focus on principles, concepts, adjectives,  and things like trinitarian distinctions, the union of the Divine and human natures in Yeshua, etc. The danger is getting involved in arguments about concepts, distinctions, about philosophical categories, which arguments do nothing to advance people in Yeshua faith. These discussion have their place, but should not be our focus and where we tether our in our religious discussions. When God seeks to reveal Himself in Scripture, he does so primarily by describing how he acts, not through disquisitions on his being or nature.  If we want people to know who God is and to trust him, we need to talk more about what he does, about the acts of God, biblically, historically, communally, personally. We need to tell his story, and our story.  Have you seen His faithfulness in your life? How?  Tell about it. This is more convincing than simply and solely pointing to a verse. It is like the Seder. The Haggaddah reveals who God is in a very Jewish way–by telling what He did and by proclaiming that this is the way He will continue to be.

2.     We need to deeply learn that all of life belongs to God. This means that our faith embraces all of life, that God’s will and character should be honored in everything we say and do.  Our reflex is to quarantine God in religious actions and categories. But the Jewish perspective is that in every aspect of life, the question is “What does it mean for me to honor God in this?”

3.     We need to sanctify God’s Name through living in Kavanah—intentionality sanctifies.  What is our focus in our day to day life–should it not be on the presence of God and bringing him honor?  Should not every moment, conversation, and action of our life be a devotional act?  This is why our tradition says we should say one hundred b’rachot a day. This is not a quota, but a reminder that at least 100 times a day we should bring awareness of God into the mundane. Indeed, for the people of God, nothing should be mundane.

4.     We need to learn a Yeshua-based praxis, rather than being overbalanced in the direction of Paulinism.  We live in a day where people want us to show them the beef.  The faith-sharing of the early Jewish believers involved telling and retelling communal stories about Yeshua against the background of a prior knowledge of God handed down through the generations.  They told how through the Presence of the Spirit in their midst, the realities evident in His life were reflected among them.  I am not suggesting, nor did Frost and Hirsch, that we ignore or second-rate Pauline writings. Rather, discussing the Messiah, his life, teachings, and promises against the background of the promises of Tenach is where the story of our Yeshua faith should be grounded as we share it with others.

5.     We need to practice a radical monotheism where all of reality and all of life belongs to God and is subject to His Lordship.  In the ancient world, there was a different god, and therefore a different governing principle, for each aspect of life. For the Messianic Jew and for the Christian, as well as for the religious Jew in general, all of life is governed by One God and the principles connected with His lordship in our community, history, and life.

6.     We need to realize that all the pleasures of life are sanctified as they are enjoyed within God’s boundaries—we are not called to asceticism but to holy enjoyment.  People should see us as people who relish life, the Arts, bright colors, a concern for good taste, for fashion and design, good food, laughter, etc.  We should not be monastic, monochrome and religiously fixated., that is, if we wish to commend our faith to Jews, and others as well.

7.     Our actions can have redemptive significance as we labor as true partners of God. How we live is important and changes the world.  Paul put it this way: we make up in our flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Messiah for the sake of His body. That’s significance.  How we live truly matters: it therefore deserves sharp attention.

8.     When we live in holiness we liberate holiness and the progress of God’s purpose in the world, we unfetter the Shekhinah. Here as elsewhere, Frost and Hirsch are borrowing language from Jewish spirituality, in this case, hasidism and mysticism.  Just as we can quench the Spirit, as Paul says, we can also create an environment where He is more likely to manifest himself.  Why is it for example, that when Yeshua went in to heal Jairus’ daughter, he only took her mother, father, and three of his disciples with him?  Because they had faith for the event that was about to occur.  Others would have quenched that faith, such as the people who laughed when He said, “She is not dead but sleeping.”  Similarly, Yeshua could do not mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief. When we live in holiness, and thus in faith, we create an environment where God is more likely to show up.

9.     We have two inclinations, a good one and a bad one. and rather than suppressing our passions, we are to invest them/dedicate them to the purposes of God. This is a Jewish perspective. Your animal drives can be sublimated to a holy cause. Do you feel competitive?  Feel competitive about the right things!  Even sexual drives have a holy purpose and holy channels where they are to me employed and enjoyed.  People need to see us as focused and energetic people, relishing life, living with gusto, not as shut down. Our spirituality is not so much about stifling our selves as about directing ourselves.

10.  We need to turn from notional faith to relational faithfulness. It is as James put it, our faith or lack of it is evident in our works. Many of us have been conditioned to think of faith in terms of words, agreements, etc.  Well, show me the money!  We need to evaluate and display our faith in how we live, and inspect our lives rather than simply our creedal statements to establish our credentials as His servants. “We shall all give an account of ourselves to God,” and, “We shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Messiah to give an account of how we lived in the body.” Faith and faithfulness are the same word in Greek and Hebrew.  Many claim faith who do not live faithfully.  They deceive themselves. Let that not be us!


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 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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9 Responses to New Perspectives on Outreach/Inreach (1) – Some Lessons from Frost and Hirsch

  1. Rachel Wolf says:

    Your first bullet point is not clear. Too many points not explained, nor is their relationship to each other explained. Could you clear up what you mean?

    • I amplified matters in accord with your excellent comment. Thanks!

      • Rachel Wolf says:

        Thank you Stuart, it’s much clearer. And I agree. As conceptual as I am, I’ve always had a dislike for much theology. I just recently told a friend who is very concerned that we support the doctrine that Messiah died for the church and not the world (for the saved only) that it was just religious gobbledy-gook to me. You may not agree, but I don’t think it has any bearing on the real world or on people’s lives when we try to make these types of distinctions and rules, except perhaps a negative effect. But another clarification: I guess I am not sure what you mean by praxis. You seem to be using it in a broader way than I am used to. Are you using it to mean broadly “how we live?”

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    IOW, it seems you are making a parallel between praxis and God giving himself a specific personal name. But the connection is not made, nor is it obvious.

  3. Carl Kinbar says:

    Let me ask my question bluntly, though meaning no offense: At least one of the authors is Jewish. When he refers to a Jewish ways of thinking, is he deriving them from books (Heschel, Buber, etc.), or does he see the importance of halakhah in a rounded relationship with God (as Heschel did and Buber didn’t) and is he a practicing Jew? I’m not asking this to insult or demean him, only to better understand what is being commended as “Jewish.”

    • I do not believe this fellow is a practicing Jew, although he is someone I want to meet, and plan to contact (he lives in the Los Angeles area now). His brother works for a mission in Australia. I think is insights are brilliant and valid. He has found in the Church world a context where he can be communally connected as a Jewish Yeshua believer and missiologist. How high would you rate the Messianic Movement for creating a context where such thinkers would care to be aggressively involved? And don’t you agree that until very recently, the idea of a Messianic Jew being communally involved in a mainstream synagogue was verbotten and unthinkable? My point is, the man has made decisions that are utterly understandable considering the social contexts he would deem appropriate, and likely, considering his family background.

  4. Carl Kinbar says:

    As I wrote, my intention was not to demean him in any way – and that includes his thinking, creativity, or contributions to the missional movement and beyond, or his life choices. I’m worlds away from those who claim that men like him have nothing to say to us; I only question his ability to contribute a specifically Jewish perspective on praxis vs. ideology.

  5. Carl Kinbar says:

    Of course.

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