Outreach vs. Inreach

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, has written two important blog posts recently challenging our thinking in regard to outreach. The first post on the issue I feel is the most poignant.

Dr. Dauermann argues:

“Mission to the Jews as I have known it destroys or disrupts Jewish communal cohesion and covenantal fidelity …  we Jews who believe in Yeshua should see ourselves as prophets to our people, not missionaries.”

This is extremely important. Dr. Dauermann’s central thesis is that:

“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.”

You can read the whole article HERE.

I presented a paper in New York at a young scholars conference in 2006 which was then published in a following issue of Kesher titled, “Messianic Jewish Outreach: Reaching Out or Reaching In?” In the article I proposed that if we as a Messianic Jewish community, focused on Yeshua, are to be an effective witness to our larger Jewish community and the Nations, than we must effectively embrace and find value in our covenant identity as Jews.  We must be an integral part of our larger Jewish community.  We must dispel notions of supremacy and “Otherness,” and create an environment of enfranchisement and mutual blessing.

This is an idea of “Inreach” rather than “Outreach.” I originally got this idea from my own rabbi and mentor, Murray Silberling, who rightly notes this distinction, and points out the dichotomy in the language we employ:

“Even the term ‘OUTreach’ implies that those being reached are OUTside.  The result is that we are imposing an alien cultural mode onto our Jewish people. We are not just asking for faith conformity, but cultural conformity.  No matter how much we contextualize the message, the ‘leap of faith’ we ask for demands giving up being the ‘other’ to become one of ‘us.’ Instead of ‘outreach,’ why can’t we connect with our Jewish community and try ‘inreach’?  What do I mean by this?  If we truly act and think like we are a Judaism, there will be no significant cultural change for our people.  Our Jewish life-cycles, lifestyles, and culture will result in our Jewish people ‘reaching-in.’  This is a new model – a model that allows for a seamless transition in a community context.”

As Dr. Dauermann challenges us: “What would Messianic Jewish outreach to our people [look] like if we functioned as in-culture prophets rather than as post-Jewish or out-culture missionaries?  How might this change our world?”

What do you think?

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue in Agoura Hills, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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16 Responses to Outreach vs. Inreach

  1. Joshua,

    Thank you for directing your readers to my posting. Let me add that “inreach” is probably a much better term for us to adopt for the reasons you stated, as well as for the reasons I state in advocating for a prophetic rather than a missionary stance. I think this is EXTREMELY important. It also calls upon us as Messianic Jews and Messianic Jewish communities to deeply commit to and seek to embody those covenantal responsibilities to which we, as prophets, call our people to return. All of this is of course intertwined with our identity as the Remnant of Israel, which I take to mean the Remnant WITHIN Israel rather than the Remnant taken our of, and therefore apart from Israel. The distinction is huge and most significant, and, as in the case of prophet versus missionary, must find its place not only in our self concept and rhetoric, but also in the warp and woof of how we think, associate, and live both individually and corporately.

  2. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Stuart,

    Thank you for your additional comments!

  3. Carl Kinbar says:

    I’ve been “in culture” for over ten years now. I highly recommend it. It’s opened up more dialog–that is, speaking and listening to one another–and brought about more mutual respect that I could have dreamed of. There’s even a local rabbi who refers people to me for certain purposes.

    I’m only doubtful about the word “prophets.” It’s an improvement over missionaries but it has ambiguous connotations even among Messianic Jews. More importantly, what does the word “prophets” mean to the community? We can and should totally be ourselves as followers of Yeshua, but if we also think of ourselves as prophets it will become known and, IMO, cause yet another negative reaction. They read our blogs, your know!

    So how about being “Jews” in the Jewish community?

  4. Dan Benzvi says:

    Finally the writing is on the wall for all to see. MJ Dauermann’s style is going in the direction of disbanding the congregations and going back to the Jewish Synagogus and in the process leaving Yeshua on the back burner. But then, I predicted it 5 years ago. someone please have the guts to admit this?

  5. Carl Kinbar says:

    Dan, no guts are required to “admit it” because your accusations are 100% false. Before exposing your thoughts publicly, you should have become more familiar with Rabbi Dauermann’s life work. For years on end he’s presented a model in which our synagogues should reflect both the Messiah we serve and the tradition we have received. And we are also to participate fully in the broader life of the community.

    In the blog past that R. Joshua linked to, R. Dauermann’s main thrust is that, in this community context, “Messianic Jewish outreach prophets must call our people back to these paths through Yeshua and in the power of the Spirit.” How in the world does this lead to “leaving Yeshua on the back burner”?

    I encourage you to become familiar with R. Dauermann’s work and then have the guts to admit that you were wrong.

  6. Dan Benzvi says:

    Carl,

    From Ahavat zion website “About us” : Provide a spiritual home for Jewish and intermarried followers of Yeshua;

    What, no Gentiles? Why? Not because Dr. Dauermann does not like Gentiles, but because if MJ will continue cataring to Gentiles they have no hope ever to become a part of mainstream Judaism. It needs guts to admit it.

  7. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Dan,

    In all honestly, you are being a little ridiculous and completely reading into Dr. Dauermann’s post. Additionally, non-Jews are always welcome at AZS, they are just not our PRIMARY AUDIENCE. As a Synagogue we simply seek to reach OUR OWN people.

    Additionally, if you have any issues with the new website or its content, please raise the issue with me as I am the new rabbi of AZS instead of directing your comments toward Rabbi Dauermann.

  8. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Carl,

    Regarding your comment, “I’m only doubtful about the word “prophets.””

    I don’t think the issue is using the ‘prophet’ as a new title, but rather as an approach to thinking about our role. To that I wholeheartedly agree. Although I too would not advocate going around and calling ourselves prophets. In such a regard I agree with you, we’re “Just Jewish.” But like prophets, we do have a message of return for our people.

  9. James says:

    Joshua, I know this is completely off topic, but I couldn’t help noticing that you’ve changed the header image of your blog and have gone completely “L.A.” You should call the place, “Yinon Blog 90210”. 😉

    OK, you can get back to the serious stuff now.

  10. Rabbi Joshua says:

    James,

    Yes, I changed it last night. I have been considering changing it for the last couple months. The old logo was specific to DC, and with our move back to California I wanted to give it more of a local feeling.

    Honestly, what do you think? My own concern is that it looks too “girlie.” 🙂

  11. James says:

    It communicates a lot about Beverly Hills (I assume that’s Rodeo Drive…I think I’ve been to Beverly Hills exactly once) but nothing about who you are and what Yinon Blog is. Sorry to be blunt.

  12. Rabbi Joshua says:

    James,

    That is actually very helpful and a great point. I also was having mixed feelings about it, so I just switched it back to the old banner until we have a better idea of what we want to do.

  13. Carl Kinbar says:

    “I don’t think the issue is using the ‘prophet’ as a new title, but rather as an approach to thinking about our role.”

    Thanks for the clarification. We are, first of all, Jews. Our prophetic message is an essential component of our identity (God help us if it isn’t), but it doesn’t sum up how we should relate in the community of Jews.

  14. James says:

    You could try replacing the capitol dome w/a palm tree and Hebrew text underneath. It preserves the style of the banner image and still reflects the geographic move. Geography aside, God is everywhere.

  15. Dan Benzvi says:

    “Additionally, non-Jews are always welcome at AZS, they are just not our PRIMARY AUDIENCE. As a Synagogue we simply seek to reach OUR OWN people. ”

    I rest my case.

    BTW, That “about us” thing was there when Dauermann was the Rabbi.

  16. Sarika says:

    I find this conversation extremely interesting. I am an Indian Christian. And I’m always trying to figure out how to reach out to other non-Christian Indians in a way that will not seem condescending. Most Indians really are very wary of Christian missionaries because they associate them with European Colonialism, and because Christianity has such a bitter history for them, it is hard to talk to them about God or Jesus without them becoming extremely uneasy. I wonder if “in-reach” would work well for me when I reach out to them.

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