Hope of MessiahBy Derek Leman, Member of LCJE's International Coordinating Committee
The latest congregation to join LCJE is Hope of Messiah, Stone Mountain, Georgia. Derek Leman introduces the congregation and explains what inolvement with LCJE means to him.
Hope of David is a Messianic congregation, affiliated with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. We are three years old and reaching a relatively young group of people. Our mission is to start other congregations so that the work of God amongst the Jewish people in our area can be strengthened.
We're glad to increase our involvement in LCJE, having just become an Agency Member. LCJE has made me think about many issues over the years. Here are a few issues that have come to my mind.
Are we prepared for the next generation? I say "we" meaning the parachurch mission agencies, the denominational outreaches, and the Messianic congregations. A lot is involved in being prepared - new workers for a new generation, new leaders for a new generation, and new methods for a new generation. At 36 years old, I find that I am one of the youngest people at an LCJE meeting. This concerns me.
Will parachurch missions, denominational outreach agencies, and Messianic congregations cooperate in the future? I know that cooperation does happen in many cases, but I can't ignore the deep rifts I have witnessed personally. This is more than a matter of turfism, it is also a matter of philosophy. On one side of the spectrum, congregations are concerned about assimilation and the lack of Jewish education and participation created by outreaches that are not congregationally based. On the other, concern is that outreach is too low key and that few will be reached. Would that front-line outreach and community-strengthening ministries would work together, each experiencing the best of both approaches!
Being a congregational leader myself, I have to ask: will denominational outreaches and parachurch missions foster Jewish education and participation? Is it really enough to send a newsletter with Yiddishkeit tips and recipes? Do new Jewish believers need a stronger sense of their Jewish identity? What will happen to the future of Jewish outreach if today's Messianic Jews are tomorrow's Evangelical Christians?
Wanting to be a fair-minded guy, I ask myself a question along with other congregational leaders: will congregations find effective means of outreach? Sure, we are often good at working with inquirers, people who contact us because of intermarriage or because some godly Christian has been sharing Messiah with them. But are we going out into the places where Jewish people are in order to be a witness for Messiah?
I ask these questions hoping to benefit from dialogue with other LCJE members. As a Southern Baptist pastor and a congregational leader in the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, I stand with feet in several "camps." I don't have answers, but I do know one thing. If God brings us together to talk at a forum such as LCJE, then there is hope that the Spirit will bring us to solutions together.
The questions about cooperation should not be seen as separate completely from the issue of the next generation. People my age and younger are often very turned off by institutional conflicts. Not only must we find workers and leaders for the next generation, but we must also find the way of cooperation. Some are willing to widen the borders of the kingdom by reducing the conscious requirement for entry. I am not proposing that kind of tolerance or widening. I am, however, proposing a tolerance on the level of ministry methods.
I'm sure not all will agree with me, but this is what LCJE involvement means to me. It is a chance to learn from each other and I have been learning from you.