A reader commented recently:
I fear, though, that you’re shutting most out by “the Church has it wrong” rhetoric.
I am sensitive to comments like that. I know sometimes I am guilty of using negative rhetoric to make a point more interesting. We do live in a culture of pop-media where it takes a little controversy to get interest.
You can find church-bashing in Messianic Judaism and on Messianic Jewish websites. Sometimes those engaging in the church-bashing are from a very immature theology (and not what I would consider real Messianic Judaism). Some want the church to start keeping the Sabbath and dietary law. Some want the church to become Jewish. Some say the church was corrupted by Constantine and claim that Messianic Judaism is a return to pure Yeshua-faith.
I don’t feel this way at all. I am part of the church. “Church” is not the term I prefer (it is an Old English word and has no relationship to biblical terminology–it has plenty of wrong connotations). There is in the Bible an entity known as “the congregation” (Matt. 16:18). There is also the “body of Christ/Messiah” (Eph. 4:12). Other names include “the congregation of God” (1 Cor. 11:22).
I prefer the term “the congregation of Yeshua.” What many call “the church” is the timeless community of the redeemed. Israel and the church overlap. Jews and Gentiles together are in the church–one faith, one Lord, one baptism. I affirm all this.
I believe the Jewish and Gentile missions of the church are distinct, but with much overlap. I believe the apostles intended for the Jewish and Gentile mission to remain distinct, though there would always be Jews in Gentile congregations and vice-versa. I do not believe in one generic church culture that all men are supposed to meld into. I certainly do not believe in Jews abandoning their Jewish identity, including Torah-observance.
Meanwhile, I love the church. I love various forms of worship. I can be moved not only by the intonation of the Kaddish, but also by a soulful “Amazing Grace” or a meditative communion service. I love to read some theologians who were terrible on the subject of the Jews, but wonderful in other ways (I am a major fan of Augustine, though we disagree about many things).
Yet even though I love the church, or perhaps especially because of it, I am critical of various issued and trends in the church. I dislike the shallowness of modern evangelicalism. I abhor the formulaic revival of the revivalist movement. I distrust the self-defined miracles of the charismatic movement. I loathe supersessionism (replacement theology) and negativity toward the Torah is most churches. Hey, I don’t have to just pick on the Gentile churches. I also have disdain for many things I have seen in Messianic Judaism. I dislike a superior attitude sometimes seen in Messianic Judaism. I prefer love and unity to superiority.
So, I will critique sectors of the church. I do so in order to prick the conscience and stimulate the brain. I do so in order to represent what I love–God, Messiah, Israel, and the Torah.