What is Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism?

I’m not going to say anything angry in this post. I am going to state positively what Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism is. I will not quote Dr. Mark Kinzer’s book and some will say I am not interpreting him correctly. Well, here goes.

Missionary Messianic Judaism is a Messianic Judaism hostile to Judaism. How can there be such a thing? It is a Judaism that uses Jewish symbols to attract Jewish people to Yeshua but which does not respect the Jewish symbols. It is liable to the oft-repeated charge that Messianic Judaism is a bait-and-switch deception. Missionary Messianic Judaism denounces Judaism as a false religion. Missionary Messianic Judaism says, “Believe in Jesus, eating pork chops, and breaking the Sabbath and you will be saved.” (I am aware that varying degrees of Torah observance occur in Missionary Messianic Judaism, but I am simplifying for the sake of argument — besides, such partial Torah observance is often self-defeating).

What other people have been told, “Deny your humanity and believe in Jesus and you will be saved”? Only the Jews.

When Dr. Kinzer points out that the Jewish no to Yeshua has been a yes to God, this is what he means. God said to Israel, be holy. God specified it meant things like circumcision, dietary law, and Sabbath observance. Then Christendom misinterpreted the New Testament as a document repealing these things for Jews (when instead it is a document affirming that God never required them of non-Jews).

So, in order to say yes to Yeshua, Jews were forced to say no to God’s commandments.

Imagine if someone said, “Go on a drinking spree and carouse with the opposite sex in order to prove you are not trusting in your good deeds; then you will be ready to believe in Jesus”? Am I stretching the analogy too far? This is what Dr. Kinzer means by saying the Jewish no to Yeshua is a yes to God.

So here is what Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism is: a Messianic Judaism that is really a Judaism and is really about Messiah Yeshua at the same time. It is Post-Missionary because it does not take the stance of superiority to Judaism. It does not say, “Judaism is wrong. Abandon it and choose Yeshua instead.” It says, “Yeshua is within Judaism and if you see him within it, your Judaism will be fulfilled.”

Let me illustrate the difference with a simple comparison. Missionary Messianic Judaism is symbolized by the pamphlet handed out on the street corner. One person can put a pamphlet in the hands of several hundred Jewish persons in a few hours (plus multiple times as many Gentiles). What will the effect be? I can tell you from experience: the only effect, with a few very rare exceptions, will be angering people and turning them further against Yeshua.

That same person can be a Post-Missionary Messianic Jew and not hand out any tracts. Instead, they can live as Jews in the Jewish community. There are ample opportunities for conversation and interaction at Jewish events and in public places in which Jewish people find one another. A Post-Missionary Messianic Jew may interact with several hundred Jewish people in a year (not in a few hours).

What will the effect be? Well, I can tell you that the process is largely untried. Few are doing it. But I know that being a witness from within creates a lot less anger. I know from experience that when Yeshua is seen positively in the life of a Jew who respects Judaism, the chances that a Jewish person will take Yeshua seriously are greater.

Why then, you might ask, do Jewish missions have more numbers? The answer is simple. The church (remember those millions of non-Jewish believers?) are sharing their faith with their Jewish friends. The Jewish missions largely get credit for those interactions which sometimes lead to faith.

Ask any Jewish mission leader honestly, “Are the Jewish people who decide to believe in Yeshua mostly cold-calls developed through street evangelism?” The answer is no. The street evangelism is what brings in the money, however. Christians give when they see numbers and pictures of street evangelism. I am not saying that Jewish missions are being deceptive in order to get money. They truly believe their street evangelism is prophetic and is planting seeds. But they also know that it brings in money.

What is the effect of Missionary Messianic Judaism? The Jews who do come to faith will mostly assimilate. They may maintain their Jewish identity for a generation or two, but most end up just being Gentiles. If they do not, their children will.

What would be the effect of a more widespread Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism? What would happen if more Jews integrated their faith in Yeshua with their Jewish identity and practice? What would happen if more Messianic Jews were active in the Jewish community? I hope we will find out someday. The process is only beginning.

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About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Mark Kinzer, Messianic Jewish, Michael Brown. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What is Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism?

  1. PB and J says:

    derek

    i think this is a problem not just in MJ. you see, i have the seen (and been a part of) the same problem in the gentile portion of the Body. whether jew or gentile, passing out pamphlets creates “believers” (possibly), but if we go to the ends of the earth to convert one person and he becomes tens times as much a son of hell as us, what have we accomplished?

    anyway, instead as we live in true community and lives such good lives that others take notice, they will see Yeshua in us, His Body. this i believe will have a much greater impact and much more mature talmidim.

    i have seen some do this well, and in the gentile realm, i have seen many mature believers who have chosen the latter method of being a witness, and those who believe actually believe and arent just lipservicers. in the same way, i think that if postmissionary MJ were to practice such, then we would see a similar maturity of believers.

    shalom
    peter

  2. Tom Amiel says:

    Mazal Tov Derek. You’ve touched on a raw nerve within the Messianic Jewish community and I commend you for your candour.

    I am a Jewish believer in Yeshua who attends a mainstream Jewish shul. Why? It’s my spiritual home. I am not a Christian and don’t feel comfortable in a Christian church. I believe that this is where Yeshua wants me to be. I feel it is important that my fellow Jews see an alternative to ‘Jews for Jesus’, who have done so much damage in our area.

    It is a shame that much of Messianic Judaism has its theological roots in Evangelical Christianity (the only Jewish things are the symbols). Do we really believe that eventually ALL Israel will be saved? I am not saying that it isn’t important to share our faith in Yeshua, but it has to be within an environment of mutual respect and tolerance.

    Dr Michael Brown is a first rate scholar and I have benefited hugely from his 4-volume ‘Jewish Objections to Jesus’. However I am disappointed that he takes such a narrow position on mainstream Judaism.

    Shalom to you.

  3. PB and J (Peter):

    I always appreciate your posts. You are a thinker.

    Yes, I knew that you had me in mind when you spoke of turning the other cheek. I agree, that my post is angry. I agree that public anger can do more harm than good. I also know that anger is sometimes called for, as evidenced by our own Messiah’s public anger. Anyway, I am not always right and God knows whether my angry reply to Dr. Brown’s paper is justified.

    Meanwhile, let me say that when I wrote about Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism I had the same thought as you. This is not just in the Jewish world. I meet pastors of young, contemporary churches. They feel the same way in their outreach as I do in the Jewish context. It is better to be with those we want to reach and speak to them on the same level, not as though being in Christ makes us superior.

    And you bring up a great point to add to my argument: TRADITIONAL CHURCHES USING CONFRONTATIONAL AND TRIUMPHALISTIC APPROACHES ARE SHRINKING. CONTEMPORARY CHURCHES REACHING OUT IN POST-MISSIONARY FASHION ARE GROWING. AS SOON AS WE GET SERIOUS ABOUT BEING JEWS IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY, WE MAY SEE THE SAME THING.

    Derek

  4. Tom:

    Now I can really get myself in trouble. You have raised the ultimate litmus test. Can we accept that a Jewish believer worshipping in a synagogue is doing something valid?

    In a word, yes and no. I can see myself in a similar position if I lived in a town with no mature Messianic congregation.

    Yet, if I felt the traditional synagogue was my best option for worship, I would still feel compelled to be in a community of believers in some meaningful way. You don’t have to share on this public forum if you don’t want to, but are you able to add to your Jewish worship some kind of believing community? I mean the kind of community where people can speak into your life and you into theirs? I do believe the Holy Spirit makes a difference even though I understand that Jewish worship already has Yeshua at the center.

    Derek

  5. Susan says:

    Derek, were you born a Jew? I mean is your mother or father Jewish? I tried to find the answer on your website but didn’t see it.

  6. PB and J says:

    derek

    i hear ya about Yeshua and public anger. i am not really sure (when i say this, i mean it, i need to learn) when anger is appropriate and when its not. all i know is from my own experiences. i tend to be a quick responder. i also tend to be very defensive. so the Holy Spirit has been and will continue to soften me. my natural reaction would be come out guns blazing. i am learning restraint. but you are definitely right that public anger is sometimes called for.

    anyway, i am glad that i am not the only disciple of Yeshua who recognizes the problems with the evangelical model. i am ashamed to say that i was a part of this model for quite some time. but i have truly had a lifechanging experience where i found out what people really thought of me. i was in charge of some men who had been asking a bunch of Q’s about my faith. so i answered. i guess i got carried away and spent nearly all my time talking with them about Yeshua and none about other stuff. and i was reprimanded (which i dont care about) for “witnessing” by my boss. however, what did cut me very painfully was reading the statements made by my subordinates.

    they said that all i did was talk about religion and that i was a terrible leader and they had no confidence in me. i realized that while i dont think their perspective was entirely right about my performance, they werent entirely wrong either. you see, i had been so consumed with “witnessing” that i didnt even show Yeshua to them at all. instead, i showed them a fake, hollywood “jesus”.

    anyway, between that and my wife as she gently helped me(who had learned this long before i did), i have found much more satisfaction (although also a mcuh slower process) in sharing about Him by my life first and only sharing little bits when asked. not overwhelming them. but sowing seed that may grow later or maybe even never. but what i have found is that its stupid to keep sowing more and more and more seed in the path, because the birds just keep eating it up. instead, we have to break up the path before the soil is ready. and that is a labor-intensive process.

    may we truly bring Messiah to the world by our lives
    peter

  7. Tom,

    Could it be that I hold to my views about mainstream Judaism because I understand it? Could it be that, rather than calling my viewpoint narrow, it is accurate?

    And could it be that without evangelical Christianity, many of us would not know the Lord today?

    Where you worship is between you and God, but there are some guidelines you should consider. Does the rabbi there know you are a believer? If so, how does he feel about it? And are you able to be open about your faith as commanded by our Lord? Are you shining as a light and standing as a witness? And do the synagogue services meet the criteria for believers gathering together, as taught by Paul (e.g., in 1 Cor 14) or as seen in Acts (e.g., 2:42)? If not, then you need to reevaluate your choice to worship with non-believers in a non-Messianic synagogue rather than to worship with believers (be they Gentile or Jewish) in a Messianic congregation or born-again church.

    One further note (not to Tom, but to all): I emailed Derek privately, explaining my differences with his post here — one which, it turns out, actually underscores a major point in my paper — but I will wait for his private interaction before deciding whether to interact further with this post.

  8. Susan says:

    Everyone is getting away from the basics and making it more complicated than it really is.

  9. Tom Amiel says:

    Derek: I am happy to share a little bit more about myself, as I guess my circumstances are a little unusual. I live in the UK and the nearest Messianic Synagogue is 200km away (I know, I know – in your country that’s just up the road). However, I have visited a few Messianic Synagogues over the years.

    I run a business and have a young family, so I am extremly busy during the week. Besides, I don’t like to travel too far on Shabbat. These are the practical reasons why I don’t visit a Messianic Shul regularly – our mainstream synagogue is only 15 minutes drive away.

    My wife Josie (who is not Jewish) and I have both been badly bruised in born-again churches (long story). We celebrate Shabbat one week at home (study and prayer) and I visit shul with my son Harry the other week (Josie doesn’t enjoy synagogue as it’s too formal for her).

    However, and here is the main point I would like to make: We are both members of the IMCF (International Messianic Community of Faith) and my Rebbe is Dr Les Aron Gosling (Gold Coast, Australia). We are not affiliated with any Messianic Groups, although we participate freely and openly with other fellow believers. It’s the perfect excuse to visit Australia once a year!

    Dr Brown: Does the Rabbi know that I am a believer? No. Am I open about my faith? No. Am I letting my light shine? Absolutely, to the best of my abilities. I realise it’s a controversial choice and, if I was not connected to the body of Moshiach, it would also be a dangerous one.

    Could it be that without Evangelical Christianity many of us would not know the L-rd? Yes, I agree with you. The Ruach HaKodesh is not constrained by theological, racial or cultural boundaries. I would put it this way: Our local shul (more Masorti than Orthodox) is the lesser of two evils for me. At least I can worship on Shabbat, learn about Torah and Jewish history and sing and pray in Hebrew, just like Yeshua did. When I put on my tallit, I pray to Yeshua and thank Him for allowing me to know Him. The day will come, when I go public, but the timing is between me and the L-rd.

    On a personal note I would like to thank you publicly for your four volumes of “The Jewish Objections to Jesus” and I can’t wait for the 5th one to come out. They have been of immense benefit to me and some of my brothers in Australia. Your hard work is deeply appreciated.

  10. Tom,

    Thanks for the kind words. You’re quite welcome!

    May the Lord guide you in as you continue to seek His face.

    Dr. Brown

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