In the conversation just prior, it had been brought up by another friend that we exist to “reach the Jewish community.” This translates into: “we exist to proclaim the message of Yeshua and be a community for Yeshua where people in the Jewish community can discover him and become followers.”
It might surprise you to hear that I did not think this was an adequate description of our purpose. What is the purpose of a Messianic or Judeo-Christian congregation? Closely related to this is the question: what is the purpose of a synagogue or church?
Classically speaking, we might find in the Jewish tradition the purpose of a synagogue through a name that describes what a synagogue actually is: a beit tefillah, house of prayer (closely related to beit avodah, house of worship).
And in the Christian tradition we might find a clue in the Greek word much used in the New Testament, koinonia, usually translated fellowship (community, community of sharing).
People could name all sorts of central purposes that vie for attention as “the” purpose of a congregation: prayer, worship, community, outreach (evangelism), community service, etc.
I think it is a great mistake, and a common one, for people to think the purpose of a church or Messianic congregation is evangelism or outreach. It is an inadequate purpose. It is human-centered or anthropocentric. Our purpose should be theocentric or God-centered.
My answer, when asked, was that our purpose is to worship Yeshua.
Aha! some of you will say. You’ve been infected with the notion that we should worship Yeshua and not God!
Well, let me explore that. The purpose of a synagogue, it seems to me, is the worship of God, the God of Israel, the God of the ancestors, the God of the covenant, of Torah, of the Exodus.
So, if I said that our blended Messianic Jewish and Judeo-Christian community had as its purpose the worship of God, it would seem to be adequate. We might make this our purpose and assume that Yeshua is very importantly included within the larger purpose. In worshipping God we will venerate Yeshua as the Way to God.
But I will ultimately find this to be inadequate also, for several reasons. Let me illustrate why.
Suppose that shortly after the Exodus a couple of Israelite theologians discussed the purpose of the Community of Israel. Suppose one of them suggested, “Our purpose is to worship the Creator.”
Would the other Israelite theologian not be correct to say, “Wait a minute! We worship the God of the Exodus who chose us in him and made us a people!”?
You see, as we move through history, our understanding of God increases with his successive acts of revelation.
The latest act of God’s revelation, we believe, is revealing his Presence in the most powerful way imaginable, through the descent to earth of the Shechinah (the Presence) or the Glory (kavod) or Word (Memra, Dibbur, Logos), who is Yeshua. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,” says Hebrews 1.
So, most specifically, our purpose is the worship, veneration, adherence to, attachment to, service of Yeshua, the Radiance of the Father, through whom we are worshipping God and by whom we are brought near to God in all his fulness.
The purpose of “reaching the Jewish community” or, in other communities of faith, “reaching such-and-such people” with a message is too low a purpose. Those who make some kind of pragmatic goal their purpose will, predictably and necessarily, hit a low ceiling, cater to the lower if not lowest common denominator, and find that their message is not very authentic or inspiring. Their purpose essentially, is sales-growth-income.
But those who make the worship of Yeshua their central purpose and then discover what that means will focus on being-serving-worshipping-ascending in nearness to the Direct Being of God, the Ein Sof, the Father, the Fire at the Center of the Cloud.