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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Toward a New Paradigm of Messianic Jewish Outreach

[This is an expansion of a presentation I gave as a contributor to a panel discussion on Messianic Jewish Outreach, held at the 2004 UMJC National Conference, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, July of 2004. In it I am calling for a rethinking of our concept of outreach, suggesting that the approaches that have prevailed until now are expiring, inadequate, and too narrow in their understanding of Scripture. I suggest that Scripture is calling us to broader and more challenging paradigm, and that we need to revise the shape of our obedience. It is designed to challenge those who wrongly assume that those of us who are calling for a return to Jewish life are "unbiblical." On the contrary, I suggest that it is the approaches which have formerly prevailed that have been insufficiently biblical.]

At the 2004 Delegates Meeting [of the UMJC] held in Boston, just before the UMJC Annual Conference, one delegate remarked on "living in wonderful times when prophecy is being fulfilled and our people are returning to the Land."

Such rhetoric is common in our movement. I myself really love the Bible, and am going through a refreshing of my zeal for reading Scripture. But I fear that despite how Scripture pertaining to the return to the Land is bandied about in our circles, we are failing to pay sufficient attention to the wider context of these references. These scriptures frequently also speak of the return being accompanied by a supernatural Jewish return to covenant faithfulness--a return of our people to honoring God though embracing a life ordered by Torah.

Although most agree that our people will "return to the Lord" in the latter days, we have forgotten to ask "What shape will this return take?" And Scripture is clear: that return will be evidenced in a return to Torah-based covenant faithfulness.

What I am suggesting today is a paradigm shift: a fundamental change in viewpoint that generates new questions and new answers, resulting in the expiration of formerly prevailing paradigms.

This paradigm shift includes fundamental changes in perspective in what we mean by effective outreach.

Among these expiring paradigms is the one which conceives of outreach as primarily a matter of making the sale, or closing the deal. In our evangelicalized culture, we are too wedded to a sales model of outreach. We make our pitch to the person we are "witnessing" to, who is called a "contact." We know we have closed the "sale" when the "contact" prays to "accept Messiah as their personal savior." Forgive me, but this sounds too much like a person signing on the dotted line.

Another inadequate concept of outreach sees it primarily in terms of increasing the size of our congregational population. Outreach then becomes not so much a matter of sales, as a matter of advertising. This model is similar to various communications approaches to "witnessing." Here again, the emphasis is on numbers, on statistics, on the bottom line.

Confrontational approaches are hardly more satisfactory. These seem to vitiate the very nature of the kingdom message, robbing it of its relational spirit. Such approaches are overly message-centered while treating respectful and real relationships as secondary or purely utilitarian. I remember a woman telling me that she could always expect a phone call from "her missionary" on Thursday night, because Friday was the day when statistical reports had to be handed in to mission officials. This kind of utilitarian approach which cares about the message, while treating the recipients as a means to other ends, is far from satisfactory. We recognize that this kind of approach does violence to the deeply relational nature of the God who is altogether good and His good news. This too is an approach that is expiring, and deservedly so.

All of these approaches are inadequate because they are products of our Western market mentality--they are not transcendent but limited cultural artifacts.

What then am I proposing? What is a better paradigm for effective Messianic Jewish outreach? And equally to the point, what kind of paradigm can we find that does greater justice to Scripture's foundations for an understanding of Messianic Jewish outreach?

I am proposing that at the very least we need a new definition such as this one: Messianic Jewish outreach is the remnant of Israel being what it should be, and doing what it should do with respect to God's consummating purposes for the descendants of Jacob.

We are used to thinking of ourselves as the remnant of Israel. However, I wonder how many of us have given attention to the responsibilities of the remnant? Those responsibilities include at least the following.

(1) The remnant is supposed to serve as a sign that God has a continuing purpose for the Jewish people.
(2) The remnant is supposed to be a demonstration of that purpose - a proleptic preview, a sort of "preview of coming attractions.
(3) The remnant is supposed to be a catalyst assisting greater Israel toward that Divine purpose.

If effective Messianic Jewish outreach is ineluctably rooted in God's consummating purposes for the descendants of Jacob, then, if we would be effective in outreach, our first order of business is to root out and attend to the God-given cues, especially in Scripture, of this ultimate purpose. How else can we be a sign of that purpose, a demonstration of that purpose, and a catalyst toward that purpose if we don't know what it is?

What does Scripture say about God's consummating purpose for the descendants of Jacob?

Repeatedly and often Scripture portrays God's ultimate purpose for Israel in terms of a national return to covenant faithfulness as manifest in Torah obedience. And often, this return to covenant faithfulness is linked to the return of our people to the Land. Time permits mentioning only a few passages of Scripture which portray this connection between a Jewish return to the Land, and our return to the Lord as expressed in Torah-based covenant-faithfulness

One example is the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy. Notice the repeated linkage of return to the Lord, return to the Land, and return to the Law, that is, Torah obedience.

30:1"Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, 2and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. . . 6And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. . . . 8And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and do all His commandments which I command you today. 9The LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand. . . 10if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."

Another example is the very familiar and central Messianic Jewish text, Jeremiah 31:31 ff., where again, renewal of the people is expressed in a return to Torah obedience.

Jeremiah 31:31 "The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Perhaps the strongest prophetic text on this end-time return to the Lord, to the Land, and to the Law, is found in Ezekiel 36, beginning at verse 24. This text reads like a checklist which we need to ratify in all aspects if we would be true to Scripture.

Ezekiel 36:24"For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land." (Regathering: We are all prepared to say "Amen" to this: Hallelujah, we believe in the regathering of our people to the Land). 36:25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." (Renewal: We are all prepared to say "Amen" to this national spiritual renewal as well). 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (We say "Hallelujah" to this as well: national regeneration. . .a new heart of stone instead of a heart of flesh). But then things get "difficult"--at least for some of us wedded to an old and expiring paradigm. Read on.

36:27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (Here is where we have for too long applied our brakes. But it is clear that this return to the Lord, this return to the Land, is evidenced and accompanied by a return to the commandments God gave to our people. This is all signed, sealed, and delivered through an "inclusio," a verse ending this section which echoes what was said at the beginning of the section). 36:28 "Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God."

Nothing could be clearer: return to the Lord, return to the Land and return to the Law of God are all joined in Scripture. (And yes, I am well aware that it is reductionist to refer to the commandments, statutes and ordinances of Scripture, and to Torah in general as "Law." But let's face it, it makes for good alliteration).

In the Newer Testament, Romans 11 further explores aspects of this consummating purpose for the descendants of Jacob. Romans 9-11 ends in a doxology of astonishment. Paul is awestruck and astonished at the surprising outworking of God's consummating purposes Who would have guessed that the people of Israel would turn down their Messiah when God sent Him? And who would have guessed that the nations of the world would come to a living relationship with the God of Israel without having to become Jews first? And who would have guessed that at the end of history, God would bring the Jewish people back to Himself in covenant faithfulness through this same Messiah--with the Jews returning to God in the context of Jewish life, in the power of the Spirit, and through the very same Messiah through whom the Nations of the world turned to this same God--while not having been required to embrace Jewish life?. How astounding! How miraculous! How unexpected and uniquely the work of God!

Is it not clear that this is what is astonishing the Apostle? Or do we imagine that the best God can pull off at the end of history, when "all Israel will be saved," is that massive numbers of Jews will become Baptists, Pentecostals, or Presbyterians?

To just ask the question is to answer it.

We must remember that in Romans 11, Paul is contrasting the Jews and the nations as aggregates. He is not speaking of Gentile and Jewish individuals, but of these respective groups, the same dyad as is found throughout the Older Testament: Israel and the nations.

God's final act toward the Jews will be directed to us as a people--he will bring the Jewish people to covenant faithfulness to Himself through the one despised by the nation [Isaiah 49; Zech 12; Isaiah 53].

Therefore, as part of the remnant of Israel, our responsibility is as follows:

1. Our outreach is accomplished as we serve as a sign that God has a continuing purpose for the Jews, a consummating purpose of a national turning to renewed covenant faithfulness in obedience to Torah in the power of the Spirit through Yeshua the Messiah.

2. Our outreach is accomplished as we demonstrate communally that we are a demonstration of that purpose - an anticipation, a preview of that covenant faithfulness which will one day be true of all Israel: a return to Torah-living in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the honor of Yeshua the Messiah

3. Our outreach is accomplished as we catalyze and assist greater Israel toward that Divine purpose.

If this analysis of Scripture is true, what will be the results for how we pursue outreach?

First, outreach would no longer be adversarial and confrontational. We would commend all religious Jewish efforts toward Torah-based covenant faithfulness. For example, when religious Jews come to our conferences to oppose what we stand for, we would commend them for their attempt to honor God in the context of Torah obedience, while still differing with them in their disparagement of faith in Yeshua. In our communities, we would seek to assist and applaud all efforts by religious Jews to honor God in the context of Torah. We would not feel obliged to adopt some sort of adversarial posture.

Second, we ourselves would form communities committed to this kind of Torah-based covenant faithfulness, for we could not be faithful to our remnant responsibility unless we served as a sign, demonstration and catalyst of this kind of faithfulness with respect to God's consummating purpose for all Israel. But our Torah faithfulness would be unique to ourselves in some ways due to the impact of Yeshua and the Emissaries on our halacha, our honoring of Yeshua, and our experience of the Spirit.

Third, our mission to the wider religious Jewish world would be to advocate faith in Yeshua and the power of the Spirit as Divine means toward their own greater covenant faithfulness. This moves outreach beyond simply individual soul salvation. While not discounting this, it would be bigger, and also true to the sweep of Scripture. We would be seeking to take the wider Jewish religious world further in the direction in which they are already heading--in the power of the Spirit and through Yeshua the Messiah.

Fourth, in addition to affirming and yet further catalyzing and challenging religious Jews, our ministry to secularized Jews would be very strong: a call back to the God of our ancestors and the ways of our ancestors, and a call back to Jewish community through Yeshua the Messiah in the power of the Spirit.

Fifth, the support of church people for our efforts would involve their applauding us for being fully Jewish rather than wooing us to be more like themselves. They would realize that moving deeper into Jewish life is our Divine destiny and our remnant responsibility.

Sixth, we would be returning to a communal concept of outreach rather than an individualistic one

All of this is crucially important for a number of reasons: (1) It is important because it better aligns Messianic Jewish outreach with the revealed purposes of God for the Jewish people. (2) It is important because it is an antidote to culturally determined and limited sales-oriented approaches to the task. (3) It is important because it instantly neutralizes the adversarial posture that we have inherited from generations past which ill-serves the greater purposes of God. (4) It is important because it calls us also to a return to Jewish covenant faithfulness. (5) It is important because it challenges us to expand and reevaluate the role of the Holy Spirit's presence in our congregations and our Union. And finally, (6) it is important because it addresses the biggest problem, the biggest obstacle, in Messianic Jewish outreach.

The biggest obstacle in Messianic Jewish outreach is the widespread assimilation of Jewish believers. The Jewish community has a right to assume that when the Messiah comes, he will make Jewish people into better Jews. When the perceived effect of the faith in Yeshua is that Jewish believers become assimilated and indifferent to Jewish life and community, the Jewish community has a right to say: "Don't be ridiculous! Put your Bibles away and don't waste your time trying to convince us! How could this Yeshua be the Messiah if he makes Jews into goyim?" This objection has all the truth in the world behind it. But our own return to Jewish covenant faithfulness, which is the will of G-d for the remnant and for all Israel, has the added benefit of making this objection null and void.

Is God's final act in history going to involve making millions of Jews into Baptists or does Scripture rather affirm that God is going to trigger a massive return of His people to Him in Jewish covenantal faithfulness, where he will write the Torah of Moses on their hearts, through Yeshua the Messiah and in the power of the Spirit?

What kind of paradigm shift in Messianic Jewish outreach is this analysis calling us to? What is supposed to be the shape of Jewish faithfulness to God? And what does it mean for us to be the faithful remnant? What is the shape of this remnant faithfulness?

If we really care about Messianic Jewish outreach, if we are really the remnant of Israel, if we are serious about Scripture, shouldn't we at least be giving deep consideration to what I have proposed by way of a fundamental change in perspective, a paradigm shift?

What is the remnant supposed to do? Can we as a movement be faithful to God without rightly answering this question?

At 1/11/2005 9:02 PM, Blogger israel613 said...

Yasher koach!! Kol hakavod...this is really thoughtful, challenging stuff. I have a few "hashing out" questions:

1. You pointed out that "our mission to the wider religious Jewish world would be to advocate faith in Yeshua and the power of the Spirit as Divine means toward their own greater covenant faithfulness." I think this is worthy goal, yet I can imagine finding many opposing this. I hear those in our Jewish community that would respond with things such as "I have Yom Kippur...I'm a good Jew. What do I need Yeshua for?" or perhaps "I am religious enough...are you trying to say I'm a bad Jew?" How would we respond to such opposing statements?

2. I wholeheartedly believe that getting Jews to be better Jews is following HaShem's commandments and ideals, but how do you weigh this against having them first become believers in the "Living Torah"? In other words, I look at it akin to the social justice debate between believers. Some say we should try to make secular society more moral and just; however, others disagree, pointing out that the most important first step is to work on secular society turning to G-d--then society will "automatically" become more just and moral.

Just some thoughts...

At 1/11/2005 11:27 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

I appreciate your comment. However, what I am speaking of is a foreordained eschatological reality which will, for want of a better term, be "Spirit-driven." What I mean is that there will come a time when there will be shortage of Jewish apathy, because of what Hashem is doing among our people. You say, " I think this is worthy goal, yet I can imagine finding many opposing this. I hear those in our Jewish community that would respond with things such as 'I have Yom Kippur...I'm a good Jew. What do I need Yeshua for?' or perhaps 'I am religious enough...are you trying to say I'm a bad Jew?" How would we respond to such opposing statements?'" I would respond that the reason for embracing Mashiach is because He is true, and to not do so is to insult Hashem. Furthermore, this entire enterprise assumes that the Messianic Jewish community will be so touched with and responsive to the Spirit that we will be manifestly getting more out of our observance than many? most? all? others. Obviously this is NOT happening now.

You ask also "I wholeheartedly believe that getting Jews to be better Jews is following HaShem's commandments and ideals, but how do you weigh this against having them first become believers in the 'Living Torah'?" I do not believe these two need to be "weighed against" each other. Both need to be advocated and embraced. Again, this is an eschatological certainty, Spirit-driven, and assumes that there will be an igniting of our people to faith in Yeshua which will NOT be engeineered by our Movement but by Hashem. It also assumes that we ourselves will be transformed in the process. This is a New Thing God will do. If you read the stories of notable revivals, you will get a feeling for what I am saying about the manifest work of the Spirit such that one will have to look around to locate apathetic Jewish people. God will bring our people as a people back to Himself in covenant faithfulness through Yeshua in the Power of the Spirit.

At 6/26/2005 9:20 AM, Anonymous Menachem Ben Yoel said...

I am glad to see that some Messianic Jews are finally engaging in this discussion. Israel 613 asks about the Jew who says "I have Yom Kippur...I'm a good Jew. What do I need Yeshua for"?
I speak as a Messianic Jew with 30 years as a "commoner" in this movement. I recall with dismay being in a Messianic Congregation as a young believer in which the converse question was posed by leadership of a major congregation. "I believe in Y'shua. What do I need Yom Kippur for?" I recall that the leadership responded to this with some banalities about using this day to "pray for our unsaved bretheren".

Are we to infer that Messianic Jews dont need to confess their sins? What attitude does this convey to the rest of the Jewish people? Even Christians confess their sins as the book of James commands. So why this ambivalence about the Day?

I think Stuart is on the right track in calling us to a communal approach and in pointing to the scriptures from the Tanach that speak of the need to turn to Hashem and return to Torah.

The final giving of the Torah itself was an act of grace as seen in traditional judiasm.Yom Kippur was seen by the rabbis as commemorating this.The first giving of the Torah on Shavuot was interrupted by the incident with the Golden Calf. The talmud teaches that Moses returned from his second trip up Mt Sinai on Yom Kippur. ( The chronology in the Torah appears to support this)

This was completely undeserved on the part of the Jewish people and set the pattern for our relationship with G-d for subsequent generations.

Since the New Covenant is a covenant of grace upon grace, by Chol V'Homer perhaps in New Covenant times we can also look to this day as a day of restoration for our failure to meet the requirements of the Second Shavuot. If we can assimilate this for ourselves then perhaps we can begin to communicate this to the rest of our people.

However until we see ourselves as accountable to Deut 30 and in need of turning we will not be able to begin this process.

At 6/26/2005 10:34 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Good to see some interaction here! I will need to write a posting about this, but here is a seminal thought, a paradigm shift that changes everything. It is this: The Messianic Jewish Movement will mature and enter into its greatest usefulness as we see ourselves as *a renewal movement within Judaism.* This will require us to deeply understand what God is up to among the Jewish people, and then to play our part in helping make this happen. As I say elswhere on this Blog, as part of the Remnant of Israel, we are called to be a sign, demonstration, and catalyst of this covenantal purpose.

Seeing ourselves as standing outside the Jewish community "calling them to Messiah" is clearly inadequate. God's purpose for Israel is to bring the seed of Jacob back to Himself in covenant faithfulness through Yeshua in the power of the Ruach haKodesh. And any form of Messianic Judaism which sees Jewish covenantal faithfulness as "a nice option, if that's your thing," is also totally inadequate: it ignores the sweep of Scripture and is out of step with what God says He will be up to in these days.

Here's to a Messianic Judaism that is a renewal movement within Judaism serving God's purposes, as a sign, demonstration and catalyst of greater Israel's return to covenant faithfulness, honoring Yeshua in the power of the Spirit.

"Bring us back to your Torah, bring us near to your service, and cause us to return to you in perfect repentance" [Fifth benediction of the Daily Amidah].

At 6/26/2005 5:42 PM, Anonymous menachem said...

Before we can reach the stage of the fifth benediction of the daily amidah (Hashiveynu) we first have to pass pray through the fourth ( Chachma Binah and D'aat/ Wisdom insight and knowledge). Especially Binah (the ability to make distinctions). I guess that is where you guys come in Stuart. Thank you for helping make things clearer for all of us. grin


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