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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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Monday, July 17, 2006

Lesslie Newbigin and Serving Our Limiting Calling

I am continuing to read and interact with the writings of brilliant missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, one of those scholars whose expertise is evident in the pristine clarity of every page of his writing which makes transparent even the most opaque subject matter. In chapter nine of his excellent “The Open Secret” he critiques the theories of Donald Anderson McGavran, the founder of the discipline of Church Growth Theory and the also founder of the School of World Mission and Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary. I knew McGavran, and although about five feet four in height, he was a giant. McGavran’s studies concern what factors account for congregations of Yeshua-believers multiplying in some contexts, but not in others.

Of course McGavran and Newbigin both speak within the compass of the Christian church, so their language comes across a goyishe [foreign] to Jews. Nevertheless there is much to be learned here. So read on, despite the discordant linguistic frame of reference.

Newbigin readily acknowledges that the mission culture is remiss in not putting the liberating gospel but rather a conformity to missionary culture or other demands at the center of its concerns. But it his next point that gives rise to this posting:

[McGavran] is right in insisting that the missionary has a specific task—not the whole task of evangelism nurture, prophetic witness, and action for justice and compassion, but the more limited task of ‘discipling.’ This is not to deny that the others named and many more must be included in any full statement of the church’s calling; it is only to insist that this is true within the broader spectrum and more limited calling. The missionary is to ‘disciple the nations.’ The other things must not be left undone, but they must not deflect the missionary from the essential thing to which he or she is called—to bring ‘the nations’ into allegiance to Jesus Christ [Newbigin, Lesslie. "The Open Secret. An Introduction to the Theology of Mission." Revised. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995:127-128].


This is crucial from a Messianic Jewish viewpoint. By analogy to Newbigin’s thinking here, we ought to be asking ourselves “As the Remnant of Israel living in a time of eschatological transition, what is the more ‘limited calling’ which ought to influence how we rank other priorities?”

With the changing of the times, priorities shift—the priorities of the Remnant of Israel should be shifting now toward the renewal of wider Israel, as the Greater Commission, also known as the Fullness of Israel, moves front and center in the program of God’s dealings. And that renewal will include a return to the Land, spiritual renewal of the Jewish people, a return to a revivified covenant faithfulness through the largely unanticipated work of Yeshua the Messiah and the Ruach HaKodesh.

When one considers the various obligations falling to the Church from among the nations and the Remnant of Israel, a number of obligations become apparent: the obligation of the earliest disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations beginning at Jerusalem; the obligation of the Church to reciprocally be concerned with the well-being of the Jewish people [that they might "now" receive mercy - Romans 11]; the eschatological obligation of the Remnant of Israel to its limiting missiological calling to be agents of repentance, return and renewal of wider Israel; the eschatological obligation of the Remnant of Israel to assist the Church in its fulfillment of the Great Commission, while remembering that this is not the primary responsibility of the Remnant at this time; the eschatological obligation of the Church to assist the Remnant of Israel in its fulfillment of its own eschatological calling with reference to the Jewish people..

I am borrowing Newbigin’s language and modifying it slightly. Rather than speaking of a limited calling, I would speak of a limiting calling, what Stephen Covey termed one’s circle of influence [the areas where one can affect change] as opposed to one’s circle of interest [the things that ring our chimes]. In his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Covey suggested that our circle of interest is always larger than our circle of influence, a small circle concentric with the former. Indeed, I am speaking of limiting callings (plural), those of the Church and of the Remnant of Israel, callings which are shifting in these days of eschatological change. These limited callings are, or should be, our respective circles of influence, those areas where we can, and are callled to, affect change.

This ties in a discussion I had with my good friend Mark Kinzer where he pointed out how life must be lived with an awareness that certain priorities trump other good and right priorities. It is inevitable that one must with regret state that one cannot do good and right priority B because of a prior or overriding commitment to priority A. This dyanamic is evident in Scripture, as for example, in Nehemiah 6:3; and Mark 1:29-39; Cf. Lk 5:31-44.

In view of who we are as the Remnant of Israel, and in view of the times in which we are living, what is the limiting calling of the Messianic Jewish Remnant? And in view of our filial relationship with the Church, how ought we to assist them in their limiting calling? And in view of the times of transition in which we are living, when God appears to be bringing the people of Israel to the forefront of his dealings, with the related shift from the Great Commission to the Greater Commission, how ought our respective callings to be redrawn or reconceived?

Yes, these are big things to think about, and they will make our thinkers hurt. But read Romans eleven slowly a couple of times, reread this posting, and think away! However, be aware that both change and shifting priorities make demands upon us which we are inclined to resist in the nature of the case. This is the principle of homeostasis whereby organisms tend to maintain the status quo and resist substantive change. Sometimes resistance to change is good--when the changes are inappropriate. But sometimes, resistance to change is simply reflexive.

Get your thinkers out.

At 7/18/2006 10:36 AM, Anonymous Menachem said...

Stuart:

Excellent and subtle post. Can you help me read it more clearly?

<< mission culture is remiss in not putting the liberating gospel but rather a conformity to missionary culture or other demands at the center of its concerns<<<<<

[McGavran] is right in insisting that the missionary has a specific task—not the whole task of evangelism nurture, prophetic witness, and action for justice and compassion, but the more limited task of ‘discipling.<<<<<<



How can one have the "liberating gospel" at the center of one's concerns while carving out a more limited task which moves prophetic witness and action for justice to the periphery of its concern?

I may be missing a nuance, but I think that this is a major focus of specific Jewish dicipleship?

Isn't this part of the Sinai mandate that you seek to see renewed "through the largely unanticipated work of Yeshua the Messiah and the Ruach HaKodesh?"

I know that AJ Heschel has played a major role in the thinking of your movement and I thought that a renewal of Jewish values and obligations are part of your programme. What do you think needs to be trimmed away?

Thanks and be well

Marty

 
At 7/18/2006 10:55 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Marty,

I do not agree with Newbigin here. I agree that our mandate/responsibiility is inseparably connected to "doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God' and must not be restricted to being bearers of a propositional message. I quoted Newbigin on McGavran because of his concept of a limited calling, which I then applied to the limiting callings [my modification of his term] of the Messianic Jewish Movement and the church from among the nations in view of changing times.

Neither did I attempt in this discussion to define the configurations of Messsianic Jewish discipleship, nor was I inferring that McGavran's viewpoint on the matter ought to be ours. As I said, I was making one point, and one point only from the materials quoted.

Neither do I think in terms so much of 'what needs to be trimmed away," as "what concerns need to be central and what this will mean for us."

I hope this clarifies matters.

 
At 7/18/2006 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And in view of the times of transition in which we are living, when God appears to be bringing the people of Israel to the forefront of his dealings, with the related shift from the Great Commission to the Greater Commission, how ought our respective callings to be redrawn or reconceived?

Would you be so quick to say the scriptures got us this far but we have to advance past them if it was the Torah being put into retirement?

By what authority are you able to retire Yeshua’s Great Commission for a Greater Commission? I am assuming one greater than Yeshua.

 
At 7/18/2006 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not agree with Newbigin here. I agree that our mandate/responsibiility is inseparably connected to "doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God' and must not be restricted to being bearers of a propositional message. I quoted Newbigin on McGavran because of his concept of a limited calling, which I then applied to the limiting callings [my modification of his term] of the Messianic Jewish Movement and the church from among the nations in view of changing times.

How do you influence a change in another person or organization without making a proposition?

 
At 7/18/2006 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the Priest and Levite had the "Limited Calling" when they walked by the man laying on the side of the road.

 
At 7/18/2006 7:44 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

MY term "Greater Commission" comes from teachings in Romans 11, where the Apostle Paul says that the renewal of the Jewish people at the end of the age, what he terms as "their fullness" is *greater riches* than the fullness of the Gentiles. "But if their transgression [Israel's, in the main declining Christ when he first came] means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles [the Great Commission, salvation of the nations], how much *greater riches will their fullness [Israel's] bring!" It is *Paul* who draws the astounding comparison.

And I am not "retiring" the Great Commission. In Romans 11 Paul indicates that the Great Commission [the fullness of the nations] will reach a conclusion. There will be a transition, [and, nno doubt a time of overlap] after which the fullness of Israel will come in, which, again he terms as "greater riches," because it will culminate not in salvation of the nations [good news for the Gentiles] but in the general resurrection ["life from the dead"--good news for the cosmos].

Elsewhere on this blog there are one or two blogs on Romans 11. Please search them out for more elaboration on these points. And reread Romans 11. You will find it DOES challenge some of your assumptions.

 
At 7/18/2006 7:54 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

As to the question., "How do you influence a change in another person or organization without making a proposition?" I am not sure I understand the question. But I will say that I am currently working on a book which I hope will influence change. Some matters cannot be rightly addressed either through bumper stickers or blogs. While both bumper stickers and blogs have their place, [one on a car, the other on the Web!], so do books.

 
At 7/18/2006 7:57 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

As to the comment, "I believe the Priest and Levite had the "Limited Calling" when they walked by the man laying on the side of the road," I thought of that too. However, the texts I evoke in my positing still stand. There would be some who would view Yeshua's turning away from multitudes of needy and crying sick people to go to other villages as heartless and wrong, but, after a night of prayer, he reconnected with His overall mandate, and had to make this difficult choice. I trust you would not criticize HIM for doing so!

 
At 7/19/2006 5:33 PM, Anonymous Menachem said...

I do not agree with Newbigin here. I agree that our mandate/responsibiility is inseparably connected to "doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God' and must not be restricted to being bearers of a propositional message.<<<<<

I like this phraseology. I have never seen this put quite this succintly.


I hope this clarifies matters<<<<

I think so? You have well said that we will have to use our "thinkers" on this one.

Marty

 
At 7/19/2006 5:50 PM, Anonymous Menachem said...

Stuart:

I neglected your admonition to reread Rom 11. My apologies.

My first thought(s):

1)Rom 11:13. . Paradoxically Paul's efforts to reach Gentiles moves the world further towards the redemption of the Jews

2) Rom 11:30. The role of the Church appears to be to "show mercy" to the Jewish people.

Marty

 
At 7/19/2006 5:56 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Menachem,

Right on both counts. Keep reading, The subteties and implications of Paul's argument in Romans 9-11 are revolutionary once one sees what he is saying. Interesting point: the end of Romans 8 says "nothing can separate us from the Love of God which is in Messiah Yeshua." In Romans 9-11, Paul deals answers the likely rhetorical response, "O yeah? What about the Jews! Hasn't God forsaken them and turned to the Gentiles?" Romans 9-11 is the strongest possible refutation of that assumption. Keep reading. And thanks.

 
At 7/21/2006 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always hated quoting Mormans for principles I as a believer am to follow.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan starts by asking about salvation and concludes with "who proved to be a neighbor." How do we "limit" our calling and still be obedient to what Yeshua said?

 
At 7/21/2006 9:28 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

In response to Anonynous who said the following:

"Anonymous said...
I have always hated quoting Mormans for principles I as a believer am to follow."

Here he/she is referring to my reference to Stephen Covey, who is a Mormon. First of all, I am not applauding his doctrine. I have a dentist who is a humanist but the best dentist I have known in 61 years. Covey knows better how to live a principled life than most other people I know. I don't got to him for doctrine, but he still has wisdom to spare. In addition, Paul quotes with approval two pagan poets in Acts 17. This is no ratification of their paganism.

As for the following, "The Parable of the Good Samaritan starts by asking about salvation and concludes with 'who proved to be a neighbor.' How do we 'limit' our calling and still be obedient to what Yeshua said?" the following must be said.


"Limiting callings" are a fact of life. We all make choices, and must. Sometimes those choices seem ill-advised or even wicked to others, as in the case of Yeshua leaving pleading crowds of sick people and their families to go to the other villages also. The Parable of the Good Samaritan in no manner nullifies this fact of life: that life is about choices, and that one's fundamental priorities dictate how one responds to other options. This was true of Yeshua and is true of us as well.

The question is "What are your prioirites," and MY question in my posting was "How ought the priorities of the Messianic Jewish Remnant of Israel and the Church shift in view of the eschatological times in which we are living? And how does this result in limiting callings--that adjust our response to others priorities.

 

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