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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.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Some Thoughts on Reading Darrell Guder (Part One) - On the Messianic Jewish Movement and Evangelism

(Last week, Darrell Guder, Academic Dean of Princeton Seminary, spoke at Fuller Seminary, here in my home area. He is a nice man, quite a scholar. As part of my own continuing education, and preparation for a book I am writing, I am reading some of his work. What follows is some interaction with his book "The Continuing Conversion of The Church" [2000]. More to come, by the way!)

Darrell Guder speaks of how he “began to see this separation between evangelism and community as a problem of ‘reductionism,’ with questionable consequences for all concerned. The church, which is intended to be the evangelizing community, tends to reduce or neglet its essential missionary character” (ix).

This got me thinking.

When Darrell Guder speaks of the church as “intended to be the evangelizing community, [but which] tends to reduce or neglect its essential missionary character,” I ask “How are MJ congregations evangelizing communities and to what do we bear witness in all our being and doing?” For too many of us and for too long, our reflex in answering such questions has been to pull out a Bible verse or bunch of Bible verses, operating out of an assumption that describing our calling as servants of the gospel only requires of us that we have an adequate knowledge of Scripture, and hopefully an encyclopedic and impressive knowledge. As impressive as such persons might be, what this position misses is that our witness is not simply some slotted answer or packet of authoritative and safely orthodox information in the communally approved Bible translation. This is no witness. This is no gospel. This is a crumpled napkin in place of a Royal Decree.

No, the only gospel witness worthy of the name must be breathless and trembling. “The God of our Fathers has visited us! He has come to rescue us! He is Alive! He is King! He has Come to Deliver Us! Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! He is Risen, just as he said! I have seen the Lord! The hour has come and the Kingdom of heaven is at hand! Repent and believe the Gospel!” Such proclamations are not position statements. They are not bullet points. They are not planks in some organizational platform whereby this group can separate itself from another group, demonstrating its own greater purity. No! This is no gospel at all!

If our witness is not breathless and trembling, if it does not stumble and tumble out of trembling lips and flushed tear stained faces, then it may be a report of facts, it may be a witness to a proposition, it may be testimony to some kind of a four-colored conference folder and organizational platform, it may be some short answer on a theological quiz, some bumper sticker, or some manifesto of religious positioning, but it is not in any manner a witness to the gospel. For the gospel to which we bear witness is the ever-astoninishing, worship-inducing, fall-on-your-faces, holiness and awe, hard breathing, heart-pounding, community-revolutionizing report that the Holiest of holy ones, the Creator of all, who spoke and the world came into being, whose very Presence requires our honor, love, praise, adoration and obedience, has come to be among us and bids us follow him now!

I am reminded of Moses at the bush. The good news Moses brought to the Israelites was not the message of who God was, or who he had been. His report to his people was no oral exam on whether he had properly studied the approved books and positions. No, Moses was sent to tell the children of Israel that the Ever Present One, the Eternal Now, had come to rescue them, and to bring them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians to a good and spacious land, in fulfillment of His promises to their ancestors.

But Hashem is not simply the Self Existent One, so that Moses’ missional message, and by extension, ours, would be some sort of metaphysical report, “Go back and tell them you have just encountered Ground of All Being.” Rather, Moses’ message and ours is that the One in the Bush that burns continually, The Ever Present One, has taken decisive action to deliver His people, to relieve their burdens, to reveal Himself, inspiring total, astonished worship, honor, glorification and praise. The only gospel that is truly the gospel is full of fear and trembling and joy. The only gospel that is truly the gospel reports that God is here now, taking decisive action to redeem us. The only gospel that is truly the gospel bids us rise up and follow Him now!

So we return to Guder’s statement, that “The church, which is intended to be the evangelizing community, tends to reduce or neglect its essential missionary character.” This is no less true of the Messianic Jewish movement.

For the Messianic Jewish Movement to be some sort of an evangelizing community, it needs an evangel—a gospel—a good news that revolutionizes its life, which it therefore embodies and communicates in all its being, speaking, and doing. The good news can never be a static message—a collection of propositions. No! And the good news is not something to be delivered by disinterested surrogates, like some sort of mail-deliverers who have no idea of what is within the envelope they put into your mailbox. No! Those charged with communicating the good news are people who have experienced its power—its force—its revolutionizing life-giving strength, its embodied livingness and glory.

Think of Moses coming down the mountain with the good news that he had met with God there who had given him the Covennant by which Israel should henceforth live. Moses’ face shone—he was himself evidence of the message be proclaimed. Are we? Or are we just surrogates delivering a message which we hardly comprehend and experience, if at all?

At 5/11/2007 4:52 PM, Blogger Russ Resnik said...

Thanks Stuart—another great piece. May Hashem rekindle (or kindle) in us the kind of love and awareness that you describe. Without them we remain among the Laodiceans.


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