While I lived in Jerusalem, I found that Christians and Messianic Jews living there would host travellers and people doing short term projects. This gives you a unique angle for visitors who both love Jewish people and the Jewish Messiah. So after being there a few months, I was encouraged to do the same, often I was asked to show around someone who is new to doing volunteering work, see interesting places like Jerusalem’s old city, the Kotel, good places to eat out, but also somewhere to fellowship at the weekend.
Now imagine this. New visitors have often told me how this congregation looks like a ‘normal church’ or doesn’t feel authentic. Or, in the case of June of 2019 an angry-sounding woman commented on my blog tells me any congregation that isn’t her perceived style is pagan and “doing it all wrong”.
I got thinking, how do I reach out to these sorts of people to understand what I learned from the Messianic community in Israel? I think its quite different from how people perceive what’s an ideal place to have fellowship.
Different religious buildings can be on a scale, one end of this scale is traditional and other is modern. Let’s look at some well known examples:-
This St Paul’s Cathedral in London
This is the Dominion Theatre in London, its borrowed by Hillsong church on sunday
In conventional churches in the UK, these can have stained glass windows, giant organs set into the building, pews and similar decor. Or, some can be modern places with car parks, modern kitchens and a stage with a projector for song lyrics.
Jerusalem Great Synagogue, Israel
Here is the #2 biggest synagogue in the world in Budapest Hungary
In traditional Judaism, you will see buildings with pews also, which I think facing three sides of a square, some nice hanging brass lamps and lots of wood panelling everywhere. Also like modern Christianity, some synagogues will be new buildings with more emphasis on practicality and comfort and have a sophisticated AV system.
Neither traditional or new is wrong, they are just two different styles of how things are done. Some buildings will be owned and some will be rented off someone else.
The Messianic movement in Israel is relatively new (modern Israel is only 71 years old) and the body of believers is small 20,000-30,000 people. So congregations are small and budgets for a building are small and will usually rely on donations from other places, ie: Christian friends from other parts of the world.
So, therefore, Messianic congregations can vary quite a bit also in style.
I think I’ve visited 8 different Messianic congregations, one Arab congregation and 2 house type churches. Here’s an example of a few well known ones:-
Here is Christchurch congregation inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, Israel. Like a traditional-looking church but has services in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.
Here is Kehilat HaKarmel near Haifa. This is maybe the closest you will see to a Jewish Synagogue, it has an amazing custom-designed building, but I love the community, teaching and the outreach work that has been done there also.
This is the Shelter Hostel in Eilat, this congregation is more look a house church but is a functioning youth hostel for any type of traveller (like me) with staff to run the place but also has optional bible study and worship on Shabbat.