Why as a Christian who supports Israel I go to an ordinary church and not a Messianic congregation

I have been involved with ministry to Jewish people and Israel for some years and know many people who do similar work.

Every so often I see some Christians that take an interest in Israel and Jewish foundations of Christianity and suddenly think we should not be doing worship on a Sunday but switch to Friday or Saturday, they might try and look for a Messianic congregation (which in the UK are a rarity) then often get tired of this, they then retreat into a solitude and stop fellowshipping with a wider body of believers in Christ.

So, I go to a well-known church in London, which actually has no interest in Israel or ministry to Jewish people.   This is a shame as I wish there was more interest, but here’s why.

  1. I am a non-Jew.   I feel like I need to not pretend to be something I am not.    If I meet up with my Chinese friends as I am keen to ask them about the huge explosion of the gospel in the China and the number of Chinese believers in London, it wouldn’t be right for me to try and dress up as a Chinese clothing.
  2. Relationships and less religious complexity.   There are a lot of arguments in the Messianic world, both on the internet and through personal contact.   Issues with legalism and whether to be under old and new covenant or somewhere in between.   But, I love the Messianic congregations in Israel and I actually see these as the measuring stick of quality of teaching and relationships.  At the same time, I’ve seen things too many stupid things (whining about Christmas and Easter, questioning the Trinity, sacred name theology etc) that trip people up and cause divisions which I am sick and tired of, mostly from people believing something they read on the internet.   These are patterns of problems that can happen in any church denomination.
  3. Discipleship.   I see this for myself in a bi-direction thing.   a) I meet up with believers who I mentor and pray and encourage who are in the early walk with their lives in the Lord.   I’ve also helped a Jewish man who is unemployed and uncertain what is employment path and he knows me well enough that the conversation can lean towards a kind, gentle but clear message of the gospel and me to give him prayer over his searching for work.   b) for myself, I’ve managed to meet Christian friends more established and knowledgeable about things like gifts of the spirit and other areas in moving forward in Christ which I am seeking to develop for myself.   Those of you who know me, know that I am a single man, so the dynamics of growth in the Lord for me I think are different than they are for a married couple.  c) I also try to be accountable to friends and peers of similar background and age to myself.   If I went to a very small congregation I’d miss out on this, and I feel a sense of urgency for those non-churched or curious about knowing Christ to help them.
  4. I like a church with a wide variety of different people.  My parents’ church is largely pro-Israel but also has Arab and Japanese believers.
  5. Messianic congregations are something of a rarity in some parts of the world like the UK.    The number of believers in Israel is only 25,000 out of 8m people, so congregations there are small in number.    In the US the Messianic movement is much bigger and more established I think.  Granted there are churches of countless different denominations but more excitingly different language and cultural audiences.    Once church near me offers free English languages for those from an Indian background, one church for Arabic speaking people (former Muslims and traditional Christian Arabs) French, Chinese and even Turkish!
  6. I see myself as under the New Covenant.    Jesus’s life and sacrifice is enough for me without having to add on obligations which are not required.

If you go to a Messianic congregation in UK, US or Canada, then if the teaching, worship and fellowship is right for you, great!   What does trouble me, as some folks wanting to discard their current conventional church seeking something new and end up confused and miss a simple message of Christ and his sacrifice with a minimum of complexity.


Books on examples of Jewish evangelism in Israel

Ok, taking a break from my European travel writing, instead going back to my focus on the Holy Land and things I’ve seen and experienced.

I’ve been to a couple of places where there were congregations of Messianic Jews worshiping together who had some books on the testimonies and ministry work that brought Israeli Jewish people (and also Arab people and other groups) to Jesus.  I have two books from these places which have some of the most heart warming stories of Israeli finding their Messiah.

Let’s quickly make up this map:-

david davis bookThe first one at the top, is David Davis Z”L (he died in 2017) who is a pastor of a congregation in Mount Carmel, who wrote about his life in this book from being an actor and moving from New York.

The second is in the extreme corner of the bottom of Israel in Eilat from John and Judy Pex at The Shelter Hostel, which is also a meeting place for local believers on Fridays.

dscf8621Some people are told its illegal to spread the gospel to people in Israel.   This is a lie.  Israel has freedom of religion, albeit with some restrictions, you cannot convince child to adopt another religious without parents permission, and you can’t coerce someone to follow another religion in return for a gift or bribe.

Conventional evangelism in say, Jerusalem tends to not work well and its socially frowned upon, as in walk-up giving out leaflets.  In Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) the number of believers is very small and congregations are probably limited to meeting in people’s houses.  The most common way people accept the gospel is through a Youtube videos which then results in people privately contacting the group like OneforIsrael for more information and a meet up.

I had a flash of inspiration the other day….

Maybe, revival of the Jewish people will happen at opposite edges of Israel and work its way back to the middle when Jesus will come back to Jerusalem!!

One the left, the blue symbols I’ve marked for “WhyMe?” which is from Tel Aviv based evangelist Jacob Damkani, and also for “Leave me alone I’m Jewish” by Pastor Ron Cantor also from Tel Aviv.   I’ve not seen these books but I need to get them soon.

Mount Carmel congregation https://britinjerusalem.com/2011/03/13/from-karmiel-to-mount-carmel/ 
The Shelter Hostel Eilat https://britinjerusalem.com/2015/07/31/come-stay-celebrate-the-story-of-the-shelter-hostel-in-eilat-israel-book-by-john-judy-pex/ and https://britinjerusalem.com/2009/12/23/journey-to-the-red-sea-%E2%80%93-part-two/ 

I’ll maybe write a part 2 to this part as theres some scripture that points to certain parts of Israel getting revival first.

Common pitfalls that can catch believers volunteering or studying in Israel

For believers, Jewish or Gentile volunteering or studying in Israel, I thought I would offer a list of pitfalls that can trip up followers of Yeshua who are staying in the holy land for any length of time.

Cultural sensitivity

Try and avoid wearing Tshirts with religious or political message.  Making sure you the right attire for religious sites which means arms and legs must be covered, and the Orthodox Jews don’t like women in trousers, you need a long skirt in you are a female and wish to go through religious communities.

Staying in your flat all weekend

Theres lots to see if you are in Jerusalem, when Shabbat is over its fun to get into the centre of town and meet with friends at a coffee shop or ice cream joint.  Usually there is people playing music in the streets in Ben Yehuda Street and the place starts to become alive Saturday evening.

I’ve noticed what I would describe is a habit that some people never go out.   I had two housemates like this.   This has happened to me too often.   I think its a spiritual thing that can cause people to hide away sometimes.

Not praying over yourself

Pray for the armour of protection.  THIS IS A MUST.  Before you leave the house.   This place is a spiritually volatile as it is politically volatile.   No need for alarm or panic, but be aware any worries, negative thoughts can intensifying and depression can creep in while you are in Israel.

Ephesians 6 : 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

This passage is saying about praying protection on yourself like the pieces of protective equipment worn for a war.   This is a quite a good metaphorical statement needed.

If you don’t understand this passage, then get familiar with it.   If you don’t want to understand this passage or would rather ignore this, don’t come to Israel.

Working on Shabbat

Don’t do it, stick to the biblical week, and shut down normal week friday evening.   I’m not saying when you return to your original country you have to change away from your traditional working patterns, just while you are in Israel, observe the Sabbath and get a nice meal and invite some friends over, or get together with family, its good to invite someone outside of your usual group of friends who might otherwise be on their own that evening.

Because of spending all the time working, making every day the same, I’ve sadly seen some believers here and in my own country fall away this way.

Some ministries are working to a very tight deadline to make a complex project happen, and I’ve done it a few times only to find the project I was working on went wrong.  Seriously friends, if you are doing ministry in Israel, don’t work Shabbat, its meant to be special for a reason.

Not going to a congregation of believers

Sadly some Christians have this idea if you work in a ministry, do a bit of private bible study or a visit an Orthodox synagogue you don’t need to go to a congregation, this is not true!! As well as get teaching and participate in worship, you need to have fellowship with believers, its also great to meet other foreign Christians, Jewish believers and sometimes Arab believers this way, take part in Jewish holidays, Torah portion (both Tanakh and Brit Hadasha, ie: Old Testament and New Testament)

Hebrews 10 : 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Once you build some good friendships in your congregation (this took quite a while for me)  its a great way to get mentored or be a mentor.   If you find your life is completely peachy and never have any worries or struggles (you must be an extreme rarity!)  use your experience of overcoming struggles to help others.   Ok, realistically, if you have overcome many struggles you might also be called to look out for those who are on their own or going through a tough time.

 Not drinking enough water

This happens a lot, it seems that a human being’s thirst doesn’t quite get calibrated right, and you may stick to usual pattern of fluid intake in a cooler country, don’t rely on this, you often need to drink about 2-3 times as much as you are used to especially if you are outside a lot.

If someone you are with doesn’t pack water on a trip and after you remind them they say ‘no I am alright’ don’t accept this and keep reminding them in making sure they are taking enough.   A hike for some hours in the desert necessitates 3-4 litres of water at least.   I find it best to get into a pattern of drinking some at least every half an hour.   Dehydration takes places quickly and can really spoil your day or at the very worst make you very ill.

Don’t bash regular Christianity

If your brothers and sisters in Christ don’t show the same interest in the Holy Land, don’t get into a them-and-us mentality.  There’s nothing worse than religious arrogance.

We are meant to be ambassadors for Jesus whilst we are away from our places of origin.   It gives a bad impression if we show there is division among our fellow Christians.

When churches go with the world of plans to redefine marriage and family structure to appease a twisted society, people get angry and blame the whole church system as going down the tubes.   I think the institutional church is not what it was but its crucially important we give a good impression of us as servants of the Lord.

When I see Hebrew roots movements telling people ‘listen to our theology, not pagan Christianity’  this makes me very cross.   Don’t listen to any arrogant person who attacks the wider body of church, but do pray for the body of believers in our own respective countries.

My observation is that many Christians simply don’t know a lot of the bible, and don’t know the importance of Israel and the Jewishness of Jesus, but don’t know many other aspects of their faith, just because (particularly me) getting familiar with all aspects of the scriptures in the entirety is hard work.

Don’t try and be something you are not

If you are a gentile Christian with an interest in Hebrew Roots or Jewish foundations of Christianity, please don’t put on a kippur or tzi-zit.   Don’t try and be something you are not.   This causes so many problems.

Here’s a classic anti-replacement theology passage:- Romans 11 : 11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

The bible tells us (regular gentile Christians) that we are to make the Jews jealous from our salvation from the Jewish Messiah.

Some overly enthusiastic Christians get their theology back to front and try and wear clothing used by observant Jews.   This can be interpreted as Replacement Theology, that Christians are the ‘new Jews’  and the almost certainly the reaction from other Christians as they are being just being plain daft.

Studying Hebrew roots can be great, but its not meant to be a religious dressing up game.

Be aware of unusual teachings and having discernment

Which way round do the events in end times event happen?  Is the New Testament written originally in Greek, Aramaic or something else?  Jesus’s birthday is 25th December?

Often people come up with some ideas that seem different from the norm, so be careful and research everything thoroughly yourself.

1 Timothy 1 : 3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

Sometimes there’s aspects of the bible that have several plausible explanations that we will have different interpretations, they often aren’t significant enough to argue about.    I admire my friend Judah’s earlier blog post about tolerance of different ideas from our brothers and sisters in Christ, but robustly challenging anything false.

Easter Sunday – Resurrection day at the tomb

My phone woke me up at 4.45am today on Easter Sunday morning, a silly time indeed, but I needed to leave just after 5 to get to the other end of the city for a special event with people churches all over the city starting at 06.00.

Lots of people are queuing outside….

Looks like people lining up for the sales (sunday is a regular work day in Israel) or going to a concert of some kind….

Aha, its starting to become clear now….

This was a special place to celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at the very place mostly likely to have been buried, but most definitely risen!

Really good service from a speaker I have not heard from before, and some great worship music from my (King of Kings) congregation.

It did mean that that leader speaking, the worship band and the tomb itself were hidden from view as there were bushes and trees in front of where I was sitting thought!   I would have a guess that there was about 2000 people crammed into the garden.  About half of the people I would guess are Christian tourists on a short holiday,with the remainder being Israeli believers and foreign Christians like me volunteering in the land.

Finally a quick glimpse of the tomb itself as people are leaving.

This was a memorable day to spend Easter Sunday.  I missed this service last year as I didn’t wake up in time!!

Funnily enough, two years ago I was working for an Israeli software company in Southampton UK, there we were given a chocolate egg by our bosses as an Easter present!  Also Pesach was mentioned as well as the Jewish holiday is the week before Easter.

Next: My journey to Nazareth and Cana to see Jesus’ childhood

Jerusalem Assembly

The weekend before last I went to a different church with a friend, this time to Jerusalem Assembly congregation in Talpiyot.

I ended up not going to my normal church (King of Kings) due to needing to stay in the house as my room mate was coming back and he would not have any keys to get in.

This service was great as Jerusalem Assembly, the service has two speakers, one in Hebrew and repeated in English.  Like some Hebrew only services in other churches you can rent these small radio receiver units, to get a translation, but at this church translations are offered in French, German, Spanish, Arabic and Russian!!

I thought this was quite amazing given the amount of work involved to do this, after the service there was soup and pastries and cake offered and a good chance to meet and chat with different people.   I got see some Israeli believers I work with, as well as other Jewish, Arab and foreign Christians working or volunteering in the land from different congregations.  The word and the worship was really good here.


Handel’s Messiah played in Hebrew in Jerusalem

I missed the chance to go to this performance  last year, but sadly as I am back in the UK again for a break I didn’t get to see once more.   A real shame but I got to see a brief video of this sent via friend.

The famous classical piece, Handel’s Messiah was performed in Hebrew at King Of Kings congregation at the Clal shopping mall between Agrippas and Jaffa Street in Jerusalem.

Interesting enough, the 90 year old lady mentioned who dreamt up the idea to rework it in Hebrew was in tears after the performance, Handel was found in tears by his assistant after reporting being touched by God some 250 years ago.   See the video here:

Some musical friends I know got to play in this, thanks Teddy for the link 🙂