The Midwest Messianic Conference Report
By Sam Nadler
There were giants in the land, as Messianic leaders from as far away as Maryland, along with those from Wisconsin and Chicagoland, gathered for the Midwest Regional “Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations” Conference hosted by both Devar Emet Messianic Synagogue and Olive Tree Congregation (host site). It was a blessed opportunity to establish even stronger Messianic congregations for even greater impact in reaching the greater Jewish community. Besides the biblical instruction and the amazing and edifying interaction between all the leaders, there were three breakout classes that specifically addressed the discipleship of children, women and men in the Messianic congregation (facilitated by Debbie Holford, Miriam Nadler, and myself respectively).
Some may wonder, “How can a Messianic congregation (or any congregation) make a difference in reaching the greater Jewish community?” This question arises from the misunderstanding of the role of the local congregation in their local community. Too many people assume that most congregations (Messianic synagogues or traditional churches) are quite content developing their attendance through ‘transfer growth’–that is, having various disgruntled people come from other congregations, or from believers moving into their communities from another area of the country.
Sadly, very, very few congregations do any evangelism, Jewish or otherwise. Though Messiah commanded us to “Go make disciples” many congregations merely wait for people to “come to their services.” Therefore, many assume that only a parachurch mission organization can do the ‘real work’ of evangelizing the Jewish people. This is not the way it should be! The local congregation must take responsibility to reach that community where they are located.
Therefore, Word of Messiah plants Messianic congregations that do just that. Our conferences are meant to establish and develop Messianic congregations to effectively reach out “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). There are several principles that, when implemented, help accomplish this more effective outreach.
- The Principle Importance of the Power of Prayer: Scripture states, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). God expects us to ask, believing that He wants to bless and fully supply our needs to fulfill our calling in Messiah (Philippians 4:19; 1 John 5:14-15). As Israel could only win while Moses’ hands were lifted to God (Exodus 17:11), so too for our lives, homes and congregations. The spiritual victory is won in the prayer closet to be experienced on the field of battle. We are in a spiritual warfare for the souls of people, To “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) the heart, home and congregation must first be “a house of prayer” to be the place of victory and blessing.
- The Principle Focus of Family First: As I often teach, “The congregation can be no stronger than the families that make it up. Thus, to have a strong congregation we must first have strong families, not merely a strong front man.” Though singles and empty nesters are also a wonderful part of that community, we are still, under mandate of “m’dor l’dor”–from generation to generation–we must have families that will raise their children as Messianic disciples to demonstrate that Yeshua is God’s faithfulness to Israel! The vibrant, evangelistic Messianic congregation made up of fervent faithful Messianic families is the most effective testimony about Yeshua to the greater Jewish community. When Jewish believers attend the traditional church, they generally have to give up their Jewish identity to do so. Most often their children no longer live as Jewish believers, even though their bible-believing church may love Israel. This reinforces the concern of the Jewish community that faith in Jesus is the end of the Jewish people. However, for those faithful Messianic families that are faithfully part of that vibrant Messianic congregation, they effectively testify to the greater Jewish community, “Am Yisrael Chai Ba’Shem Yeshua! (The People of Israel Live in the Name of Yeshua!). We must have Messianic congregations with strong Messianic families.
- The Principle Dynamic of Dedicated Discipleship: Yes! Yeshua sent us to “make disciples” not merely to make decisions, and merely to have our pews filled with carnal, uncommitted believers. There must be personal discipleship of every believer in Messiah, for the undiscipled believer is the dysfunctional member of the Body. We must have strong Messianic families that pray, feeding themselves in the word, committed in love to the Messianic congregation, and are desirous to reach their neighbors, friends and family with the Good News. Only properly discipled parents can develop properly discipled children. The undiscipled family produces a dysfunctional home. Every effective contact the congregation made must become a dedicated disciple before becoming a congregational member. Otherwise, you will have a congregation of undiscipled people who are merely acculturated to the faith. They only understand their faith by their cultural expression and are unable to communicate their faith “wisely to those outside” (Colossians 4:5), and think that any change of their culture is a change of their faith! It is no wonder that they’re not reaching out! Only the properly discipled Messianic believer will effectively reach out to others. We evangelize to make more disciples, who will evangelize and make disciples, from generation to generation until Yeshua returns. It’s only out of the properly discipled membership that we develop our properly discipled leadership, who can model the Messianic values of the Messiah exalting community (Hebrews 13:7) in the home and congregation.
The importance of these principles is reflected in the feedback from the leaders attending the Midwest Conference: “I learned the importance of discipling people before they become members.” “I finally understand the real purpose of membership!” I realize the need to pray about everything before attempting anything.” “I now understand what makes a healthy congregation healthy.” “Our whole leadership is going to study through the “Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations” workbook, as well, and discuss how we can improve our Discipleship and Membership program. Thanks!”
Yes, God is doing great things! So please pray as we follow up on helping those attending congregations with the application of the principles to their communities, and for Word of Messiah as we prepare for the next US conference in Phoenix, Arizona on February 18-19, 2018, hosted by Arrowhead Messianic Congregation. (All Messianic leaders, register your whole leadership teams right away for the earliest bird specials!)