Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations in Phoenix
If the Good News is to the Jew first, then this will be the first point of attack from the enemy. Messianic ministry is not easy, and like any leader, Messianic leaders need to be equipped and encouraged as they fulfill their calling, leading congregations that effectively testify of Yeshua as God’s faithfulness to Jewish people and to all people. In order to help Messianic congregations to succeed, grow, and reproduce, reaching out with the Good News to Jewish people, Word of Messiah regularly holds “Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations” conferences for Messianic leaders in communities across the country and around the world.
During the weekend of January 22-24, we held our first conference of 2016 in Phoenix, AZ. It was a first for us to hold a conference in this area and we were so thankful for how the Lord blessed the weekend. The 27 leaders who attended represented various congregations in cities throughout the Southwest including Albuquerque NM, Anaheim CA, Phoenix AZ, and more from the areas surrounding Phoenix.
A highlight of this conference is that the leaders who attended were able to make practical use of Sam’s new revised and expanded book: “Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations,” a hands-on guidebook designed for Messianic leaders and congregation planters, though the principles can be used by pastors and church planters as well. (Stay tuned for more information on how you can get a copy of this one of a kind book!)
During the opening session of the conference, Sam asked for the participants to share their reasons for attending and what they hoped to learn from the conference. The reasons expressed were as varied as the group gathered. Every congregation experiences trials, and in our conferences, we aim to address specific areas of need and encourage each of the leaders in their vital ministry, whether they are new congregation planters or seasoned leaders.
At this time, several of the leaders expressed their desire to strengthen their infrastructure in order to develop and be able to meet the needs of their growing congregations. Some had been facing issues of miscommunication amongst their leadership, and so were struggling with issues of disunity and mistrust in their congregations. For these, Sam focused on the key matters of unifying vision and values, and encouraged the leaders of each ministry within the congregation to develop a mission statement that would lend itself to fulfilling the overall mission of the congregation, so building unity and trust.
Another team came to the conference wanting to learn how to restart and renew their vision for a congregation in their area. For this group, Sam went over what he calls the “Iceberg Principle:” a congregation must be grounded on a firm foundation of the person and work of Messiah, and build on this the various ministries through which the congregation serves as the “WIFE” of Messiah (a Worship center, Instruction center, Fellowship center, and Evangelistic center.) Only on this foundation is a congregation able to present an effective testimony of Messiah “above the water line.”
After the first session, one of the leaders from this congregation expressed: “We are beginning again and we need to understand our DNA before we proceed. This is powerful teaching and I know the training we receive this weekend will enable us to understand how to begin again.”
Another seasoned leader of a long standing Messianic synagogue expressed his desire to better understand how to transition and develop his leadership while maintaining their congregation’s strong legacy. Throughout the conference, Sam gave instruction concerning how a paradigm shift, such as that brought on by a change of leadership, is a test of love which gives leaders an opportunity to communicate what things have changed and what things will never change (a congregation’s core mission, vision, and values), in order to re-stabilize the group.
Though diverse as the group was in regards to their outreach, some geared to reaching a secular Jewish community, while others working in a more orthodox setting, camaraderie developed as we had opportunity to fellowship around those things we have in common. Because of the great emphasis in Scripture on God wanting any congregation to be “a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:7), we spent a good deal of time in prayer and worship, which brought unity as we exalted Messiah together.
During breaks, Sam spent time with the leaders discussing more personal questions one on one, and was able, by God’s grace, to help them tailor the principles taught in the conference to help in their particular circumstances.
After the conference, several of the leaders remarked:
“This conference was very helpful and the material interesting. I appreciated that Sam set aside plenty of time for questions and was readily available to address each of them. I also am glad to see that much of the information covered in the conference is available in Sam’s new book, Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations.”
– Lonnie Bradshaw, International Academic Coordinator, Messianic Jewish Bible Institute
“This conference was excellent and very comprehensive. I’ve been in Messianic ministry since 1982, and wish I had the opportunity to go through a course like this 20 years ago, as it would have prevented a lot of things that we’ve done wrong. I see this conference as being very helpful for leaders starting out, as it details every area of ministry they will encounter. Training on establishing and developing healthy congregations is invaluable. I have not seen this kind of training before in the Messianic movement, and wish I had known about your ministry earlier.”
– James Shapiro, Congregational Leader, Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue
“All of my leaders who attended were ecstatic after this conference. They each received information that was very useful and helpful for them and are already implementing the ideas they learned. Sam’s teaching is excellent, he knows the material well, and you can tell that he has a passion and love for Messianic Congregations and a desire to help them succeed. The information about discipleship and follow-up was particularly valuable, as was Sam’s new book, Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations.”
– Allan Moorhead, Congregational Leader, Arrowhead Messianic Congregation
“The most helpful idea from the conference for me is the systematic approach of building a congregation and its members. From the admonitions of ‘no sheep stealing’ and fulfilling the Great Commission in order to add to the ranks, to the discipleship/membership process and everything beyond and in between, this structure will be very helpful to us. It provides a very logical and orderly process and with the help of the Ruach haKodesh and faithfulness on our part, God will be faithful!”
– Esther Butler, Beth Yeshua Messianic Synagogue