Good News in Focus
A couple of months ago, I received a call from Or HaOlam, a Messianic Congregation which is being established in Richmond. We scheduled a time for me to visit them in order to provide assistance for their new congregation, but due to an unforeseen snowstorm, the date was rescheduled for the end of July instead.
Over the next several months, I continued to talk with the group of five elders who are planting Or HaOlam concerning ideas for congregational development. Our interactions were friendly and encouraging, and I was immediately impressed by their character and concern for people.
As July drew near, we discussed the agenda for my upcoming visit. It was obvious that their greatest desire was for their congregation to be clear in their focus on the Good News. Although some believing groups may think that they’re being effective by not being up front about their faith in Messiah, this mindset always proves to be false. I was happy to see that this group is unashamed of the Good News of Messiah, impressed that they are seeking to build a loving, Messiah-centered community, and encouraged to work with them!
When I arrived in Richmond, I met with four of the elders, and heard more about their stories of faith and the events that led to the planting of the congregation. That evening, we talked through some of the basics of congregational life, dealing with the matters of outreach (evangelism) and discipleship, and focused on the necessity of congregations to reach out to the unsaved community around them and disciple those the Lord brings their way.
The next day, I spent the morning giving a seminar to the five elders and their wives. Not all of them are Jewish, but all share the same passion to proclaim Messiah to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. They told me how many people in the new congregation have gone through past trauma and hurt and, as a result, are dealing with a number of personal and doctrinal issues. Each of these men and their wives were very desirous to care for the people in their community. As we discussed these issues in light of Scripture, they understood that God’s Word teaches that we’re not permitted to hold onto bitterness, resentment, or anger. We must forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and realize that forgiveness is not based upon the repentance of the offender, but upon the resource of forgiveness we have in the death of the Messiah. Gaining insight into the biblical responsibility of eldership in these situations helped them to see their way through the problems in order to address each of the issues.
That afternoon, a number of people from the community attended as I went over the importance of reaching out with the Good News and the fact that all members of the community need to go through discipleship so they are on the same page with God and each other. The people had a variety of questions, and it was a joy to my soul to hear them express their strong desire for Jewish and Gentile believers to have unity in Messiah.
Saturday morning, Or HaOlam’s service conducted by the elders was warm and welcoming, Yeshua-oriented, Bible-based, very Jewish, and had equal involvement of Jews and Gentiles. I had been asked to give the message, and in light of the timing of my visit and the needs of the congregation, spoke about Tisha B’Av, a Jewish holiday where people mourn to commemorate tragic events in Jewish history that are traditionally understood to have occurred on that day, such as the destruction of both the first and second Temples. In Zechariah 8:19, God promises to turn Tisha B’Av and other days of fasting into days of feasting when Messiah returns and is exalted. Likewise, healing for those who have been chafed, offended, or hurt comes only through recognizing what Messiah can do. He alone can bring transformation to our lives and is able to turn broken pieces into masterpieces!
A number of people responded to the invitation to yield their heart to Messiah and the entire group was very responsive to the message. Afterwards, during Oneg (time of fellowship after the service), I interacted with them and others in the congregation, encouraging them in the things of God.
Later, I met again with the elders and their wives. The elders expressed their concern that, “We don’t have a leader.” When they said this, I replied, “Who says you don’t have a leader? At the service I saw all five of you leading and you all did a great job. You’re all leaders and can do this together. There may come a point when the work will require more time than any one of you can give and, at that time, one of you may need to be raised up to handle those responsibilities.”
My affirmation of their leadership was not an exaggeration at all. These five men are the strongest core group of elders I’ve seen in any of the congregation plants I’ve worked with. They each have valuable insight in God’s Word and are strong, competent leaders.
It is our prayer that more Messianic leaders like these men be raised up so that more Messianic congregations can be planted in order that more Jewish and non-Jewish people can hear the Good News and come to know Messiah Yeshua!
With this in mind, I look forward to our upcoming “Growing Healthy Messianic Congregations” conference this October in San Antonio, TX.
Please keep Or HaOlam, its leaders, and the upcoming conference in your prayers.