Why Messianic Congregations?
By Sam Nadler
Community Matters: God’s love revealed
The Mystery of Relationships
God, by His very nature, is relational. In Genesis 1, we see that before God created, He communicated! God’s statement, “Let Us make man in Our image,” (Genesis 1:16) reveals that the Triune nature of God was at work in our creation. God’s very nature is meant to help us understand that He is love, and as the Father loves the Son, so we are to love one another. As people created in God’s image, we are not godly if we are not loving. “By this all men will know you are My disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Understanding the fact that we are all created in His image helps us to understand the function of a healthy congregation. We bear witness to the image of God in us as we care for one another in community, not settling to live as “lone rangers.” As we read on through Genesis chapters two and three, we see that the cornerstone of a community is the marriage relationship and, from that, the family. “Congregation” is merely a word we use for families that meet together on the basis of agreed-upon values for the purpose of worship, instruction in the Word, fellowship, and evangelism.
The History of Synagogues
So how did the model of synagogues, or congregations as we know them today, come to be? The word “synagogue” is not found in the Torah. This is because synagogues were not established until the Babylonian captivity. Before that time, there were towns, villages, and cities overseen by elders who led their communities on the basis of the Torah (the Law of Moses). At this time, everyone in each town was under the same regulations and legislation.
The first congregations began as the Jewish people returned from Babylon with little temples which later became our “synagogues.” Though the model of congregations was not established until this point, we see that they were affirmed by Messiah:
“As was His custom, He went to synagogue on the Sabbath.” – Luke 4:16
We follow Yeshua’s custom, even though it is not the custom of many. God’s Word teaches us that congregational fellowship must be a high priority in our lives. We see in Hebrews 10:25 that we are to be, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as we see the day drawing near.”
The Integrity of the Body
“As He is, so are we in the world” – 1 John 4:17
As we seek to have congregations that reveal the Lord, we need to establish God-centered communities, remembering that He is the Head and we are the Body. The living Head is revealed through a healthy Body. Thus, the health of a congregation is vital in order to demonstrate the love of Yeshua to those inside and outside the community. This becomes the congregations’ testimony that God is alive and well, and is in their midst.
Calling Matters: God’s faithfulness revealed
In the believing community today, a Messianic congregation is the exception and not the rule. Though many believers appreciate the existence of Messianic congregations, many others do not understand the purpose of their existence. Therefore, an apologetic is necessary. Why plant Messianic congregations?
We plant Messianic congregations because of our calling: to demonstrate the faithfulness of God “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
Yeshua is God’s faithfulness to Israel and the nations, the sole fulfillment of the promises made to our fathers (Genesis 12:3, Romans 15:8). Although the greater Jewish community today may strongly disagree with this statement, it is vital that we communicate this biblical truth in a way that is relevant to them. A Messianic congregation, by its very existence, whether small or large, traditional or not so-traditional, is a demonstration of God’s faithfulness to Israel.
Sharing Messiah with unbelieving Jewish people is vitally important. The work, however, must not end there. When a Jewish person comes to faith in Yeshua, but then is not discipled in how to live for the Lord as a Jewish believer, it will appear to the person’s Jewish friends and family that faith in Yeshua removes a person’s Jewish identity. Nothing could be further from the truth (Acts 21:39, Romans 11:1)! In light of the fact that much of the greater Body of Messiah is unprepared to provide discipleship for new Jewish believers, Messianic congregations are necessary, for discipleship is a congregational matter. A community of rooted and grounded Messianic believers clearly communicates God’s faithfulness in Messiah, and provides a living testimony to the greater Jewish community.
The primary concern of the Jewish people today is not, “What does Isaiah 53 mean?” but, “Will there be a Jewish people?” As Messianic congregations, we are the identifiable remnant of Israel. A healthy Messianic congregation testifies, “Yes! Am Yisrael Chai B’Shem Yeshua” (The people of Israel live in the Name of Yeshua).
Messianic congregations are all about Messiah. This is who we are, Who we testify of, and Who we glorify!