My first introduction to believers in Yeshua in Jerusalem took place 34 years ago. Back then, much prayerful effort was needed to locate even a handful of fellow Messianic Jews. A sprinkling of evangelical Christians at that time were pioneering ministries to bless Israel and a bit easier to find. In any case, in 1982 the Jerusalem body of believers was greatly in need of spiritual, material and other support from abroad.
But God has been restoring Israel—and the situation is beginning to change. Some Western Christians could probably learn much from our brothers and sisters in the City of the Great King. Each time I visit them, I do.
We’ve just returned from a 3 week trip to Israel, during which time more tragic stabbings and murders of Jews took place. Despite the ongoing terror – or perhaps partly because of it – I continue to be inspired, strengthened and challenged by the maturity of Jerusalem’s growing body of believers. Below is a short list of just 8 reasons why. As you read, please keep in mind I share in broad strokes only and solely out of my own, personal experience. My observations are limited mainly to Jerusalemite believers and do not necessarily reflect Israeli believers as a whole. Still, I hope you’ll be encouraged by what I perceive God is doing.
1. I’m inspired at how believers in Jerusalem seem less self absorbed than many of us in the West. Our brothers and sisters in this hotly contested city seem to understand the Gospel is more about death to self for the sake of life in Messiah than it is about self-fulfillment. In the process of dying to self, many experience His intimacy, peace and joy as the apex of personal fulfillment in Him.
2. While they don’t seek out or enjoy suffering, many of the believers humbly embrace the reality of Yeshua’s declaration that in this world we will have tribulation, yet take heart because He has overcome the world. As a result they are being beautifully conformed to the likeness of Messiah. (At the same time, many hunger for more Holy Spirit signs, wonders, miracles and healing not only for the sake of evangelism, but also to overcome intense, personal spiritual warfare.)
3. Followers of Yeshua in Jerusalem continue to place very strong emphasis on the Word of God in their personal and congregational lives. Perhaps this is partly because the opposition they face can be so strong they’re not likely to stand (or in some cases, survive) without reliance on the Word.
4. Messianic Jewish congregations prioritize sharing the Gospel and seeking the salvation of their people. They’re passionate for Israel to know her Messiah and for Jerusalem to welcome Him back.
5. There is far less focus in the churches on end times countdowns than in the West. While most Messianic Jews in Jerusalem believe the end of the age is near, they give greater attention to righteous living, evangelism and prayer than to prophecy calculations or eschatological date setting. In the process, I believe they’re being transformed into a pure bride whose fullness could hasten Yeshua’s return.
6. Though Jerusalem is a small city, at least 6 houses of worship and prayer have been established in it. (Quite possibly twice as many exist). Most prayer houses are owned by internationals, mainly because few local believers can afford the extremely high cost of home ownership in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, day and night worship and prayer ascends from the city. YHVH is glorified and the atmosphere can be incomparably glorious!
7. Jerusalem believers’ heartfelt ministry of hospitality blesses me deeply. Most of their homes range from small to tiny. But they can be richly filled with love and tender caretaking toward visitors and guests.
8. When a congregational member encounters extreme personal crisis, others usually do their best to rally around him or her. A needy member of the family is rarely ignored and sometimes prayed for by other believers throughout the country.
Now, to be sure, the relatively new body of believers in Jerusalem is not (yet) perfect. Messianic leaders in the city ask often for prayer for unity and maturity—though the Spirit’s work in both areas is inspiring to watch. Younger generations face strong worldly temptation, like they do everywhere else. Some anti-Israel, Eastern Orthodox and Palestinian Christians present unique challenges. Daily pressures can be extreme, especially for immigrant believers unfamiliar with the Israeli way of life, and godly responses are not always the immediate result.
Moreover, besides those forces external to the Jerusalem Church, over half the local body is restricted in service to God due to the pervading theology that He does not call women to lead men in any formal ecclesiastical respect. Women do not teach, pastor or “eld.” Exceptions are made for female worship leaders and for some rabbis’ wives to speak on occasion. (To be fair, while this theology is quite pervasive, it isn’t universal.) Other problems exist, but this post focuses on the positives.
The Jerusalem Body, like the rest of the Church, is still imperfect. But I believe that we in the West now need their strengths as much as they need ours. I believe God commends them for their perseverance in the face of ongoing difficulty and hardship. Their love for His Word shines bright in the darkness. Their zeal for others to know Messiah can convict us of lukewarmness we might too often find lurking in ourselves. Our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, by their character and deeds, can inspire us to be more like Yeshua. May we in the West, by His grace, do the same for them.