Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Emergent plus Messianic ... IV

We've been discussing how some of the contributions of the Messianic movement could complement Emergent. I also see how becoming a little bit more Emergent could benefit the Messianic movement.

The Messianic movement predates the Emerging Church movement and in many locations, had its beginnings in an era where American suberban middle class values were the norm. For that reason, some Messianics have inherited some of the tendencies that many other churches and ministries do that target the American middle class. That is, when they grow to a certain size, they tend to go with up-market style advertising and PR. Their TV programs offer you a gift if you'll donate so much, the brochures and magazines often have larger than life photos of the chief sporting a teethy grin (if it's a one-man or one-woman ministry), and everything seems to have a price tag.

At this point, I should try to pre-empt some possible comments that could be made (which would be in bad taste) by emphesising that this is a problem with human nature, and something we could all succomb to under financial and peer pressure. As a missionary myself, I've always had the problem of how to support myself in the ministry. Many have told me that it is perfectly justifiable to try to solicit donations for my work. I'm sure that's a path that G-d does lead many to travel, but I just don't feel it's for me ...and I tend to get turned off by too much of the Maddison Avenue approach.

The problem isn't by any means restricted to the Messianic movement (and it doesn't effect all of them either -- only certain ones). I heard one famous (non messianic) healing evangelist address a group of Bible School students where I was studying, and was deeply inspired by his personal testimony, and his desire to get more people involved in ministry. Later, I got hold of a set of his tapes from a teaching seminar on evangelism that he taught through an interpreter in Africa. I found him to be a very down-to-earth individual who inspired me very much. However, when I started getting his monthly newsletter, I was dissapointed. The side of him I saw as a student and through the eyes of an African pastor, was total lacking in his P.R. Instead, it was all about how I could have health and prosperity through, among other things, giving to his ministry. It was hard to believe it was the same person.

Perhaps it's because Emergent ministries, by their very nature, are not high-budget ventures, that they're not tempted by the latest advertising techniques. The most commerce I've seen so far are links to, and the occasional Google ad. What's more, anything that is of teaching value is usually offered for free.

As I've been saying, I believe that some of the most valuable teaching that the Body of Messiah needs right now comes from the Messianic movement. To be sure, there are quite a few articles and teachings that you can download for free, but there are others that are advertised as being vital to one's growth and development as a believer, or are essential to an understanding of certain Biblical texts, that come at a cost, or a high membership fee.

To me, it's like health. I like U.K. for the National Health Service. I don't think something so basic as good health should belong only to those who can pay exorbatant medical fees. Likewise, spiritual health. If something is so vital to my spiritual understanding, there should at least be something about it that can be downloaded for free, even if it's not as glossy and fine as what comes in the shrink wrapped box.

Another thing about Emergents -- at least the ones I've been following -- they all try to be, on their blogs and writings, what they are in person. And what they are is friendly, respectful and easy to be entreated (James 3:17). An example of this is a collective article entitled Response to Recent Criticisms, which I found to be a humble Christlike invitation for Emergents and non Emergents to understand one another.

I'm sorry to say that many (though not all) Messianics come across with the opposite spirit. To be sure, they've been through the worst of it as far as being misunderstood by both the Christian and Jewish communities. To be fair, I'm sure there are Emergents (though I haven't come across any) who would like to take a bulldozer to all traditional looking church buildings. It's noticeable on many websites and chat forums, that many Messianics have developed a rough edge. One gets the impression that pleasing God is not for the faint of heart.

Actually, when it gets right down to it, I agree that the life of faith is more than many make it out to be. But we're here to encourage one another in the faith, not scare one another off!

Just one more thing. It's so difficult to find a Messianic blog. There are a few, but they either represent one particular congregation or other in some American state far far away, or else they're full of pro-Israel anti Palistinian rhetoric. To be sure, I do believe there are issues to be threshed out in that field, but after a while, there's only so much that can be said before one begins repeating oneself and begins to sound tiresome.

We need a few Messianic blogs with the same flavour as the Emergent ones. That's where I hope this one will begin to fill the gap.

...and by the way, I do have a number of articles and study outlines on my website that should be valuable for a foundation in the faith.


Krista said...

I'm a Messianic Christian. *waves hand* And although my blog isn't going to be entirely about my faith entirely, it is a big part of my life, therefore, it is going to play a part, a large one!

Anonymous said...

I am very happy to see a site that does some explaining and affirmation to what I believe in. I know that there are many people out there who tote around their beliefs, which are mainly anti-Yeshua. Much of which is because of the biases of the founders of the early churches. I understand that yes, there is a need to be able to afford many things in this world. I do not agree with soliciting funding from the flock. It was Paul who would do much in the name of Yeshua, but he worked to pay the "bills", as a tent maker. I applaud what you have said and thankful that there are more out "there" who see what needs to be done.

Beshem Yeshua,