An essay on sometimes competing strands of ministry in the body of Messiah.
I'm going to be speaking at Christian City Church School of Ministry in Oxford Falls tomorrow and Harvest Bible College in Dandenong next Tuesday. Each of these colleges affords good opportunities for their students to experience many dimensions of the life of the church, including academics and spirituality and prayer and such. Then next Thursday I will speak to the Reformed Theological Seminary near Geelong. There I expect things will be a bit more academic and a bit different in style to that of these previous two.
This makes me think about what we produce at colleges and seminaries and such. What about what I'm reproducing in my ministry?
Sheep create sheep; pastors produce pastors; academicians self-duplicate and so do missionaries.
Now here's how this usually plays out. A pastor-driven church models pastoral care for the parishioners and thus home groups abound, and the maintenance and preservation of the church is vital and consistent. Outreach is usually to members of other churches and to members of church members' families. Growth is seen in personal growth and not necessarily in terms of numbers of attendants. Transfer and biological growth ensue, but usually little conversion growth. The highest title a person achieves and desires is 'pastor' or perhaps in more authority-structured churches, 'apostle.'
At universities, academics is highlighted and some Bible colleges and seminaries do the same. Their telos is to produce more academicians. A student will want to teach at a uni when he or she concludes their studies. Or they will want to gain another degree. Growth is seen as attaining more information and knowledge and of course, commensurate wisdom. 'Doctor' is the valued title, to be sure.
When missions are outreach oriented, and souls are at stake, the
development of styles of bringing others to Messiah Y'shua are
highlighted. Titles are usually dropped. Numbers of conversions are counted. Personal growth can be sidelined and so can programs of institutionalism. Academics and personal spirituality are useful tools to conversions, but not necessarily of great import to the mission. People who come to faith are tracked to become soldiers in the army of recruiters to bring in others.
So let's think about teamwork and not competition for a bit.
When I as a missionary attend an academic institution to speak about Y'shua or Jewish people from my side of things, I know I'm going against the grain. It's not wrong that the institution is self-propagating; it's the way we all work. So I have to give testimony to other angles on the same truths that they might teach. I have to share say, "Christ in the Passover" from a personal point of view, or an evangelistic point of view, or a Jewish life point of view, rather than (only) an academic viewpoint.
When I teach "Biblical Theology of Mission" I cannot duplicate the academic perspective, nor should I. What I need to bring is a Jewish highlighting, perhaps from personal experience or from historic Jonah vs. Peter at Joppa or even using Jewish objects of art to wrap around the information.
This way we are a team. The academic brings information from his or her point, the missionary from his.
Take the missionary visit to the church. We hope to help the church grow in relation to outreach which puts their neighbours in the view and life of the church. We hope that the church will include Jewish people in their thinking, outside the usual concerns of most churches and certainly outside the concern of most pastors, whose principle job is to care for the sheep.
The pastor is not wrong. The pastor in fact is doing exactly what they should do if they care for the sheep. Our role is to help the sheep see other things, to see more possible ministries in which they can participate.
We should not compete with the pastor nor the academician. We are on the same team with them.
Now that Jews for Jesus is over 30 years old, and most of our programming is moving towards developing the growth of 2nd and even 3rd generation Jewish believers, our situation of life is changing. We are moving away from direct evangelism as our singular definer and including major programs of personal growth and spirituality as well as academic growth. This is healthy and good.
So now we are looking at young adults who have grown up in the faith. Their models of growth have been pastoral for the most part. And thus, their style of ministry will encompass that aspect. Some will enjoy the rigors of academia and hope to fit in there. Good for them!
All the while, our ministry seeks to make Y'shua known to our people and has a core value of direct Jewish evangelism as our priority. And so we should.
But the young adults whose orientation has been pastoral/ congregational will need a fresh infusion of missional thinking. This will require us to think of reproduction in a fresh way. We have to 'win' the won to our cause. We have to help 2nd or 3rd generation Jewish believers to see direct Jewish evangelism as a great priority. We have to market evangelism in a different way, but always in a personal and challenging way.
It's perfectly acceptable for ministries to change foci. It's right to continually seek God to determine what He wants for us. Then we must be faithful to that desire and execute it.