The Greek word commonly translated into church” is ekklesia. It means “the called-out ones.” The Hebrew word, kehilla, means “congregation” or “gathering.” A church is simply the gathering of believers who have been called out from the world to serve Yeshua. The church is not a building, it is people: Jews and Gentiles who believe and experience God’s saving grace through Yeshua. How should we choose a congregation? Consider the following:
- Choose a congregation which promotes and upholds the central doctrines of the faith. If a church puts a high priority on a unique doctrine which most believers do not emphasize, consider that the other believers might have a good reason!
- Beware of exclusivism. When church leaders and congregates talk as though they are the most spiritually “alive,” most doctrinally correct, or even the most Jewish fellowship in your community, it will only serve to alienate you from other believers—even from other Jewish believers whose fellowship you need. Be content with a congregation that is ordinary and accepting of all who love the Lord.
- Choose a congregation which is adequate in many, areas rather than looking for a church which is superb in only one. It is a mistake to join a body solely because you love the pastor. Pastors leave congregations. Maybe you could sit and listen to your pastor all day, but if the church has no child-care and you have children, how are you meeting your duty toward diem? Will you pay a baby-sitter to stay home with the kids while you and your spouse go to worship? The assembling of believers is not an entertainment. It should be an activity in which the entire family can participate.
Nor would I recommend a congregation on the sole basis that it is Jewish in orientation. If the closest messianic congregation is two hours away, by all means, trek out there on Friday nights. But do participate in a closer congregation as well, so you can not only appreciate a weekly service, but also become involved in the community life of a congregation.
It is important to weigh all factors and involve yourself in a congregation where you can both be ministered to and minister.
- Choose a congregation where the Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice. Does the preacher encourage you to investigate the Word of God for yourself or does he expect you to listen only to his interpretation of Scripture. In some congregations, the church leaders’ authority and the authority of the Word of God become co-mingled. An elder has no right to forbid what the Bible permits or to permit what the Bible forbids. There is nothing wrong with a “high-demand” church, as long as the demands are from God, not man.
If your elders are not accountable to any body of ministers outside of your own particular congregation, be careful. We must all be accountable to one another and to the Scriptures. When choosing a church, avoid self- appointed, yet unanointed leaders. Beware of the person who claims he is answerable to God alone.
- Choose a congregation where your Jewishness is appreciated but not applauded. We don’t want to be in congregations where out Jewishness is despised or barely tolerated. On the other hand, some of us have attended churches where the mere fact that we are Jewish seems to confer celebrity status upon us. At first it boosts the ego, but like sweets, too much attention is difficult to digest and can even make you a little sick to your stomach. Honestly, don’t you ever feet like you just want to be part of the congregation and not the Jewish member? If you do, mention it to your pastor, he would want to know. H you don’t remedy the situation, you might even start believing that you’re as wonderful and spiritual as everyone thinks…and that would be a tragedy!
Also, you want your congregation to have more than a “say-so” love for the Jewish people…you want it to be a “do-so” love. A simple way to tell if a church cams about our people is to find out whether the congregation supports mission work among the Jews. This is an obvious indication of love and concern. If the church you hope to join does not care about Jewish evangelism, you will probably be unhappy there. Yet, there may be strengths that override this weakness. The congregation may never have been taught to care for and support ministry to the Jewish people. What better way for them to gain a burden for reaching Jewish people than having you involved in the life of the church?
So be careful, be prayerful, and do not forsake the assembling together of brothers and sisters in Jesus.