According to the Official Sage Handbook, sages should be skinny. Not only that, but a sage (especially when functioning as a prophet) should wear uncomfortable clothing and pursue a lifestyle of conspicuous self-deprivation. Many of you know that Moishe Rosen doesn’t exactly fit this description.
Some of the mishpochah who know Moishe as a preacher, teacher and author, realize that he is a different kind o sage. Maybe he is more of a dreamer than a sage. He has always been quick to share his dreams with those who could dream along, and not just dream along, but do along for the Lord. Sometimes those of us on the Jews for Jesus staff think that Moishe’s dreams sound outlandish, and other times curious. But most often, his dreams have motivated us to do more and be more for the Lord.
Since this is the first Mishpochah Message of the decade, we figured we’d coax Moishe into some sage attire, and get him talking about his hopes and expectations for the future of the Messianic Movement. These are not so much predictions as Moishe’s musings, and he would like you to take what he says with a grain of salt…maybe two! In any case, let the next few pages spice up your imagination as we all move together into the next decade.
As we begin the countdown of the last decade of this millennium, it is natural to wonder about the future. Well, I don’t have any inside information.” What I do have is a good place from which to observe what is coming over the horizon. Based upon those observations and charting current trends, let me say what I think might be ahead for the community of believers. When it comes to strategies and tactics, I expect certain trends will continue to develop.
So tell us, what do you think is ahead for evangelism?
There is no such thing as easy spiritual achievement. There are those who always catch our attention with some kind of spiritual gimmick, but these gimmicks, which are often seen as some shining new development, are usually based on the desires of the “old nature.”
As I daydream about the years ahead, I can’t imagine anyone inventing a quick-fix formula to win people to the Lord more effectively. God will use us to gather the harvest as we are obedient to the Holy Spirit and spend more time on our knees. There is no new thing or spiritual discovery on the horizon that will take the place of the old fashioned pre-prayered and prepared person-to-person ministry. But I don’t think it is inappropriate to think about what society will be like in the next decade, and how that will affect our task as gospel emissaries.
One trend is that far fewer people are trying to figure out things for themselves. They are willing to let others do the thinking for them. People tend to choose an authority to trust on this or that issue. The majority is entirely too willing to accept another person’s conclusion on almost any matter, so long as that person is an authority they trust. This is not good for the gospel, since most authorities” are hostile to God’s authority.
Because they are not thinking, they will accept what seems to be most agreeable to them. Also, in the interest of a “harmonious society,” we can expect various religions to continue emphasizing commonality and play down their differences and those things that make them to be distinct. In this type of society evangelists will always sound a discordant note, and we will seem strident because we have to say “everything cannot be true.” We must place truth above harmony–which brings me to another thing that I expect to see change in our society.
We have already witnessed a tremendously diminished sense of obligation in our society. We live in an age where one’s “yea” is not “yea” and one’s “nay” is not especially “nay.” What I expect to see rising from the ruin of broken commitments is something that was common just prior to the time of Christ: free associations. In ancient times there were guilds; later it was social clubs. In the past century, people gathered together for the purposes of benevolence. Voluntary associations such as B’nai B’rith and the Knights of Columbus were founded to help the poor. In the future, a different kind of association might develop: associations that compel people to honor agreements that are under the purview of that particular association. People who are committed to making their marriage work may join an association designed to uphold family values. Members will invest a significant amount of income as dues, and will have access to considerable benefits unless or until they violate their marriage agreement. The governing body of that association would expel violators and they would lose many benefits as well as a hefty investment.
I foresee voluntary associations becoming very strong, because we live in a society that makes it necessary to trust individuals who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy.
Since people will probably pay a sizeable amount of their income as dues to be part of these associations, there will be increasing segregation, not so much by race, but more likely by religion, profession, economic status, and especially by schools.
Schools create a society. The public school system is a shambles and there is no law that can be passed, or government program implemented to properly rebuild it. That is why I think you can expect every church, every synagogue, every religious and perhaps political organization to have its own school to promote its own values and values towards society.
I think the free associations will be impenetrable so far as the gospel is concerned. They will be tight societies where people trust one another and are suspicious of outsiders. The church will have to continue calling people out… calling them away from their society whether it is a small society or family or a larger society. People will have to lose much if they choose to follow Christ.
The ecclesia itself will have to take on the same aspect of mutual obligations, which will probably strengthen the movement of the gospel in the world. But our ways and means of reaching people will have to change to keep up with the times. We cannot ignore the fact that people are communicating differently.
What do you mean by new ways of communicating?
There is a trend toward more concise communications, and if we don’t cut down our verbiage, we will be left talking to ourselves. I wouldn’t be surprised to find sermons cut back to fifteen minutes. They have already been steadily shrinking. Maybe within a generation the standard worship service will be cut down to 30 minutes.
We cannot expect the world to listen to our carefully reasoned expositional sermons when they are busy talking to each other in slogans. People have been lining up their hearts behind catch phrases rather than carefully reasoned arguments since the mid-sixties. It began with mottos like “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” What does that mean, exactly? It is hard to say, but it sounds to me as though somehow, what happened yesterday does not matter. The only thing that matters is today. What does that say about obligations? Does it mean that the person you married twenty-five years ago is not your husband or wife because today is the first day of the rest of your life?
Despite the ambiguity, it was a comforting slogan and people drift towards comfort and convenience. We, too, must learn to speak in slogans. But instead of vacuous, sugar-coated cliches, we should be dispensing succinct and significant truths.
In what form do you picture us dispensing these truths?
Picture is the right word, because people are going for more visual (and less verbal) communication that arouses feelings rather than imparting information. Many people are too over-stimulated to be curious. We are quickly losing the joy of discovery.
If we want to move into the ’90s, we must also learn to use visual communications. That means employing videocassettes and interactive computers to reach and teach people in their own homes, which is where more and more communication is taking place.
We need to ask ourselves, “How can we use telephones?” “How can we use computer bulletin board systems?” Being physically present with a person is not as important as it once was. But person-to-person communications and interaction are.
It isn’t likely that television will be a practical way for messianic Jews to do evangelism. Christians will tolerate poorly produced religious programs, but non-Christians will mostly ignore them. I don’t think any one group can afford the kind of programming that commercial sponsors can. And the reason we can’t is a lack of unity; most believers are loyal only to their own particular unit or body. TV religious programming will still have a following, but that following will be mostly those who are already persuaded.
So though I am not particularly hopeful about television as an evangelistic tool, I do envision many outreach opportunities with computers and video. These media will never replace the person-to-person contact, but I think they will prove effective.
What challenges do you think we will face?
An increasing challenge will be the counter-propaganda that has already begun to dislodge many Christians from seeing that Jesus is for everybody. Too many believers have a faith devoid of doctrinal content; they are defenseless and unable to answer challenges. They haven’t been taught the answers; they haven’t been “catechized” (a method of teaching using memorization of prepared questions and answers).
Religion has become, for many, a matter of personal preference rather than of personal conviction. Religious leaders are becoming more and more like political leaders. Those who make the best short presentation and took most honorable attract followers, but they cannot allow themselves to take unpopular stands.
The church itself is threatened as we have a number of stay-at-home believers who support parachurch organizations, get their teaching from tapes and television and see no reason to go to a local church. If you stop and think for a moment, what do local congregations offer? Most have relegated their relief and education programs to the government. Many have become voluntary associations that do little for their members except provide preaching (which they call worship) and one hour a week of Sunday school, which is usually designed more for inspiration than education.
The super-church of 5,000 or more people will diminish because the ministers and the ministry of that church are as remote as television; so why not worship at the foot of the TV? I can imagine people getting a subscription to a TV church like they would subscribe to HBO. Communion will be mailed to their homes, and if they don’t send in their monthly offering envelope, they will be disconnected from their religion!
Society will become more and more depersonalized…but if believers follow suit, we will be less able to testify of what it means to have a personal relationship with God, and to enjoy the fellowship of other living, breathing believers.
I think another challenge to proclaiming the gospel will be increasing political and legal problems. Freedom of speech is on the decline. I think we will continue to take one step forward and two steps back, because of the deterioration of the commitment to “justice for all.” And there is a burlesque on the Golden Rule: he who has the gold does the ruling.
Don’t you envision any bright spots?
We need not be entirely pessimistic about our society’s ills. First, the hearts of certain people will be pricked. God will use the bad condition of society to call certain ones out of that society. And there will be enclaves of believers to receive them. Second, a good world is bad for the gospel, while a bad world is good for the gospel. When we view the world as something worth clinging to, we tend to cease clinging to God. What I look for in the next ten years is the growth of house churches or extended families where people who are depending on God will commit themselves to one another.
Also, communications have so improved that it is possible for somebody, say in Baltimore, Maryland, to be talking regularly to and ministering to someone in Tucson, Arizona. As computers become more advanced, we will be able to have information—say a megabyte—transmitted electronically in less than a minute. And that kind of communication will enable us to minister far and wide. This is another bright spot.
I look forward to an increased outreach to Russian Jews as one of the bright spots on the horizon of the ’90s. The openness in Russia and in Eastern Europe will help, albeit for a limited time. All of Eastern Europe will open up. Israel will prove to be a more difficult place in which to minister.
How does that make Israel a “bright spot”?
Israeli Jews will be more open, because as the Israeli government tries to suppress the gospel, people will want to hear “the X-rated gospel.” Frankly, I think the best thing for the gospel in Israel would be to have the government outlaw it. When governments ban the proclamation of the gospel, only the truly committed people are the promulgators. This would solve one problem in Israel, namely, some Christians there have no commitment to evangelism. They feel their mere existence is some kind of evangelism.
I expect that many people who have gone to Israel under the Law of Return without mentioning that they were Christians will be tried and convicted of fraud at a time which is convenient to Israel. They will be put in a position where they will either have to deny Christ or be expelled from the country. Their definition of their own Jewishness will not be accepted.
That may sound gloomy, but when it happens you can start looking for underground Christianity in Israel. We know from China and Russia that where Christianity is suppressed, it flourishes. Christianity is not the religion of the prosperous; it is not the religion of rulers; it is a religion of those who are seeking God and are willing to be pressed down, willing to live on the lowest level of society for the sake of their convictions.
One very bright spot which I have not heard mentioned: we can and should be reaching children of intermarried couples. More and more couples are looking for solutions to raising children in mixed marriages. Yeshua really is the answer. If both parents come to know Jesus, the Jewishness of the Christian faith can help bridge the culture gap. Faith in Yeshua will guide the relationship as well as providing an answer to the question of what to teach the children.
I believe that providing religious teaching for the children is often the doorway for reaching adults. I would like to see an inter-faith Sunday school started and curriculums built.
Christianity is too often presented in the United States as a false religion: the religion of prosperity where God is our little helper. So the coming oppression in Israel will help. The church tends to lower its standards in the face of a smiling society.
What kind of unity do you envision for Jewish believers in the 1990s?
I believe that rather than a national or international uniting, there will be unity within a particular group following a particular leader. I imagine there will be a league of leaders who agree to approve of each other.
I do think that Jewish missions, Messianic congregations and individual Jewish believers will work together in a few different ways. We already have some good openings with each other. The key is giving, and not merely finances but credibility and opportunities to be heard. Sometimes the most difficult thing to give is the benefit of the doubt.
I think we are learning that we do not need to judge the effectiveness or the integrity of other leaders and groups, but we do need to interface with them. I do think there is more of that going on, and I see no reason why it cannot continue.
Another challenge for unity will arise on an international scale. As air travel becomes more affordable, I believe we will be faced more and more with questions of how to relate to our messianic brothers and sisters from other nations.
If one of the keys to unity is giving, another key is to have reasonable expectations. I do believe we can expect to understand each other better. That doesn’t mean we will no longer have differences, but as communications improve, we will know what we can reasonably expect from one another.
Unity does not come about by twenty people getting together and saying that “we are one,” but by two people getting together and saying “we are one”—then inviting a third to be one with them. I think there will be many unities, rather than one big unity for all to join. Nor would we want that kind of monolithic church unity. The Body of Christ is one body in that members accept one another as the Lord has accepted each of us. But when it comes to administering tasks and responsibilities, we need to rely upon local bodies of believers: particular people in a particular place.
In every age we seem to face a number of doctrinal challenges. Do you expect such challenges to continue?
I cannot stress too much the importance of preparing scholars who will be able to answer these questions with confidence in the years ahead. I think the best challenge Jewish believers will face in the ’90s is going to come from a “counter-missionary” movement. They will attempt to undermine our belief in the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the validity of the New Testament. If we take the challenge seriously, it will help us to sit down, study and record our answers. The opposition will not only keep us intellectually honest, but will also cause us to do a lot more thinking. We all play better against good opponents; as our opposition sharpens, so should we. Organizations like Jews for Jesus should seek to sponsor worthy persons to study in doctoral and postdoctoral programs.
On the other hand, we have the nebulous challenge of me-centered” theologies like the “New Age” movement, where “how I feel” and “discovering the divinity within myself” are paramount. We need to draw clear lines between our monotheistic faith and the ubiquitous spiritual smorgasbord of pantheistic trends.
I think we will also find doctrinal challenges from special interest groups who will attempt to rewrite or re-interpret the Scriptures to affirm themselves rather than affirming God. You may already have heard a special interest group insisting that the love between certain men in the Bible was actually a homosexual love. People want to use Scripture as a road map to self-justification rather than a road map to arrive at God’s destination.
What trends do you think are in store for the mainstream Jewish community?
The glue which has kept Jewish people together is persecution. When persecution diminishes, as it has in the U.S., our people don’t tend to draw their spiritual values from Judaism, unless they become very frum (very orthodox) and very mystical. Some moderns still practice that kind of Judaism, but most have rejected the strict separationist kinds of Judaism. I think that the Jewish community will not only be more open to the truth of Christ during the next decade. But it will also be more open to the deception of the “New Age” movement and its false religions as our people seek to fill a spiritual vacuum. Buddha’s teachings are already being presented in some Jewish Community Centers. Yet of all the things that Jews are open to, the gospel may still be at the bottom of the list. Prejudice dies hard. Once people are indoctrinated to reject something, they tend to continue rejecting it. Foreign religious trends are more acceptable to our people simply because is it easier to be considered a Bohemian than a betrayer.
Other trends I envision are sharper divisions between “Jewish fundamentalists,” such as are in the Chabad movement, and those Jews who are more liberal. If Jewish leaders don’t denounce the Chabad Lubavitcher movement as a messianic cult, this ultra-Orthodox sect will create chaos in the Jewish community by its militant recruiting and clamoring for funds. The only relationship they seem to want from their fellow Jews is that all should become followers of their Rebbi Menachem Schneerson. Of him they whisper, not too privately, that he might be the Messiah.
Demographically, there will probably be much less emphasis placed on living in the same place. People will move away from New York and Boston, and more toward the Sunbelt. As long as there are jobs, the trend will continue for Jews to head south and westward, and certainly in retirement.
Our movement needs to maintain its flexibility and mobility if we want to keep up with our people. Even when Jews for Jesus buys a piece of property, we’re ready to sell any property we own and take a loss if we need to. We won’t be tied to location.
What about the Second Coming? Isn’t it about time already?
The messianic hope usually rises as safety and the quality of life go down, as shown in “Fiddler On the Roof.” When the people were forced to leave their village, one paused to ask the rabbi, “Wouldn’t now be a good time for the Messiah to come?” The rabbi’s answer, as I recall, is that anytime is a good time.
The Bible says not to be weary in well doing, and part of our “well doing” is to anticipate and hope in Yeshua’s return. But hope and impatience are not the same thing. Hope looks forward to better things coming. Impatience cannot tolerate hope, for it cannot see beyond present conditions. Impatience is a temptation to be resisted. We need to curb our impatience and build our hope.
We need to think more about the Second Coming of Yeshua in this new decade. Thoughts of his return affect all we do: how we build a life, how we build a congregation, how we build a reputation and what we do or do not expect from life. I’m grieved when people do not see their career, job, means of earning a living, as an adjunct to their spiritual life, but rather their spiritual life takes a back seat to other “priorities.” What I hope to see is more people building their lives around Yeshua and what he wants for them. Imagine what life would be like if we all behaved as though Yeshua would be here today, before lunch! After all, if you believe Yeshua is about to arrive you aren’t going to set out to build a cathedral or buy an auto part that has a lifetime guarantee.
Some don’t talk about the Second Coming because they want to avoid a dispute with a brother or sister. The key to getting along is to recognize that people give weight to different passages. A good example of this is in the area of tithing. Every Southern Baptist knows Malachi 3, but how many know Deuteronomy 14, which says you can spend the tithe for strong drink? When you compare one text against the other there is no contradiction, but you have to decide which is the primary text and how the other texts fit in.
We can usually learn from people who disagree with us. I’ve heard different teachers give their best shot on their positions on the Second Coming and I could not find agreement in my own heart, but I came to have all the more confidence in my own position. Does it make me cynical? No! What does disappoint me is when I find people who should believe in his immediate coming but really don’t. Others who should care, don’t.
Another person’s zeal or lack thereof has never become the occasion for me to become cynical. I think it is good for us to grapple with other people’s zeal for positions with which we disagree. Maybe their zeal will fire up some zeal of our own. It’s hard to be indifferent around the passionate pleader for scriptural truth, whether or not we agree with their emphasis.
We need to realize that there are legitimate reasons why committed believers disagree. The way to get along with committed believers who love the Lord as much as you do, yet disagree with your doctrine, is to approach them with humility. Humility is the best lubrication for relationships; it helps us move together smoothly yet it does not make us slippery in the process!
How do we approach one another with humility? Let us take personally the Apostle Paul’s observation that “now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall know, even as we are known.” If, in fact, we do see through a glass darkly, there is no room for arrogance on anyone’s part. Let our boast not be in the rightness of our doctrine but let us boast in our Redeemer.
There is one aspect of the Second Coming on which we can all agree. It will happen! The advice I give Jewish believers, Gentile believers, all believers regardless of their eschatological persuasion is: Cleave to Christ, yearn for Yeshua, forsake the world. Don’t let your hope be in the world. Let your hope be in the Lord. This present world is passing away. There is nothing here on this earth for you.
Things are getting better and worse at the same time. Better for grabby, immoral people—worse for people who want to follow God and bear one another’s burdens.
I do expect the Second Coming of Messiah, which is our blessed hope. I believe there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit just before, just at the time or just after his coming! All we have to do is have one hope. That is, that Yeshua will return. All the rest will happen as it should.
How does prayer fit into your scenario for the future? Isn’t it a tremendous source of untapped power?
I would like to emphasize the power of prayer, but first let’s talk about what prayer does not do. Prayer does not send God on our errands and give him directions so that he knows what we need him to do. People become disappointed and disillusioned with prayer when they don’t understand it well enough to want what it can do for them.
Prayer is a joining of oneself to God. It is being with God, sitting with God, seeing things the way he sees them by opening up to what he thinks and what he feels about things. It enables us to see through his eyes, hear through his ears, love with his heart and know, with his mind, what we should do. That’s the first function of prayer: fellowship with the Almighty, the at-one-ment made possible by Yeshua’s atonement.
Then there’s the matter of petition, where the Father almost teases us and says, “Son/daughter, do you really want me to do this?” And we say, “Yes, Father, please do it.” Then with a smile, he does it to show not only his power, but also his love and his care for us. That’s the role of petition.
Do we bring down heaven when we pray? No. God is not brought here or brought there by our beck and call. Does prayer change things? Yes indeed, prayer changes things, but first of all it changes us. Then it makes us to be changers of the world!
The need for prayer is greater than it has ever been, but not merely a simpering, whimpering, pleading with God to take care of all our concerns. Yes, God wants us to express our concerns to him. But what is needed most in prayer is for us to be at one with God. Through that oneness we begin seeing things in a different light. Through that oneness we have access to the spiritual power which the Lord promised: the power of the Holy Spirit.
The kind of prayer I’m talking about can only be learned from God himself. God does not extend himself to a to believer unless that believer desires oneness with God, and for the right reason: not to be elevated in this world or even to accomplish something good in this world, but just to be with God. That’s the real meaning of prayer.
The service of God is also prayer. When we go out to do what God told us to do, our actions are saying, “yea and amen, it is true.” That, too, is prayer. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Our whole life should be a Psalm of attitudes and actions that are saying “yes” to God, and telling him of our love for him. All that we do should be part of that Psalm of life.
As a Jewish believer with two adult children who are serving the Lord, can you offer any advice in bringing up the next generation?
I do not know what we did right, or for that matter, what we did wrong! Jewish heritage is a part of my life, but frankly I never considered myself capable of teaching it well. Yes, we celebrated the Jewish holidays, and Ceil spent some time trying to teach them rudimentary Hebrew. But in certain ways, I think they were more influenced by the people that we ministered to than by their mother or myself.
As children, they learned from us that they are Jews and they did not question that. But as young adults, our daughters saw the value that other Jewish believers placed on their Jewishness and came to their own affirmative positions. That’s something about ministry—as you give yourself to others and bring them into your life, it may not occur to you, but people are giving something of themselves in return. Those who truly minister will enrich their families in ways that may not be known until later.
As an aside, let me offer a word of comfort to the parents who did their best to raise their children, and they feel so guilty to find their children are not walking with the Lord. We must remember that conversion is always the work of grace in the life of an individual. We must never think that our children will walk with the Lord, just because we walk with the Lord. If we “train up a child in the ways of the Lord,” says the Scripture, “when he is old he will not depart from them.” Some children never enter into that training, though they show outward compliance. I’ve seen some children of Jewish believers who were more interested in the world than in anything pertaining to the Lord. Hence they pursued the world rather than following the Lord.
Our challenge in raising up the next generation is to be living examples, to be diligent and to see to their education as best we can. You know that you cannot give a child a religious education with one hour of religious instruction a week. One challenge will be out-of-pocket expenses; it’s going to cost money. I’d love to see more messianic day schools and nurseries, with full-time curriculum. I’d love to see more Jewish believers locating themselves nearer to one another for the purpose of association.
I think we can presume that our children will learn reading, writing and arithmetic in the course of their regular schooling. But they need to learn what it means to walk with God. They need to have their lives enriched, not only to know how to communicate or enhance their lives, but because sometimes you learn more truth through art than you do through reportage. I’d like to see enrichment programs of dance, music and art for children.
The biggest challenge to the messianic parents of this generation will be, “Are you willing to pay the price, do without a second car or forgo that vacation, so that your children can learn? What will you do without and what kind of sacrifice will you make to raise up your children in the Lord?”
The government is certainly not going to provide Bible-based training. The missions can’t do it because they’ve been greatly weakened. It is the Messianic congregations who must provide a proper education for the children of their members in order to validate their ministries. Preaching doesn’t validate the ministry. The Great Commission is not to “preach away.” It involves teaching and making disciples. If we cannot do that in our local congregations, what makes us think we can do it “in all the world?” A bird can’t fly with one wing, at least not very far. Besides that, it is grotesque! Very frankly, if we attend to adults and ignore the ch