Grassroots 2013 was an event that almost was not. A self-proclaimed “nonference” (“it’s not a conference”), Grassroots curates interaction between 80–100 young Jewish believers, with an emphasis on Messianic leadership. I attended my first nonference in August 2012 after the Asheville Music Festival, Grassroots’ auditory offspring. Grassroots was to conclude at that concert, yet it has continued.
As in past years, Grassroots 2013, which this time met in Seattle, pooled an assemblage of Messianic congregations in the area. In addition there were young Messianic Jews with various associations spanning both coasts and the midwest. We bonded over Shabbat services, meals, worship sessions, and generous helpings of free time.
During the final evening, a late-night worship session brought attendees into a special place of openness before the Lord. Matt Rosenberg, the weekend’s master of ceremonies and rabbi at Seattle’s Beit Messiah Messianic Synagogue, shared about the life and recent passing of Jhan Moskowitz. (Jhan’s significance in the Messianic world was addressed two editions ago in Havurah.) Matt’s words made way for reconciliation between congregational and mission-affiliated attendees. Hugs, prayers, tears, and more worship followed.
Over the years, splits have developed among several camps of the Messianic movement. Chasms have widened over time by lack of commitment to narrowing them. This has been true of both congregations and Jewish missions.
But relationships heal. Growing up, I attended Beth Messiah Congregation in northern New Jersey, planted by Chosen People Ministries. Many in that congregation alongside whom I grew in faith wanted to distance themselves from association with “Jews for Jesus.” This breach was largely mended when Josh Sofaer, then Jews for Jesus branch leader in New York City, made our house of worship his home. Recently, I ended up joining the communications team at Jews for Jesus in San Francisco.
And critically, for the first time Grassroots’ leadership included a non-congregational member, Aaron Trank, who is Minister-at-Large for Jews for Jesus. Though Aaron is chiefly involved with the Messianic Jewish missional world, he also grew up in a Messianic congregation. His involvement in Grassroots is another example of the healing taking place.
Grassroots attendee and Messianic leader Aaron Kasdan likened Messianic unity to being fingers of the same hand rather than limbs of the same body. As the Messianic Jewish component of the greater church body, we need to keep our fingernails and skin cells clean and healthy, bearing one another’s burdens. As a product of a Messianic congregation and serving with a Jewish mission, I am exceedingly grateful for the evolving, unified Messianic community.
As believers, we are called to be both missional (Romans 1:16) and congregational (Hebrews 10:25). This means that sharing our faith with the unsaved Jewish community has a dual nature. First, congregations deliberately reach Jewish people. Sometimes this comes through partnering with Jewish missions, augmenting their programs and events with congregational volunteers and trainees. Second, all Jewish believers should know how to consciously explain what it means to them to be a “Jew” and “for Jesus,” whether they have a personal connection to a particular organization or not.
I see the fingers—our organizations—together touching the Jewish community with the message that Yeshua is our messiah. Grassroots has brought about unity and renewed spiritual energy in the rising Messianic Jewish generation. My involvement in Grassroots now influences my work in San Francisco. Let’s pray that this fresh life drives a second wave of Jewish revival in which God calls many of our lost people back to Himself.
Space does not allow us to include other such gatherings, such as Muchan (www.muchanconference.com) or the Young Harvest Passover seders in the Chicagoland area. For a partial listing, see Dan Tasman’s blog at www.risenmessiah.com/one-in-messiah-219. And let us know about similar gatherings out there!