JEWISH FOLLOWERS OF YESHUA
in the Church
by Ken and Lenore Mullican
When a Jewish person accepts Yeshua as his Messiah, he faces a number of problems and needs, of which most church members of non-Jewish origin are essentially unaware. It is our purpose in this article to point out some of the concerns voiced to us by Jewish followers of Yeshua, with the hope that readers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, will be encouraged to seek the Lord's guidance in working together to provide meaningful experiences of worship and growth within the Body of Yeshua.
Of utmost importance to our discussion is one very basic fact that must be understood by both Church and Synagogue: a Jewish person does not lose his Jewishness when he accepts Yeshua as his Messiah. Today, being Jewish and following Yeshua are generally considered as being mutually exclusive, but this has not always been so. Yeshua himself, when he walked this earth, was Jewish. All the apostles were Jewish. The first church in Jerusalem was entirely Jewish. And the first missionaries who brought the good news of salvation through Yeshua to the pagan Gentiles were Jewish. While it is remembered that some Jews rejected Yeshua as Messiah, it is often forgotten that many contemporary Jews accepted him, and many Jews have accepted him down through the centuries. But what happened to the Jews who accepted Yeshua after the first century and were incorporated into a largely non-Jewish Church? History sadly reveals that the Jewish followers have been deprived of their rich heritage, often by violent means. The Church, in turn, has not only been deprived of biblical understanding from a Hebraic perspective, but also many misunderstandings have arisen by attempting to interpret a Jewish document (the Bible) from a western mindset.
Some non-Jewish church members seem fearful that celebrating the biblical feasts and developing an appreciation of the Jewish roots of our faith will "place them in bondage to the Law." This matter was addressed very nicely in Acts 15, when the Jerusalem Council affirmed the freedom we enjoy in Yeshua.
The non-Jews were free to follow Yeshua with minimal requirements and without assuming a "Jewish identity," but what is often overlooked is that the Jewish followers were free to accept salvation through Yeshua and still retain their Jewish identity. Do we dare to deprive ourselves of the freedom so wisely granted to the Church by the Jerusalem Council, composed of some of the very men who walked with our Lord Yeshua?
What does the Jewish follower of Yeshua miss most when he or she comes to worship in many churches? The most common replies include: the liturgy of the Jewish worship service; the joy and appreciation of the rich heritage embodied in the biblical festivals; and a Hebraic understanding of the Bible. He finds himself in a somewhat alien environment; usually faced with only one of two choices: conform to forms of worship devoid of a Hebraic perspective, or simply not attend church services. Though it may be difficult for the non-Jew to understand, the Jewish follower often feels uncomfortable in church, as though he doesn't belong. These feelings, of course, vary with the individual and whether he comes from a religious or secular background. But the fact is, the feelings exist, and because they exist in a portion of the Body of Yeshua, those feelings are of concern to the entire
We are not suggesting that present day churches discard meaningful forms of worship and study in favor of some nebulous first-century model. We don't live in the first century and many of us probably would not find their forms of worship as meaningful as those we practice in our churches today. Indeed, considering the wide variety of forms of worship in the churches, it would seem that our Creator appreciates variety of worship experience; the Bible
itself confirms this idea with numerous examples. What we are suggesting is that followers of Yeshua everywhere:
1) consider diligently the needs and feelings of all the members of the Body and endeavor to meet those needs;
2) seek to discover ways to incorporate the rich heritage of the Jewish roots of our faith in
both our private and corporate worship and Bible study; and
3) seek to establish ways in which both Jewish and non-Jewish members can contribute to the total worship and study experience. It is our prayer that the Lord will use the above suggestions as a catalyst in bringing a new awareness of heretofore unrecognized needs, as well as an unprecedented cooperation in developing a deeper, more meaningful worship experience through a fuller appreciation of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
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Ken and Lenore Mullican are both graduates of Oklahoma University; Ken has a B.S. and an M.S. in medical microbiology, and Lenore has a B.S. in nursing.
They attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, prior to appointment to medical work at the Baptist Hospital in the Gaza Strip, where they served five years. Lenore Mullican, daughter of Dr. Robert and Margaret Lindsey, grew up in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew. (Dr. Lindsey is a well-known Greek and Hebrew scholar with extensive research in the area of the Synoptic Gospels. He is pastor of Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem. Dr. Lindsey is also one of the founders of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Studies.)
Both are employed at the City of Faith Medical and Research Center in Tulsa, a part of the Oral Roberts Ministries. Ken is currently microbiology supervisor of the hospital laboratory and Lenore is employed as a utilization review nurse, reviewing patient charts for compliance with federal regulations. She also teaches modern Hebrew at O.R.U.
They are founders of Ha-Kesher, The Connection, a ministry whose primary purpose is to assist believers in developing a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus through the study of Hebrew language and culture. Current activities include Ha-Kesher Fellowship meetings, Hebrew and language classes, and Hebrew Studies Seminars. They also endeavor to support the activities of biblical scholars such as those of the Jerusalem School for the Study of the Synoptic Gospels.
Yavo Digest, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1987
[Tribute to the late Dr. Lindsey]
Bible Scholars: Question the Answers
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