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BEING CHURCH, BECOMING COMMUNITY

The Church of Jesus Christ is a reality in the world as it has not ceased to be for twenty centuries. Indeed, its foundations stretch back for 3,500 years to the congregation that God summoned to Sinai to become his covenant people. Today, all those who come in faith to Jesus, confessing and repenting of sins, are born from above and are members of the family of God, coequal members of the universal congregation of Jesus, the community of faith. None is greater than the other, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or denominational affiliation. All are one in the Messiah; all are the church, a true state of being.

In the face of the challenges of post-modernism, New Age philosophy, and neo-Paganism, what is needed now for the health of the church is a return to the Hebraic model that undergirded the church of Jesus and the apostles. For the well- being of the church, community must be built first so that congregation can emerge as a necessary outworking of community, not vice versa.

In order to fulfill God’s plan for our time, we must continue being the church, but we must also work at becoming a community. The question that confronts those who have a burning passion for the restoration of the global Hebraic community is this: How can we keep this work from becoming another passing fancy of a fad-conscious society? How can we ensure that it makes a profound and lasting impact upon the lifestyle of the Christian community and changes forever the church’s thinking with regard to Israel and the Jewish people?

The answer to these questions is found in the strategy that King David employed when he proposed to restore the Ark of the Covenant to a place of prominence in Israel. Listen to the 1 Chronicles 13:1-3 account of this event: “Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, ‘If it seems good to you, and if it is from the Lord our God . . . let us bring back the ark of our God to us.’ ”

In a virtual reenactment of this ancient Davidic strategy, the Holy Spirit is now calling leaders throughout the Christian community to come together and consider how we may restore and perpetuate the New Testament order of God’s Hebraic system of praise, worship, and service. This work is too great for any one man or any single organization to accomplish. Therefore, it is vital that both leadership and the people of God be brought together for interactive dialogue and collective strategy development. Networking is the focus of God’s designs for this time, just as it was in David’s day. Leaders must abandon their proclivities toward self-aggrandizement and turf-protection to become mutually submitted to one another. We must learn to work together as teammates who respect and honor one another’s talents and “otherness.” We must stop trying to build up our own ministries and concentrate on helping one another facilitate the breaking forth of God’s kingdom. When we do, God will support, strengthen, and multiply our efforts.

One means of achieving this goal is to adopt a true servant-leadership model, of which David, the “man after God’s own heart,” is a prime example. He was able to include the leaders of Israel and “all the people” in the important decisions because he was the servant of God and of the people. He never fought to gain power, nor did he ever fight to maintain it. He understood that only God sets up and takes down leaders; therefore, he was able to function in true servant leadership. Jesus said it well: “He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant.” Servanthood is the model for New Testament leadership. God is looking for servants, not lords; for facilitators, not dictators.

This concept runs cross-current to traditional Gentile ideas of leadership, where entitlement to power and privilege is jealously hoarded and maintained with murderous efficiency. Our model must be the yeshivas of the ancient Jewish sages, where every man was “greenlighted” to express his views on every issue and where all issues were decided in the safety of a “multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6). This is the biblical environment in which unity of vision and strategy can be achieved.

Because of its emphasis on orthodoxy and creedalism, Christianity has sought to establish unity through uniformity. If some could not subscribe to the prescribed “faith,” they were anathematized, excommunicated, ostracized, and often even murdered. This approach to unity has produced a fragmented Christianity engaged in internecine carnage, with more energy expended upon exchanges of polemic pyrotechnics than upon engaging the enemy of men’s souls. Denominationalism’s quest for purity of doctrine has more often than not produced impurity of the soul. As Pogo in the comics said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”

The Hebraic model of unity, on the other hand, is one of unity in diversity, with each person’s distinctives respected and honored. With this model, we can affirm our brotherhood both in Adam and in the Messiah, equipping us for the Christ-mandated task of loving all mankind. We can be our brother’s brother (not just our brother’s keeper) regardless as to his gender, ethnicity, race, culture, nationality, or denominational affiliation. We can demonstrate the truth that the community of faith is nothing more than an extended family joined in covenant with the Divine, for covenant is a family dynamic that involves people and God.

If the cause of restoring the church’s Hebraic heritage is to succeed in changing the face of Christianity, it will do so only because those who have this vision come together in truly Hebraic fashion to promote and sustain this cause. We must reach out with compassion to all of our fellow citizens of God’s kingdom to invite their involvement in the research, analysis, and development of the concepts of restoration. We must dare to be inclusive. When others draw a circle that excludes us, we must have the grace and wisdom to draw a bigger circle that includes them. If we present this message of the renewal of Christianity’s Jewish roots with love and inclusion, it will be said universally, “the thing seemed right in the eyes of all the people.”

Let us network ourselves together in a growing community, collectively discovering and restoring the Judaeo-Christianity that the apostles practiced. Together we can present the world with a living model of biblical faith, restoring the Shekhinah to the community of faith and bringing honor to God.