Sunday the Rabbi Went To Church

February 29, 2016

This Sunday morning I bolted out of bed and went to visit a church where a very good friend is a prominent member.

The experience confirmed my views about why much of American church life, some synagogue life, and nearly all of the Messianic Movement is not getting the job done. And what is that job?

The job is to mature people in their relationships with each other and with God, while equipping them to honor God in all they think, say, and do.

I went to a church that has three Sunday morning services. This is a church that epitomizes the best of spectator spirituality, otherwise known as audience spirituality.

Here is what I saw:

  1. The musicians were all excellent--guitar, bass guitar, drum set, another drummer playing hand drums, and six or seven singers, all very well done.
  2. The Powerpoint for the songs was attractive and well done.
  3. There was a moment in the service when a young family going back to Tanzania as missionaries dedicated their youngest child to the honor and service of God. A staff member led the parents and congregation in brief vows to raise and pray for the child and her parents, and the pastor prayed a heartfelt and even prophetic prayer for them. Again well done.
  4. A brief digital film clip was was shown highlighting the missional work of he featured couple. Also well done.
  5. The sermon was about 45 minutes long, preached without notes, demonstrating the pastor's eloquence in creating apt metaphors to get his points across. His delivery was fluid, impassioned, at times humorous, and well-structured.
  6. The congregation was sitting in auditorium seats as in a school auditorium. This was the earliest of three morning services, each about 75 minutes long. The auditorium was about 85-90  percent full. I am sure the others were packed.
  7. Security, ushers taking an offering, logistics were all well handled by appropriately badged or uniformed personnel.

So in all, this was a well-run service, everything of the highest professional quality. But totally inadequate to get the job done. And what is the job?  The job is to mature people in their relationships with each other and with God, while equipping them to honor God in all they think, say, and do. 

The service was inspirational. And surely people need to be inspired, But unless they have opportunity to interact, to experiment, to be equipped and mentored, to  participate, discover, and develop, this "inspiration" will only be a pleasant experience, of no more spiritual consequence than the pleasant experience I had with a chocolate donut on the way to the parking lot.

What the people of God need is lab work--experience in the laboratory where their relationships with each other and with God, and their thinking, saying, and doing, can be directed, tested, and evaluated. And the laboratory where all of this is meant to take place must be small enough for all to participate and benefit from helpful feedback. That laboratory is the home.

My point is that we need to bring spirituality back where it is born. We need to bring spirituality back where it is nurtured. We need to bring spirituality back where it belongs. It is time to bring spirituality back home. This doesn't mean that celebration services like the one I visited have no place. They do. But such experiences do not build the foundations of spirituality.

My particular calling is especially to Jews and to Intermarrieds, challenging and assisting such households to integrate the three-stranded cord of going deeper into Jewish life, deeper into Yeshua faith, and deeper into relationship with God.  Notice the word "deeper." While there are plenty of places where one can get a taste of what I term "Judaism-lite," merchandised to whoever is in the market for it, my colleagues and I think that the needs of the family and the dignity of Jewish life require something more "crunchy." As an entrée for such households, we offer a weekly discussion publication. Shulchan Shelanu (Our Table), to enable Jewish and intermarried people and their friends and family to have stimulating discussion around the table, all the while interweaving that three-stranded cord. And other meatier publications and materials are in the offing as well.

Our plan is to develop a growing number of expanded households as laboratories where personal, familial, and deep spirituality will grow, If you are in the greater Los Angeles area, and if your household is Jewish or intermarried, or a predominantly Jewish household of singles, and you would like to become part of our growing network of "spirituality laboratories," which are actually havurot weaving together the three-stranded cord, write us at and tell us something about yourself.

We think you'll agree there is too much to be gained by being a participant to settle for just being a spectator.



2 comments on “Sunday the Rabbi Went To Church”

  1. Here is a comment from a goy 🙂

    The best church experience my wife an I have had was during our time in Dallas, TX, where we spent almost five years in a congregation which had (a) weekly breaking of bread, followed by (b) an hour of expository Bible teaching (mostly going through entire books in fairly great detail) and (c) more or less required ministry groups meeting in homes every week or every other week. I say more or less required, because if you attended regularly and did not join one of these groups, the elders came after you. The eldership's position was that it was in these groups that discipleship, soul care, and the application of what was taught on Sunday, took place.

    Incidentally, that was also where we met and got to know Avner and Rachel Boskey, and (both from them and from someone else) learned about Messianic Jews.

    To our great chagrin when we returned to Austria we did not find a church with a similar focus. Sure, churches here have small groups, but they are Bible study groups or prayer groups, surely laudable, but not the sort of comprehensive ministry groups we so benefitted from in Dallas.

    However, churches here in Austria tend to be a lot smaller and less "professional", so they exhibit less spectator spirituality and more opportunity for participation.

  2. Stuart,

    I think you expect more out of a Sunday morning or Saturday morning service than is their purpose.

    Though I agree with your aversion to "audience spirituality", I think that we need to understand that it is in the home, personal study and group meetings outside of the weekly service is where maturing happens.

    Unfortunately for most Christians and Messianic Jews there only time of spiritual connection is from 10am-1pm on Saturday or Sunday.

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