Speaking to your pastor, especially concerning Israel and the Jewish people, can sometimes be difficult. Pastors have a lot on their plates; they have visions and plans the Lord has given them for the church and the community around them, messages and Bible studies to prepare, their personal relationship with the Lord and with their families to nurture, and crisis situations that arise regularly.
However, many pastors love their people and love hearing what God has put on their hearts. We recommend the following four points to consider when you talk to your pastor about Israel and the Jewish people.
Be mindful of your pastor’s time.
Ask him when a good time to talk might be. Trying to catch a pastor on a Sunday morning to discuss something that is significant to you certainly will not give you the pastor’s full and undivided attention. Try to meet him at a time and a place where you will have his full attention or arrange a phone or in-person conversation with him.
Find out what his thoughts are concerning Israel and the Jewish people.
Some pastors are so focused on the church and their day-to-day ministries that they might not have thought much about Israel and the Jewish people. Some hold a theology that teaches the church is the present “Israel” and has inherited all of Israel’s plans and promises. Others understand Israel’s historical role and believe that God has future plans for the Jewish nation but have no idea what to do with Israel and the Jewish people today.
Since such various views exist concerning Israel and the Jewish people, ask your pastor his thoughts and views, and listen attentively and carefully. Do not react strongly to statements with which you disagree or spend time formulating your response as you listen, as this distracts from actively listening. Be present, be responsive, and always be respectful.
Share your heart and the scriptural case for Jewish evangelism and God’s continued plans for Israel.
Build your case from Scripture and consider what you have just heard from your pastor when formulating your response. This takes doing your homework before the meeting and not losing focus from your goal. During the dialogue, other things will inevitably arise, but remember to major in the majors and minor in the minors. Many conversations get derailed when one or both parties lose focus and react to what is said instead of responding thoughtfully. Although what your pastor thinks about Israel politically and theologically is important, what is most important is his view on whether the Jewish people need the gospel. It may be helpful in the beginning to keep a mental list of what you both can agree on and build your case from there.
For instance, most pastors of evangelical churches will agree that the Jewish people need the gospel. Once that agreement is established, share with him why you think it important that we share the gospel with the Jewish people and how we can best do that.
If you are a Gentile like me, I believe one of the reasons we need to share the gospel with the Jewish people is because we owe a debt to them. The Scriptures are Jewish; Jesus is Jewish; and if it was not for the faithfulness of Jesus’ early Jewish followers, we Gentiles would not have the gospel. The gospel is a gift of God’s grace to us, but it is a gift given through the hands, the voice, and the lives of Jewish people. Simply put, we have a debt to pay in returning the gift that was given to us.
How we share the gospel with the Jewish people is also important. Even if your church is in a Jewish community, it does not mean Jewish people will feel welcome. We need to be mindful of the centuries of persecution the Jewish people experienced (and continue to experience) at the hands of people who profess to be Christians. This presents a roadblock that can only be removed through time and showing love.
We also need to be mindful of the Jewishness of the message. As a wise friend of mine once said, “The gospel is a Jewish message, but we have no idea how to share it with Jewish people!” We need to understand and articulate the Jewishness of the message and how to share it in its Jewish context.
Become part of the solution.
We need to be willing to volunteer to help lead the charge in helping our churches understand the role of Israel in God’s plan and the importance of sharing the gospel with Jewish people. We do not want to just put another task in our pastors’ busy hands.
One way to accomplish this is to give your pastor information. The Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem stands ready to assist you and provide resources you may need and find helpful. You can also ask if you can have a representative from Chosen People Ministries come to present the “whys and hows” of sharing the gospel with the Jewish people. After having this conversation, you may need to follow up with your pastor and possibly meet with him more than once.
Be patient in the process and be sure to thank your pastor for his time. Above all, pray that God will guide you, your pastor, and your church to do what you can to share the truth of Messiah with Israel and the Jewish people.
by Jim Fox