The increasing intensity of political and military firestorms in and around Israel faces every Christian leader with two ultimate questions: (1) Where is each crisis leading? And (2) where do I stand, and from what stance will I lead tomorrow? The first confronts our tendency to see each event or crisis as just another squabble in the endless cycle of Middle East strife. In fact, each event is advancing our entire planet along a path too seldom considered, even by those leaders who study prophecy. The second calls for a mind-set that is readied to personally and publicly answer an inevitable roll call that will face individuals and nations.
Beyond interpretations and prophetic speculation, any candid reading of God's Word presents the reality of a forthcoming watershed moment. Internationally, sides will be taken for or against Israel, and accordingly God will approve or judge punitively. As a part of faithful shepherding, I've got to help prep my flock for this issue in this moment.
If my questions are blurred or blocked from the agenda of a leader, it isn't due to a lack of his or her intelligence or seriousness about their ministry. But my broad circle of involvement with church leaders across all traditions and relational lines reveals an ambivalence regarding Israel. It has prompted me to offer a conference on Israel's Hour and the Church's Moment.
Before you misunderstand, let me give a pair of points in definition. To begin, this event will probably not serve the expectations of those who enjoy that type of "Israel" conference with which I confess to being wearied. They deal with "Israel in prophecy" (which I believe in and care about) or Messianic Jewish issues (which I do heartily sympathize with and support). But too often, I see these events mired in a parade of paraphernalia, cultural issues, flying banners and mezuzah sales, often more attended by Gentile "Jewish wannabees" than by either believing Jews or Gentile church leaders.
In the meantime, we face a throbbing pulse of global tensions increasing with nuclear saber-rattling, and the companion potential of a spreading and rabid world-wide anti-Semitism—the latter generally undiagnosed by the average American. Press coverage here, though tainted by real prejudice against Israel, is more subtle and blinds sensitivities. But to travel the globe is to see, hear and read an unmasked viciousness, and witness the success of anti-Israel rhetoric virtually everywhere.
At the bottom line two realities are accruing. First, it's inevitable that any fallout of anti-Israel posturing will easily be turned on all Jews. This holds the possibility of a repeat of the Nazi-era Jewish Holocaust. Second, it's inescapable that America will have its will to stand with Israel tested. This presents the frightening possibility of America drifting toward a self-destructive choice should global governments make a unanimous determination against Israel's right to exist.
Those two realities underlie and unquestionably confront church leaders to answer the two questions I posed at the opening of this column. The confrontation isn't a question of prophetic interpretation. It's about a societal reality in which you and I lead today.
That's why I will make no apology here for using this page to invite you to a conference I have scheduled for November 6-8—this autumn. The event is open to leaders of all traditions. It will convene at The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, and is being sponsored by The King's College and Seminary. You can inquire into details and register on the web at jackhayford.org. You will also find a list of the speakers I've invited—each with a unique and deep reason for participating. You'll also find a series of probing questions I hope to answer—seeking to help pastors and leaders with practical answers for ministry in this hour.
Further, please understand that no apology will be offered that the conference will also address concerns regarding Messianic Jewry. Though I noted above my perspective on conferences that seem to me to trivialize the depth of this realm of God at work among His ancient people, in no way do I or will I discount the enormity of the value or honor the significance of the Messianic Jewish movement and its many outstanding leaders.
The expression "the chips are down" is taken from the world of gambling, announcing a moment commitment is mandated. Each church leader is being drawn to take a position regarding Israel. It's a decision that must be faced beyond our prejudices or passivity, and far transcending any of the superficial or merely excitable fanfare too often characterizing "last days" verbiage.
Above all, this isn't about politics! These are spiritual issues, and they shout the need to "get real" about Israel. We hope to do that—and others will join me to make it clear: the chips are down, but this isn't a game.
Jack Hayford is the founder of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, chancellor of The King's College and Seminary and the president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.