One trip to Israel was all it took to make me repriotize my life and ministry
After 19 years of international ministry, a weekly television broadcast, establishing a consultancy for pastors and other initiatives, I have experienced something that has caused me to entirely rethink my approach to ministry and also my theology. It has changed the way I prioritize, the way I preach and the way I pastor. This life-changing encounter was with the land of Israel.
After sailing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, standing in the Garden of Gethsemane and peering into the field where the battle of Armageddon is to take place, I realized that much of my ministry had been based upon personal introspection—what I had read and what other scholars had interpreted. Moreover, we often allow English grammatical rules to interpret biblical text and biblical culture.
However, Western theology often opposes Eastern thought. For instance, the Western mind argues the truth; thus we have so many denominations and different reformations. But the Eastern mind simply obeys the truth. In the past, this difference in approach would have inhibited me from fully absorbing the Scriptures. But my trip to this unique place changed all that. I can now personally identify with Naaman the leper who took soil from Jerusalem back to his native land of Syria, so that he could stand upon it and worship the God of Israel.
Through traveling to the Holy Land in 2010 on a leaders tour with Robert Stearns, I developed close relationships with three fellow Western New York pastors I never really had relationship with before. Yes, I had to travel to this unique place on the other side of the globe in order to get to know my neighbors who live 30 minutes away! Since sharing this profound experience, we have become the best of friends. We have eaten together, golfed together, visited in one another’s homes.
We are still reaping the benefits of the rich deposit Jerusalem made in us by enjoying Christian fellowship and real communion. Israel will never be the same in any of our ideologies; it has become a part of us. We have walked the land, smelled the air, tasted its fruit. For once you have shared an authentic, transmogrifying experience in the place your
kinsmen redeemer was born, died and rose again, you are bound to one another through a holy bond.
In order to involve our respective congregations in this work of koinonia, we even did a “pulpit swap” during the Christmas advent season. Only God could bring together those from different cultures, different creeds, different ethnicities in such a cohesive work of unity. The God of Israel is the single common denominator to unite mankind, which He has done for me and my brethren in such a tangible way.
I count it an honor, as a citizen of a nation little more than 200 years old, to have the privilege of speaking to the people of Israel, who date back millennia. How interesting that, just as they have informed my ministry, I now clearly see that my ministry has a call to impact them. I am called to affirm their belief in God; to thank them for their faithfulness and endurance and for giving me my Messiah, whose life I am now able to demonstrate back to them in brotherly love.
I testify to the fact that this uniquely special place holds a pivotal meaning for your relationships, your sanctification and your life’s work. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, wants to introduce you to His family.
If you are a ministry professional who has never been to the land of Israel—like I was—go. Before you develop another sermon series, schedule another expansion meeting or put energy into the new vision God has laid upon your heart, do this one thing that cannot be replaced by any other thing. Better yet, go to Israel with my dear friend and brother Robert Stearns, and benefit from the favor, insight and anointing that marks His relationship to Israel. Just as Israel’s Ministry of Tourism promises, “You’ll never be the same.”
Roderick Hennings is the founding pastor of Zion Dominion Global Ministries, the largest Church of God In Christ church in New York state.
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