A leading rabbi reflects on the growing friendship between Jewish and Christian communities
As a rabbi, I share with many others in the Jewish community a deep sense of gratitude, allied to some perplexity, at the phenomenon of evangelical support for Israel. I welcome this chance to share my views as a Jewish leader, on our shared perspectives and goals.
A great Hasidic teacher, the Kotzker Rebbe, once said the only whole heart is a broken one.
In an unredeemed world, there is so much pain and loss, any healthy heart must break. What people of God share is that our hearts must hope as well.
Measuring your ministry will help to increase its impact
I’m a numbers guy. I love to challenge people with goals we can measure. So when God called the Rock Church to be “first responders” in sharing God’s love in the community, naturally I looked for ways to measure our success.
First, some background. I started the Rock Church in San Diego in 2000. By God’s grace it has grown to be the city’s largest, averaging 12,500 worshippers each Sunday. With that comes some incredible opportunities and challenges. The biblical stances we have taken on politically charged debates sometimes put the Rock in opponents’ cross hairs. But they also open doors to ministry and to relationships with community leaders.
San Diego County is approximately the size of the state of Connecticut. Like many regions in the United States these days, we’re facing serious budget cuts and reduced services. Likewise, the city of San Diego, the eighth largest in the U.S., is hurting. One out of every 10 people are without work, and more than 12 percent live below the poverty line.
We need to equip young adults to help change their world
I am the product of spiritual genetic engineering. God has placed a passion inside of me to see global change through young people.
Never in history have we been faced with these demographics—60 percent of young people live in Asia and 90 percent of the world’s youth live in developing nations. These countries are part of what’s known as the 10/40 Window—a geographical region that is the most densely populated and yet the least evangelized.
Young adults worldwide are facing horrific issues, which we must confront. The average age of human trafficking victims is between 10-18, and 60 percent of those rescued from brothels in South Asia are infected with HIV. Approximately 1 million youth and children are sold into the sex industry annually.
Those, as young as age 5, are being recruited and forced to serve in combat in nearly 50 wars worldwide. Child labor is another concern in developing countries. Forced labor threatens the physical, emotional and mental well-being, as well as the proper development of a child. The International Labor Organization estimates that 215 million children, as young as age 5, have been forced to work in order to pay off the debts of their parents.
Seek the best for your community and see your influence grow
Imagine a church of 850 in attendance winning nearly 2,000 people to the Lord in the space of just 12 months. In addition, imagine that church being featured in Charisma magazine as one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation. Imagine this church had been stuck at a plateau for over three years. Sound unimaginable? That’s exactly what happened to my church in 2009-2010.
When our church was at a plateau, I become weary in attempting to motivate my congregation to regularly evangelize. Some responded, but I didn’t get the results I was looking for. I couldn’t understand why most wouldn’t or just didn’t. I needed a unique strategy for our house.
First, I began to focus on increasing their love quotient. I believe evangelism flows best out of a heart overflowing with love for the Lord. So, I talked more about God’s attributes and personality—attempting to cause their hearts to soar. I motivated the church to focus on intense prayer, asking the Lord to mark each heart with His presence.
We must be carriers of Jesus’ presence to a dark, broken world
Recently, we partnered with local leaders and organizations by opening the first Dream Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., a free medical clinic for women who are underinsured or uninsured.
The small clinic space was given to us and sits right across from the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office, where the poorest families in our city go to apply for food stamps. This is the first of many ministries we plan to open. Soon, we want to have a home for single parents who are afraid to come out of the shadows of homelessness for fear of losing their children to the foster system. We also plan to open homes for kids who are too old for the foster system and have no families.
We are not doing this out of guilt or to be trendy or popular. We are certainly not out to prove to the world that we really are nice people despite the caricatures of Christians.
Why Jesus wasn’t big on asking unbelievers to follow Him to church
Growing up, I was not too interested in church or religion. When I became a teenager, I was invited a few times by Christian classmates to attend their church youth group activities and Bible studies. I was pretty good at saying no. I was not ready to dive into their world. However, I couldn’t keep them from diving into mine.
I am forever grateful that Ron Musselman, the First Presbyterian youth pastor, did not just invite me into his church world; he jumped into my not-so-churchy world. Ron engaged my culture and my community because I was not interested in engaging his.
Jesus gave the greatest demonstration of engaging culture and community when He left the streets of gold in heaven to walk the dirt roads of the Roman Empire. Showing up was just the beginning. While here, He was the expert at engaging all types of cultures and communities that were disenfranchised by the religious elite.