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, be it an apparent spat or all out war, as just another squabble in the multi-millennium cycle of seemingly endless Middle East strife. In fact, each event is advancing our entire planet along a path and process too seldom considered by even those leaders who study prophecy.
The second requires the development of a mindset that is readied to personally and publicly answer a roll call that will inevitably face individuals and nations. Any reading of God’s Word, setting aside prophetic interpretations and speculation, poses the reality of a forthcoming watershed point of “taking sides” on Israel, unto a conclusive posture that God either approves or judges punitively. Present-moment circumstances force this onto the table of any pastor in touch with the times and serious about issues that extend beyond this week’s sermon or this month’s growth curve.
“Setting the Table”
These questions appear to be blurred or blocked from the agenda of most pastors. It certainly isn’t due to a lack of intelligence or a deficiency of zeal for their shepherding task. But my broad circle of involvement with church leaders across denominational and other network lines and relationships convinces me that an absence of focus dominates the believing Church. That’s what has prompted me to, as it were, “set the table” with a conference on “Israel’s Hour and The Church’s Moment.”
Pardon me, please, but let me draw what I see as an important line of definition: I don’t see this event as answering the expectations of those who enjoy the type gathering commonly focusing Israel. At the risk of seeming unkind, I have to confess that I’m weary of most I see that deal either with “Israel in prophecy” (which I care about) or Messianic Jewish issues (which I do largely sympathize with and support). Too often, as I see these, they bog down around 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.
Being Forced to Decide
In the meantime, the throbbing pulse of global tension increase with nuclear saber-rattling, and with the companion disaster-potential of a spreading and rabid world-wide anti-Semitism. The latter is generally undiagnosed by the average American. Press coverage here, though tainted by very clear prejudices against Israel, is somewhat more subtle in its opposition to Israel’s rights than the rest of the world. Whereas, to travel the globe is to see, hear and read an unmasked viciousness, and witness a culturally impacting success of anti-Israel rhetoric virtually everywhere.
At the bottom line two realities are accruing. The first is the inevitable fact that the fallout of anti-Israel posturing is easily turned on all Jews, and holds the horrible portent of a possible repeat of the WWII era Jewish holocaust. The second is the inescapable fact that America will have her will to stand with Israel tested and, with any reduction of the biblically informed and principled sentiments and policies historically guiding our nation’s leadership. And this presents the frightening possibility of America drifting toward a wrong choice should global government make a conclusive determination against Israel’s right to exist.
Those two realities underlie and will unquestionably force you and me to answer the two questions I posed at the opening of this column. It’s only a matter of time–not of prophetic interpretation, but of societal realities in which you and I lead today.
No Apology Here
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, 2006–this autumn. The event, which I noted above and titled as pointedly as I could imagine, is open to leaders of all traditions. It will convene at The Church On the Way in Van Nuys, Calif. (L.A. area) and is being sponsored by The King’s College and Seminary (which I serve as chancellor). You can inquire into details and register on the web at www.kingsseminary.edu. You will also find a list of the speakers I have invited and a series of prompting questions that I believe you will find useful and pastorally practical answer for Christian leaders in any circle.
I want to add with equal frankness that no apology will be offered for the fact that concerns regarding Messianic Jewry will be addressed. I say this inasmuch as I also noted above my perspective that some conferences on that seem to me to be trivialized by some styling of advocates themselves. But at the same time, in no way do I or will we risk trivializing the enormity of the manifest evidence of God-at-work among His ancient people; nor will I side in any way with any who, however blindly or innocently, fail to perceive and appropriately honor the miracle of the Messianic Jewish movement.
The Chips Are Down
The colloquial expression taken from various gambling forms, refers to a moment when commitment is made and future uncertainty is on the brink of being revealed: the chips are down. That’s where I see each church leader being drawn–being required to take a position regarding Israel, beyond any prejudice or passivity and transcending the superficial or merely excitable often surrounding “last days” talk.
This isn’t about prophetic guesswork and it’s not about politics!! The issues are real, and they require me as a church leader to “get real” about Israel. Other spokespersons will join me around the truth at stake (not politics, but practical pastoral principles) within our “moment.” Join us this November.