If you have been following the news, you know how unstable the political situation is in the Middle East. Whatever this may mean for the unfolding revelation of God’s timetable for history, there is no doubt that Israel is in the middle of it. Right now, Chosen People Ministries has more staff members ministering in Israel than at any other time in our almost 120-year history.
Not long ago, I was sitting on the panel at a conference on “Ministry in Israel,” and the moderator asked me a number of critical questions. I want to share some of my responses with you so that you can at least have my take on what is happening spiritually in the Holy Land!
Spiritual Trends in the Land of Promise
What are some of the most exciting spiritual trends you see in the Land today?
The first is the significant increase of Jewish believers. Sixty percent of them speak Russian as their first language, so there is a tremendous need for resources that they are able to use. Speaking a bit more generally, there is growing ministry among children and a growing unity among the Jewish believers. We are also participating in active efforts to meet the needs of poor Israelis, as well as Holocaust survivors and other elderly people. We’re also seeing the growth of serious Bible college programs and leadership development for Israelis, as well as more Messianic books in Hebrew and higher-quality training opportunities for younger believers.
There are now a number of buildings that are now owned by Israeli believers and ministries in the Holy Land, including the Chosen People Ministries Jerusalem Center, King of Kings, Israel College of the Bible, Grace and Truth Assembly and a number of other congregations.
These congregations are also maturing and growing in their ability to serve the ever-increasing number of believers. The number of Israeli-led congregations has expanded from under a dozen in the early 1970s to more than 150 today. The continued development of energetic and creative outreach over the web and the increase in Christian television broadcasting are all signs of the vitality of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Israel.
What are some of the most troubling spiritual trends you see in the Land today?
We need to remember first of all that troubling trends are often God’s way of bringing us the greatest opportunities for spiritual growth and ministry fruitfulness. The threat of war and continued terrorism, the challenge of secularism and the deconstruction of a biblically-based morality in everyday culture are all troubling trends that are symptoms of a deeper, spiritual sickness. The continued and seemingly irreconcilable differences (socially, politically and otherwise) between Jews and Arabs and between the Orthodox and secular Jews are another aspect of this same spiritual conflict. Additionally, we see the continued marginalization of both Jewish and Arab believers within their own community, though this is changing slightly.
We see promising trends and the Lord’s work in Israel is becoming more Israeli in nature. The need for indigenous resources and continued leadership development is a critical challenge and a great opportunity for partnership among Western European and North American believers and Israelis.
The “Signs of the Times”
Do you believe we are heading towards a “Romans 11:26” world in which “all of Israel will be saved”? Why or why not?
Well, first, let’s take a look at the passage in question…
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27)
Yes, we are moving closer, because of the evident signs of the times. If the return of the Jewish people to Israel, the Jewish control of Jerusalem, and the surrounding of Israel by enemies seeking her destruction is evidence of the prophecies of the Old Testament coming to pass – and if we add the additional sign of a remnant of Jewish believers in Jesus, which has been increasing since the establishment of the modern state of Israel – then yes. But my feeling is that we will enter this future incrementally.
Is it accurate there are about 15,000 Jewish followers of Yeshua in the Land of Israel today – up from only a few dozen in 1948?
There is no current scientific survey, but my personal experience would indeed indicate that the numbers are somewhere between 10,000-15,000.
Why are Jews coming to faith in so much larger numbers today? What dynamics have changed since 1948, and just since you came to faith?
There were a great number of Jewish believers in Jesus who perished in the Holocaust, perhaps more than there are today. But now we seem to be growing at a rate throughout the world that will surpass the pre-Holocaust numbers of Messianic Jews. Israel contains one of the fastest-growing movements of Jewish believers in the world.
Why? Aside from the prophetic perspective mentioned above, it could be because of the unrelenting prayers of saints, an unwavering witness by many who have pioneered this effort, and the engagement of the Gentile Church around the world with a heart for Jewish outreach. In addition, we definitely see growth resulting from the development of a contextualized testimony and the emergence of local Israeli spiritual leadership.
Aside from the number of professed believers, how would you assess the spiritual maturity and theological depth of the believers in the Holy Land?
We see great depth and maturity among leaders in Israel who have lived through many difficulties and have become battle-hardened spiritual leaders – but they are often overworked! They need our help – not to do their jobs or tell them how to do it – but rather to provide resources, prayer, and genuine help. We especially need to lend our support to the leadership training Bible colleges in the Land.
What are ways Jewish and Arab believers can and should be working together to share the Gospel with everyone in the Land and make disciples of all nations?
Pray for one another. Serve in projects together in the Land where appropriate. For example, Chosen People Ministries has had quite a bit of support and help from local Arab believers in our Tel Aviv soup kitchen ministry.
How can believers outside of Israel be praying effectively for the believers in the Land?
First of all, we can pray that both Jewish Israelis and Arabs would become more open to Jesus and be able to effectively disciple the next generation of leaders. We should also pray that both Jewish and Arab believers would become less marginalized and have an impact for the Lord on Israeli society as a whole. The believers also need their own worship and ministry facilities. I believe this would help stabilize the Lord’s work in Israel. Those of us who live outside the Land can also maximize our impact by helping to purchase properties that will be dedicated to ministry and congregational centers.