NEWS | Anne Lim
Tuesday 12 January 2016
The leader of one of the oldest and largest Messianic ministries in the world has called on Australian evangelical churches to do more to evangelise Jews.
Dr Mitch Glaser, president of New York-based Chosen Peoples Ministries, said Jewish evangelism needed to become once again a basic for Christians.
“We would love to see the church, particularly the evangelical church, taking a good, strong stand for Jewish evangelism,” he told Eternity by phone from New York.
“And we’d love to see the evangelical church, particularly in Australia and other places, embrace this and pray for the Jewish people to come to know Jesus and support those of us who are doing this work.”
Dr Glaser challenged the evangelical church to embrace the mandate in Romans 11:11 to “make the Jewish people jealous” of the salvation that has come to the Gentiles and to accept the need to reach Jewish people based on passages such as Romans 1: 16 and Romans 9, 10, 11 and John 4.
Chosen Peoples Ministries has been praying for, evangelising and discipling Jewish believers since 1894 and now has ministries in 16 countries including in Australia, where Melbourne-based Celebrate Messiah is a member.
Like many of the leaders of the modern Messianic Jewish movement across the world, Dr Glaser came to believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah through the Jesus movement of the 1960s and 70s.
Born and raised in a nominally Orthodox Jewish family in New York, he dropped out of college in 1970, went to California, where he picked up a copy of Good News for Modern Man in a phone booth in a redwood forest.
After investigating the New Testament and the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, he received Jesus as his Lord in November 1970.
After working with Messianic missions such as Jews for Jesus and Ariel Ministries, he became president of Chosen People Ministries in 1997 and now makes annual visits to almost every major centre of Messianic Jewish life including Israel, the Ukraine, Argentina, France, Russia, Canada, Germany and England.
Dr Glaser noted that there has been a huge turnaround in the attitudes of the Jewish community towards Messianic Jews over the past 20 years.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that Jewish believers Shirley and Gary Beresford were not entitled to citizenship of Israel under the country’s 1950 Law of Return because they followed another religion.
“The attitude of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the Beresfords would have been very similar to the European attitudes of Jewish people towards Jews who believe in Jesus, which would have been very similar to the American and Australian attitudes,” Dr Glaser said.
However, according to recent Pew Foundation survey of the US Jewish community – which is estimated at between 6.5 and 8 million – an aggregate of 34 per cent said it was not inconsistent to be Jewish and believe in Jesus.
“That’s an extraordinary number and it’s the first time that a more objective source has even considered a number for that,” Dr Glaser said.
“The highest percentage who believe you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus was among the more secular and also among the more Orthodox. Because the Orthodox would believe that as a Jew who believes in Jesus I’m Jewish but I’m apostate.
“So it’s a misnomer to think Orthodox Jews believe that Jews who believe in Jesus are not Jewish any more. They know we’re Jewish and because we’re still Jews we’re under judgment and that judgment is because we believe that God became a man and therefore we become idolaters.”
The Pew Survey of the Future of Jewish Ministry suggests there are about 100,000 American Jews who believe in Jesus, who were raised in Jewish homes where they practise Judaism. Added to this are about 800,000 Jewish Americans who were raised in homes that were Christian.
“Now we don’t know if they were truly Christians – they could be the result of nominal intermarriage – but certainly many of them were probably true Christians, so there are an extraordinary number of them and we get our own chapter in the Pew Report,” Dr Glaser said.
“My kids were raised attending Redeemer Presbyterian, in New York City, but both my wife and I are Jewish, my kids completely identify as Jews who believe in Jesus – as Messianic Jews. We’re pretty typical, so I have to believe that there are thousands of others like myself, and I’ve met many of them.
“And so this was a stunning revelation by the Pew Foundation and the Jewish community tends to ignore it and just say they’re not really Jews because they were not raised in Jewish homes, even if one or both parents were Jewish.”
Dr Glaser said that while the number of Jewish people who believe in Jesus is growing everywhere from Europe to the US, Canada and Australia, numbers have still not returned to pre-World War II levels.
“My academic study is in the history of Messianic Jews in continental Europe between 1900 and 1950. Just prior to the Holocaust in Europe there were probably at least 300,000 Jews who believed in Jesus, gauged according to baptismal records, but the Messianic Jewish movement was destroyed along with the rest of the Jewish population.
“In the former Soviet Union you probably have about 130 Messianic congregations, but prior to perestroika in 1989 you probably had one.
“On my first trip to Israel in 1976 there were probably about four or five congregations of Jews who believe in Jesus; now you have about 160 with about 10,000 to 15,000 believers.
“So God has been wonderfully restoring of the Messianic movement and when I look at Romans Chapter 11 where Paul writes ‘And all Israel will be saved’, I believe that there will be a growing remnant of Jews coming to Jesus up until the Second Coming and we’re very excited about seeing that happen.
“I believe that we are seeing a significant movement of Jewish people for Jesus who are more overtly identifying as such and what we would love to see is the church, particularly the evangelical church, taking a good, strong stand for Jewish evangelism.”