Delicious Diversity
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International

Read this article in French



A "One New Man" Parable

There once was a town that built a large square park surrounded by restaurants from many nations. The town required that each restaurant offer excellent quality food and a large variety of menu items that were authentic or indigenous to an ethnic group or country. Restaurants competed. Judges tasted foods and then voted on who would get the contracts to be part of the Food Square. Many wonderful cuisines were present: German, French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Argentinian, Brazilian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Morrocan, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and others.

All the restaurant owners were in a cooperative association together. Several times a year they held a magnificent outdoor food fair. Patrons struggled to avoid gluttony. The fair gave citizens a taste of the various flavors and menus. Competition was friendly. The restaurants prospered, and the square was nicely kept up and maintained.

Then one day the town elected a new mayor. He was against competition - quite a radical socialist. To him the competing restaurants system was not equitable: While all the restaurants were covering their expenses, the Chinese, Mexicans and Italians were clearly getting more customers than the others. Therefore he decided that all of the restaurants would offer varieties of foods from the different nations. Each of them would become a fusion restaurant with the same menu. Of course, in a fusion restaurant only a few of the foods from any given nation could be offered.

At first many applauded the change and thought it a fitting expression of the town's unity. Others questioned the idea since now there would be fewer culinary options. Eventually three quarters of the restaurants closed since there was not sufficient variety to attract the clientele that used to frequent the square. The empty shop spaces looked forlorn, and the square started to take on a disheveled look.

The Parable Explained

This parable is a response to those Christians and Messianic Jews who interpret Paul's "one new man" image (Ephesians 2:15) to mean local congregations built around one expression for everyone. These expressions tend to have a bit of Jewish, black, and Hispanic fare in the context of a largely Western generic type of contemporary worship. Rarely do such "one new man congregations" include traditional hymns or other expressions of historic rooting and continuity. They do not include a depth of Jewish worship expressions. They may include an occasional Messianic Jewish song, Sh'ma, or celebration of Torah feasts moved to the nearest weekend, such as a Passover Seder. The decrease in diversity is attributed to Paul's instructions to "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

This is why my book, That They May be One, was originally named: One People, Many Tribes. My thesis is that God loves variety (Genesis 1) and desires many different congregational expressions, as churches become indigenous to cultures. In addition, I believe God values different styles which have developed over the centuries, and that their preservation is worthwhile. Of course, this does not mean that no new forms and styles can be added. Large churches can have very adequate expressions of variety by fostering variously flavored gatherings. Indeed, some do. There are now churches holding regular Messianic Jewish worship services and encouraging their Jewish members to live a Jewish life. This helps preserve a real quality of variety. I applaud these efforts. I also applaud efforts where ethnic groups develop their own special sounds and ways of worship and do not just translate Western generic contemporary worship songs. I recently savored uniquely Korean worship songs while visiting that nation.

I should note that Messianic Jewish Congregations also have Gentile members who are called to Jewish ministry and who therefore, within the congregation, demonstrate the unity of Jew and Gentile, Israel and the nations.

Those who teach a fusion type of "one new man church" do not realize that this undercuts the distinct life and calling of Jewish disciples of Yeshua. Our efforts for over 42 years have been to call Jewish people to identify and live as part of their people, and to embrace the good things in the Jewish heritage while refusing the bad. This requires focus, study and some depth. It also requires placing all in the context of the centrality of Yeshua. Distinct Messianic Jewish expressions and social reinforcement among Jewish believers are crucial.

The distinction of Israel and the nations shows that God enjoys variety in His Church and affirms ethnic expressions of faith. My vision of "one new man" joins Jews and representatives of the Nations in various types of fellowship venues. It includes Messianic Jewish Congregations who join in Church of the City celebrations. It includes fellowships of pastors from a variety of backgrounds who join in regular prayer, and more. The common joint gatherings are like the periodic food fairs in the park described in the parable above. Because expressions maintain their distinctions with some depth, we can all visit, study and learn from a variety that will never be boring. Something of different expressions can be shared in occasional joint gatherings. These gatherings are by necessity "fusion meetings", but of a kind that preserves individual expressions side by side. We have had black choirs, Messianic Jewish dance, and traditional communion all in one joint gathering!

One Flesh

"One new man" should be understood as more like the distinction in unity of men and women who become one flesh in marriage (Genesis 2:24). The very distinction in unity is what makes the marriage wonderful. So it is with the churches: one people, many tribes!

I encourage you to get a copy of my short primer of Church history, That They May be One (available in electronic and print format on Amazon). We offer a free copy to all who promise to review it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Also for an excellent book with chapters by several Messianic Jewish and Christian authors, I recommend Awakening the One New Man edited by Robert Wolf. This book gets it right.


 

Tikkun International was founded with the vision and purpose of sending emissaries from the USA out to Israel and the nations. That reality has gradually changed and now we are sending primarily from Israel, with most of our governing leaders living in Israel. To reflect this, Tikkun International will now be based in Israel and Asher Intrater has been chosen as its new president. The administrative office of the 501(c)3 corporation remains in Maryland and will continue to serve the Israeli headquarters.

As part of this transition, Daniel and Patricia Juster's teaching and mentoring ministry is being renamed "Restoration from Zion". Daniel will also continue to oversee the American Network of congregations and the Tikkun U.S. legal organization.

To donate directly to the Juster's ministry, please indicate that the gift is for "Restoration from Zion" (the U.S. office will continue to process donations as before).

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