Consider the following two
case studies drawn from real life here in Israel.
A thriving congregation with significant outreach programs to the needy,
including alcoholics and drug addicts, made great gains for the Kingdom
of God in Jerusalem. Then one of the leadership team and a few who
supported him came to disagree with the senior leader. They decided to
split from the congregation and form their own assembly. As a result,
there are now two separate congregations that are not nearly as effective
as before. The leaders of the new congregation simply appointed
themselves to leadership in the split-off group. There is no council
that could have judged this situation or prevented the sad results.
An effective congregation ministering to Russian Jews with a large
Russian Jewish population found itself in a similar situation to the one
described above. A leadership couple split from the congregation and
took a good size contingent with them. They were largely self-appointed
to lead a new congregation. There was little pressure from the Messianic
Jewish leadership in the Land to deal with this couple.
The Wild West and the Book of Judges
Sometimes it seems as though Israeli congregations are like the Wild West
or the book of Judges: "Everyone does what is right in their own
eyes" (Judges 21:25). Of course, this is not unique to Israel; it is
common everywhere in the Western world and especially in the United
States. Anyone in the USA can hang a shingle and proclaim themselves a
leader. Even Hollywood mocked the phenomena of self-appointment in the
film "The Apostle". In one of the most memorable scenes, Robert Duvall
baptizes himself as an apostle. This depiction illustrates a
Christianity where there is no accountability and no vetting for
Last week, a colleague spoke to me about a conversation he had with
another Israeli who has decided to start a congregation - as a pastor
(self appointed). This prospective leader could raise funds overseas from
pro-Israel Christians and live in relative prosperity. My colleague
assured me that this is not uncommon. While worthy projects and
ministries deserve support, sometimes money corrupts. There must be a
better order of interconnecting and government to prevent such abuses and
to handle disputes. Much of the money raised by Messianic Jews and
Christians in Israel does not really go to fruitful ministry, but simply
to support the fundraiser. That is pretty shocking. It takes lots
of time to keep up with donors. Who has time for fruitful ministry?
Does anyone have authority to deal with this integrity issue? Not yet!
Many of us know of these people, but nothing is done about it.
No to Self-Appointment and Independence
Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that there was no such thing as an
acceptable, independent congregation in the Bible and that
self-appointed leaders or unaccountable leaders are not in accord with
the Scriptures. Scripture informs us that the apostles planted
congregations and appointed elders. Timothy, a fellow apostle with Paul
who was his mentor, was given clear standards for the appointment of
overseers (I Timothy 3); Titus was charged to appoint elders in every city
and again given standards that were much the same as those given to Timothy
(Titus 1). Because the congregations planted in the first century were
planted by apostles and thereby linked to the apostles who had planted
them, none of these congregations considered themselves independent. Hence
when the great dispute arose concerning receiving Gentiles, a judgment was
rendered that had authority in all of the communities of the New Covenant
(Acts 15). In addition, apostles brought correction to the congregations
Linked and Accountable Congregations in the Early
By the end of the first century, every city or region considered
themselves as one congregation and was overseen by an eldership of the
city. We can already see this in Ephesus when Paul called the elders of
the city of Ephesus to meet with him (Acts 20:17). Some church historians
think that the Yeshua-believers numbered in the thousands and met in many
local house groups and gatherings. This was also the case in Jerusalem
where there were myriads of Yeshua-believers among the Jews (Acts 21:20).
By the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation, we see a person
called a messenger who seems to be a first among equals among the elders of
When doctrinal disputes arose in the early centuries, regional councils of
leaders who could decide the issues for the whole region made church
government decisions. The idea of councils became the key to the ongoing
unity of the people of God. Universal Councils came later. No doubt the
model of Acts 15 was perceived as the foundation. The Protestant
Reformers sought to implement these models, both the model of the elders of
the city and councils for dealing with important matters. The citywide
church government in Geneva under John Calvin is an important example.
Joining Congregations and Leaders in Networks Today
This gives some background for why I am so zealous to see congregations and
leaders joined together in networks. Such networks need quality
standards for the ordination of leaders. In addition, they need to give
great liberty for leaders to develop their own program directions for their
local communities. Doctrinal standards should be clear but not overly
restrictive. They should commit to all the basic truths of the Bible
generally received by the mainstream of the Messianic Jewish Movement. The
new doctrinal statement accepted by the Union of Messianic Jewish
Congregations in the United States is a very good model.
One of the important requirements for an accountable network is the
ministry giftings in the leadership team or governing council. The
key is that fruitful five fold leaders be in charge. Bureaucrats
leading networks stifle growth, since such folks are inherently
conservative and often seek to preserve the status quo. This is the sad
situation of many of today's denominations. Administrators do have a
constructive role in serving congregations, but the most fruitful five fold
leaders are the best leaders for a network. They will have a holy
dissatisfaction that always seeks to move things forward in growth
and expansion. They will want their network to include significant
training and equipping. Evangelists, prophets and apostles especially
model this holy dissatisfaction and strive to move things forward.
However, teachers and pastors also add to the quality of the foundations
and seek to see healthy communities discipled in the Word.
Calling for Righteousness and Justice
Every now and again, Patty and I ask ourselves, "What are we doing here?"
It is obvious. We are here to help foster this kind of connection and
accountability within Israeli Messianic Judaism. It is a deep conviction
for us. We will not abandon the vision. We desire to see a growing
Messianic Jewish congregational movement in Israel that has solid theology
and government, and is rightly linked with the church streams of other
nations - a movement that will be effective in winning people to Yeshua.
We greatly desire your prayers in this task.
1 The term "angel of the church" used in
Revelation 2,3 does not necessarily refer to a supernatural being. The
Greek word, "angelos" and the Hebrew word "Malach" both literally mean
messenger and can take this meaning in scripture (see, Malachi 3:1). In
Revelation 2,3 the context of the letters indicate an appointed leader is
in view, not a supernatural being.
Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International
to Tikkun International.
Let us know what you think - why not comment to this
The authors of these articles are often involved
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feel are edifying in tone and content.
13:34 05Nov12 R -
When I came to Israel, I saw the same thing you are speaking of
in this article. Rather than work with an established body of
believers, people wanted to do their own thing. I also
experienced a denial regarding specific needs within the body. In
my opinion, this occurred due to a desire to control and
manipulate the body. I am also familiar with self appointed
leadership striving to grow community. It just doesn't
work. Currently,I am a rather silent, uninvolved observant
member of the body of Messiah. I live a quiet life on the
fringes, but when I made aliyah to Israel, I came with two
letters of recommendation, one from my pastor and another from a
teacher I worked with. The body here welcomes more readily
outside "evangelistic" groups and even caters to them, rather
than building up and ministering to the local body. I do believe
the wind is changing for the better. Hopefully, the body will
recognize those sent by G-d (and for whom prayers are offered
up). The LORD bless you as you strive to teach leadership
responsibility and congregational appreciation and submission.
When there is disagreement/disunity within the body, there should
be committed prayer for resolution. As one waits upon the LORD,
His will is made known. May leaders also walk humbly before the
LORD and acknowledge an error, a misunderstanding, etc. may have
been. Eager to see the body become a true "family."
18:10 05Nov12 Steve Virg-In -
As a Pastor of a non-denominational church I fully agree with
you. When I came to pastor, this church had no specific network
or affiliation of churches. Since then I have linked this church
with the Apostolic Network of Global Awakening. It has begun to
give the congregation a developing sense of a greater worth and a
20:34 05Nov12 Andrew Skipper -
An excellent post on the need for pastoral unity and
accountability. I am taking a New Testament Introduction at
Asbury Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. I used to
attend Belmont Church so I know Don Finto, Eitan, etc. I see so
much of what you are saying among the leaders who helped guide
the process of forming a canon of the scriptures. I love the
first century context you use for your ideas.
20:50 05Nov12 Lea Splane -
Thank you for this article. I have encountered this here in the
past year twice. One person insisted there is no hierarchy of
authority in the church.
-- Dr Juster replies: Yes, we will just remove all the passages on elders in the Bible
and on their ability to come together to render a decision for
the whole Body in Acts 15. As soon as you say elder and deacons,
you have a hierarchy. Of course, then there is western
independence. Are these folks reading the Bible or taking their
cue from western individualism?
00:07 06Nov12 Nancy Chow -
Your vision is very timely and much needed if not urgent! The
movement for the return to our Hebraic roots is growing and many
of us gentile believers are also getting confused and misguided
since there are diverse teachings, for example is the dietary law
still for us today or is the Torah, some taught as the first five
books of Moses, the most important books of the Bible and all
believers are to know them first and then the same teachers are
also calling the Torah, the whole Bible. This in turn causes fear
to spread amongst those in the body of Christ who are still not
so sure this movement is from the Holy Spirit; that maybe we are
going back to Judaism. Meanwhile, those who are for it are still
looking to the Messianic Jewish teachers to impart Biblically
truth. We will remember you in prayers as we pray for the peace
-- Dr Juster replies: There is a mainstream and it is pretty solid in regard to
teaching. Then there is a huge fringe. If only people could
02:38 06Nov12 David Wright -
It is sad to see 'independence' in so many
congregations in the UK and the USA, and so sad to see this
continued in Israel, called to be the light to the nations.
I read the prayer of Yeshua in Yohanan 17 for oneness and
wonder if anyone reads this. Surely the Father will answer this
prayer and if we will not move then we will see shaking and
05:10 06Nov12 Michael Stevens -
I do agree wholeheartedly with your outlining of Biblical
apostolic authority and God-given government to prevent division
and rebellion or independence and Godly accountability.
Unfortunately, in the last 40 years, many apostolic movements and
those who lead them grew authoritarian, abusive and manipulated
"covenant" as a method of control. There are many examples of
this. The Paul / Barnabus John Mark conflict sows also a NT
example of an unresolved separation.
So when abusive leadership is itself independent what alternative
is there to responding to conscience and protecting both
'sheep' and doctrine but than to separate?
-- Dr Juster replies: So true. And so sad. Abusive leadership discredits authority.
It is part of the enemy's plan. In my books Dynamics of
Spiritual Deception, Due Process, Growing to Maturity, and
Relational Leadership, I argue for the parameters of good
leadership, the extent of and limit to authority. We swing
between authoritarian patterns and anarchy and the Devil laughs
as he can get us on either extreme.
11:43 06Nov12 Erik Ronneberg -
Yes and Amen. In the Bible, oxen were yoked together, then the
field could be plowed. One by itself was not able to do the
work. We are wiser than oxen, but we also need to be yoked
together, to plow together. Let us not follow those who are self
appointed. Perhaps a deeper root is the tendency to follow man,
not to be led by the Spirit, or to obey the Word. Joseph when he
was alone obeyed the Word, humbled himself to be accountable to
those who were not his brothers in Christ, served all he met, was
a blessing to the whole nation of Egypt, brought salvation to
Israel also. There are plenty of examples in the Word to teach
this idea- I pray we have a heart to desire to do the work of
Jesus in His ways. Jesus at age 12 left the temple, in a sense
left the ministry of the Word, to be subject to His parents. He
gladly accepted this yoke of obedience.
17:35 06Nov12 Paul -
Excellent article and this burden for the body was also passed on
to me by many elders, pastors, prophets, and sent ones -
apostles. Thankyou. I believe also this vision was given to me
when I was very young ... Now I'm 60 and still find few
willing to "be subject one with another ..." 1 Peter 5:5 in the
head who is Yeshua our Messiah
14:31 07Nov12 Jay Axtell -
This really gives a balanced approach to what Spirit-formed
leadership in Messianic ministry can bring. I so appreciate the
hope and humble direction you are providing to see abundant
growth in the Land.
03:54 08Nov11 KR -
I pray for unity.the spirit of the prophet is subject to the
prophet. Jim Gall conducted a good healing service 10 years ago
in Minnesota. 50 pastor gatekeepers stood up front while 80
watchmen prophets knelt and laid hands on their feet praying
healing prayers for them at 2am. Then celebrated Lords Supper.
Reconciliation was sweet. Many hurts from both sides were healed.
Divination and familiar spirits were completely unable to cause
division bites at anyone. I'll never forget it.'