Seeker Friendly Western Sensitivity

Sometimes cultural sensitivity and spiritual power are incompatible. There is a specific orientation in the Western world that seeks civility at the price of spiritual power. In the Church world, this has produced a seeker sensitive orientation in formerly charismatic churches, resulting in a ban on Holy Spirit manifestations. The change has been dramatic. There is no emphasis on prayer and the laying on of hands for being filled with the Spirit in the services, or prophecy, or tongues and interpretation and absolutely no untoward manifestations. This is an adjustment for cultural sensitivity since we are told that seekers will be "turned off" by the strange things that could happen in a meeting where Holy Spirit manifestations are welcome.

Messianic Jewish Seeker Friendly Sensitivity

We as Messianic Jews have our own variety of seeker friendly cultural sensitivity too. Far be it for me to decry cultural sensitivity; on the contrary, I encourage people to learn to be sensitive. For example, when we do traditional prayers, let's learn to do them well. Let's respect religious objects. Do not put a Bible or a prayer book on the floor. Do not bring a tallit (prayer shawl) into the rest room. These are Jewish norms and there is no reason for us to not learn better sensitivity. One woman that I was acquainted with would dance with a tallit as if it was a long kerchief and sometimes in a manner that was a bit sensual. This, of course, can be very offensive. We can be creative in using Jewish expressions, but should avoid being weird.

However, some have embraced the view that we should not engage in any Holy Spirit expressions that would be foreign in the average synagogue. This means that a host of things cannot be done. Prophecy can be strange to a visitor (we can teach the person bringing the word to speak in an ordinary tone of voice and language!). Speaking in tongues and interpretation could seem really strange. If someone appears to be shaking, or even falling under what is professed to be the power of the Spirit, we are really said to be breaking the rules of cultural sensitivity or seeker friendly norms.

Cultural sensitivity in this last sense is supposed to help us win new adherents. What does the record show? It seems that in spite of our sensitivity we are not impressing people and they are not embracing Yeshua. A true seeker is looking for the reality of God. At least if there is a testimony of a convincing answer to prayer, a healing or an accurate prophecy, there could be an attraction to the power of God.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a judicious balance between cultural sensitivity and the power of God. This requires discernment in the Spirit as to where God is really leading. Much can be done in the flesh that is nevertheless claimed by some to be a manifestation of the Spirit. However, some things really happen due to God's Spirit moving in a sovereign way that some will claim is of the flesh. There is a somewhat paradoxical relationship between cultural sensitivity and the power of God. If one errs too much in the direction of cultural sensitivity, the power of God will be lost. If one errs too much towards insensitivity, people will react and not receive the reality brought to them in a context of spiritual power.

Some twenty three years ago, God tested me on this. It was a Rosh Hashanah service, with many guests from the Jewish community, and I had determined to be really sensitive. However, God had other plans. I thought it would be best not to have any manifestations for the sake of Jewish visitors. Yet an especially powerful supernatural prophetic word came forth that stunned and deeply impressed all the Jewish visitors. Through the intervention of an elder, I allowed this to happen. God then spoke to me that I was never to lead any gathering of professing Spirit-filled believers where I would preclude prophecy or manifestations of the Spirit. We learned to govern with greater wisdom. I came to believe that it was better to err on the side of spiritual power while still keeping a commitment to sensitivity. Anointing and spiritual power are keys to spiritual results. Without these our results are meager.

The Bible's Teaching On Spiritual Power

Scripture has much to say on this, and we ignore it to our own peril. Again and again, the great shaliach Sha'ul (the apostle Paul) notes that his ministry came with spiritual power. It was the key to his success. "My message and preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith may not rest on men's wisdom but on God's power." (I Cor. 2:4,5 see also, I Thes. 1:4,5) In I Corinthians 12 and 14 Paul exhorts us to seek the best spiritual gifts with the motive being love (chapter 13). He assumes that spiritual gifts will be in operation and emphasizes that prophecy can be effective in revealing secrets and so moving the unbeliever to conclude that God is really among us (14:25). I have seen this happen many times. Furthermore the signs and wonders in the ministries of Yeshua and the first apostles were proof that the Kingdom really had broken into this age and that Yeshua was the Messiah.

It is interesting that in the Christianity of the Southern Hemisphere, spiritual power and supernatural manifestations are more easily embraced and less contrary to their cultural sensitivities. Some of our problem in experiencing spiritual power may be cultural. The supernatural is so foreign to us. It may prevent us from really praying for effective power.

I am convinced that our effectiveness in presenting the Gospel to our people has more to do with spiritual power than cultural sensitivity. Yes, we value such sensitivity but we are also seeking to show the truth that Jewish followers of Yeshua continue to identify and live as Jews. Because of all the biblical evidence and from personal experience, I want to err on the side of openness to the manifestations of God's power.

By Daniel Juster



Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
04:55 01Sep10 Gilbert Carthigasu -
Thank you for this great article; as a pastor of a Pentecostal church that loves Israel it is encouraging and insightful.
One question: As a Gentile who goes to many Israel focussed meetings I have seen many "odd" things like women wearing the talit and blowing the shofar etc. What guidelines would you give to such people.

  -- Dr Juster replies: I think that the issue for Pentecostals and Charismatics concerns the issue of respect in using traditions outside of the boundaries of normal Jewish usage. Those who are in non-traditional streams of the church tend to not have a sense of the holy or reverence in using religious symbols and rituals. So the issue is when and how the shofar is used in Judaism and with this in mind having guidelines for our use that maintain some reverence. In the same way, the tallit is now used by women but not part of doing the hora dance. Again, the issue is not men or women today, but who and how. In addition, as a symbol of Jewish identity for Jews, we have to think out how Gentiles in a MJ context can join and use such a symbol. I am not giving answers, but calling for a respectful approach.

06:18 01Sep10 DK -
Your writing is my heart's desire. I'm wasted on doing the wise, humane service. We need God in His greatest form. We will never get there if we give into serving Him our way.

08:07 01Sep10 Almena Carthigasu -
Very good teaching especially to us Gentiles who are just embracing the "the Jewish thing".

08:22 01Sep10 Janelle -
Amen and amen. The fine line gets even finer after you pray Hebrews 4:12. God has increased the discernment between truth and error, cultural sensitivity and spiritual power when the believer doesn't just agree with Hebrews 4;12, but actually prays it: "Lord, separate my spirit from soul-control, that my spirit would get Your Mind on the matter."

08:51 01Sep10 Paul Hunt -
Also, "...the Lord confirmed their words, with signs and wonders following." If one is not teaching His word, then the signs are false.

09:48 01Sep10 CB
What a great lesson. In the past I have stuggled with explaning shaking to visitors or non believing guests. Personally I have questioned the "gold dust" phenomena because it doesn't make sense to me. I desire to be open as well as diserning.

  -- Dr Juster replies: It is a difficult issue. I have known gold dust miracles in South America from friends who have experienced it and who are trustworthy. However, they have not made it central, but only as a sign of God's love and favor. So many times people seek to mimic what God has done in the past or seek to make such phenomena happen again, to manufacture it. I want to give space for God's spirit to sovereignly move, but want to balance a place for the testimony of the supernatural and to make our services comprehensible but not go overboard with anything goes!

10:17 01Sep10 MAH -
I am opposed to putting a lid on the HOLY SPIRIT. He is a gentleman and will not act weird if you keep your eyes on JESUS the only focus! I do not like this whole SEEKER SENSITIVE THING! Allow HS to move as He wills, let go of the fear of man and be more interested in the fear of G-d! Why not allow the GLORY to be like a cloud? It engulfs the atmosphere. PRESENCE TAKES OVER!

10:35 01Sep10 Gail Coon -
A wonderful insightful article. I am watching my church shrink in size ... tradition is robbing us as a congregation.I am a spirit filled believer in a group that is frightened of spiritual things and manifestation so I am praying.

12:48 01Sep10 Pelham Gross -
Ah yes. I remember well my Baptist days when "all things must be done decently and in order." Meaning pre-determined denominational-set order, of course. I held to this in my preaching -- until one night in Arkansas a lady in the back got overcome, started speaking in tongues, and the POWER of God hit me up in the pulpit. Adjustment time! Nowadays, there's this monstrous cultural sensitivity in our gentile church leadership that goes something like this: "MY people are just not ready for 'the Israel thing' yet." And I'm thinking: Do we wait for a Zechariah 14 scenario to fall on 'OUR' people before we let them know that GOD IS ON RECORD -- on course, and on time to destroy everybody and everything not lined up with GOD'S true Israel nation? Do not 'OUR' people trapped in ignorance, arrogance, greed, and even rebellion DESERVE to be given the revelation of God's Truth from His Word?

13:13 01Sep10 Jannai -
Amen! I pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will manifest through us and with us, that all who see and hear will experience the Presence of G-d which will change their lives forever! "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of G-d for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Romans 1:16 13:17 01Sep10 Dan Benzvi -
The problem we see in all this, is that some are building whole ministries that are centered on the supernatural at the cost of putting the center of our faith, Yeshua, on the back burner.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Sadly, this does happen but we should allow God to be sovereign and not to seek to manufacture stuff!

14:08 01Sep10 Philip Mafunga -
Couldn't agree more. After all, Yeshua says He will send us the Spirit who will lead us into all Truth. Diminishing the power of God through His Spirit is just as good as rejecting the very Truth that sets men free ... in other words, this is having a form of Godliness that denies its very power. May we be open to the move and manifestation of the Spirit of God who reveals the Father and Son to us that we may know God better. He is the Spirit of Wisdom and revelation.

18:57 01Sep10 Amy Balch -
A word well spoken and much needed to be heard by the Blood-bought Church today! My heart grieves for how we have closed (slammed) our "collective" doors, in today's politically correct, seeker-friendly climate, in the face of the precious Holy Spirit -- and often God, for that matter! Truly to the determent of our souls!

19:09 01Sep10 Abbie -
I went to a church years ago where the Pastors were spirit-filled Christians. Somehow they got upset when we ministered the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in Bible School. The next year they put a ban on any of this, stating that they wanted anyone to feel comfortable sending their child to our church. What was funny was that we had asked for a different speaker each night to share their testimony and four of the five majored on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit! The fifth person was a part of the church hierarchy and followed the ban while the others knew nothing of this grieving policy.

21:09 01Sep10 Phil Guse -
Well put. The tension that exists in our sensitivity to both the Spirit and those around us has many trapped at each extreme. Your article exposes the need for a balanced approach that places our confidence in Jesus' desire to reveal His love through us without being a stumbling block.

22:13 01Sep10 Margaret -
I have notice that most churches do not want to believe in the manifestation of the Ruach HaKodesh. I have been told to test the "spirit" many times because they do not believe it is Him. I always answer that I serve the Living G-d and only Him I worship and adore. Therefore, I believe and trust that it is "His" Ruach HaKodesh that speaks through me in tongues and gives me the joy and peace of Y'shua, because as in Revelation 19:10...'Worship G-d for the testimony of Y'shua is the Spirit of prophecy.'" May we all who truly worship G-d in spirit and truth, believe and trust that what we receive is the Spirit promised.

06:50 02Sep10 Jeong Lee -
As churches in America follow seeker service, many Korean churches are copying them. Their cultural approaches are very attractive, however efforts to manifest the power of God is poor. I agree you "our effectiveness in presenting the Gospel to our people has more to do with spiritual power than cultural sensitivity"

10:38 02Sep10 D. Miller -
While I agree that Adonai moves in ways unknown to us and how He wills, I stay stuck on the fact that not once in scripture does it say Yeshua ever manifested the Holy Spirit by falling to the ground shaking/squirming or let loose with a bunch of non-coherent babbling. Shaul speaks of those things in effort to put a halt to some of the pagan practices that were so UNEDIFYING to the body as a whole. When one person out of the kehilah stands and begins to babble (or speak "in tongues") it is NOT edifying to those around him/her, or even to the person doing it, as they themselves don't even know what is coming from their mouths! It is declared over and over again that Adonai works in ways that edify the body of believers as a whole, not in ways that will feed the fleshly desire to see "weird" things. We are not to be so focused on hoping out of the ordinary things happen that we'll lean on making sure that they do. Manifestations of the Ruach HaKodesh will always be in line with scripture, which of course is far above our own ways anyway. We do need to beware.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Yes, one should not babble out without interpretation. However, in my experience the Holy Spirit includes the reality of power and when there is great power, it is difficult for the weak to stand; hence the priests in the Temple and even those who came to arrest Yeshua. We simply do not have much information about such things in the N.T. Yeshua was at a level that he could experience amazing levels of power and still be standing firm.

16:24 02Sep10 The Rev. Dr. Nicholas A. Marziani -
Beyond issues of spiritual power, there is the important matter of spiritual identity, ie. who we are while at worship. I find it interesting that the current Pope is rather unconcerned that aspects of traditional Roman Catholic worship may be "insensitive" to prospective church members (or even current members!). He's singularly concerned with Catholic spiritual identity - who and what the church is supposed to be at prayer.
The same idea applies here, I think. If the LORD has called a Messianic congregation to be a place where spiritual gifts are valued in their manifestation, then integrity demands that they be true to that calling, that identity. To dissemble or cloak who we really are is a form of lying, and Paul certainly had words to share with Peter concerning that very point!

22:31 02Sep10 Rose Mary Baca -
I've been listening to some of Derek Prince's teachings on how we ourselves are triune in nature, as spirit, soul, and body -- 1 Thess 5:23 -- (a series called "Bible Psychology"). The teaching explains the various articles in tabernacle of Moses and the stages required for us to enter the Holy of Holies where we receive the revelation and fellowship of God in Spirit and in truth that our spirit longs for. I think we need to be in that intimate fellowship with God in order to be able to discern between spiritual and the soulish.

01:08 03Sep10 Sean Steckbeck -
I've found the solution to balance in this phenomenom. The problem with both the seeker sensetive (contextualized) and power of God moves is that both of them practice extraction and attraction models. Meaning we attract them with either contextualized forms of what they do or with the power of God, then extract them from their existing communities. Rather, it would be the easiest to practice if the disciple-maker/congregation planter would practice making disciples within their existing communities. There would be no need for contextualization, because they are already living their cultural reality out on a regular basis. And the power of God can invade their existing oikos/socio-cultural setup.

05:51 04Sep10 SS -
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! What a balanced view! One for which I have longed since leaving a Pentecostal setting to come into an understanding of the Scriptures from the Jewish point of view through our Messianic brothers and sisters in Messiah. Our particular congregation does not embrace the gifts of the Ruah as you have presented them in this article. In my opinion, they are much needed for the reasons you have given. Since you are much respected by our rabbi (who we love), I sincerely hope that he will consider your article with much prayer and wisdom.

23:07 05Sep10 David -
Thank you for addressing this important subject in such a sensitive way - that is, sensitivity toward God and His workings. May we first seek to please God before trying to please man.

08:22 06Sep10 Susan Stanage -
Thank you for encouraging the Body of Christ to speak forth the prophetic Word, in the U.S. many churches "deny the power" of God and keep quiet. New comers are looking for the Power of God to help them grow and be edified. Something that is different from the secular humanistic that quenches the Spirit.

23:00 08Sep10 Carol Reid -
This rings so true for those of us in Gentile churches as well. We belong to a Foursquare church that is a far cry from the spiritual foundations that Aimee Semple laid (particularly Jesus as the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit). Our body is shrinking I believe due to restraining the Holy Spirit from operating fully during our gatherings. There is a strong man-pleasing spirit at work.

  -- Dr Juster replies: I do have great respect for the 4 Square and do know churches that pursue the presence and power of the Spirit. However, we have seen a great turn away from the Spirit to sociological methods as I noted above and that would include Pentecostal churches as well.

15:03 11Sep10 Vicki -
This absolutely delights me, as the entire time I was reading I was thinking of some of the young people here in the U.S. who are so hungry for the supernatural. It may be the only way to "win" some of them.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Moshe Morrison: The Riddle
Marty Shoub: 24 Years In The Making
Ariel Blumenthal: East Asia, Ancestor Worship and the Revelation of Yeshua (Part Two)