The Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, a ministry formed in 1990 to preach the gospel to Jews, will for the first time have a booth this year in the exhibit hall at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Baptist Press reports the messianic fellowship is “now recognized as an official ethnic and language ministry of the North American Mission Board.”
The Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship Web site says the group has sought space on the exhibit floor for three years.
“We are praying that we will be recommended by NAMB to have a booth on the exhibit floor in the SBC Convention Center this year,” says a prayer request on the Web site. “We would like to let our SBC brothers and sisters know who we are and how we can help them in this race we run together. So many SBC brothers and sisters don’t even know that a Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship exists. We need exposure in our convention. With this exposure we could partnership with many local SBC churches to bring the Good News of Yeshua to many more Jewish people.”
This year the prayer was answered. The North American Mission Board notified us that they are sponsoring the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship to have a booth on the exhibit floor of the SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Ind.,” a recent posting proclaims. “Baruch Ha’Shem Yeshua.” That is Hebrew for “Blessed be the name of Jesus.”
The fellowship meets annually in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting. This year’s guest speaker is H. Bruce Stokes, a psychological anthropologist and dean of the school of behavioral sciences at California Baptist University.
A member of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, Stokes is pastor/teacher of the DiscipleCenter, a ministry connected to the Southern Baptist Convention that exists “to support the Messianic Movement and to assist the Denominational Churches to understand the Unique calling of the Messianic Movement in the larger Jewish community.”
NAMB officials did not respond to e-mails asking for clarification of the form of the agency’s recognition of the SBMF, but the fellowship’s Web site said leaders were working to build “a proactive working relationship” with NAMB that could include financial support.
Last year Aslam Masih, a NAMB church-planting missionary for Middle Easterners and South Asians, spoke to the group and treated 54 attendees to lunch.
The SBMF says it is working with NAMB on several projects. They include Congregation Beth Chaim (House of Life), a Messianic congregation that meets Saturdays at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. Other joint projects include seeking a worship location for Valley Of Blessings in Greensboro, N.C., new works in Atlanta and New York City and other future Jewish outreach projects.
The group also wants NAMB to recognize its missionaries with the status of Mission Service Corps, self-funded missionaries that support evangelism and church-planting by NAMB and other partners.
For now the group is seeking more visibility and credibility among Southern Baptists.
“We would like to let our SBC Brothers and Sisters know who we are and how we can help them in this race we run together, leading the nations and our Jewish kinsman to Yeshua,” the group says on its Web site. “To this date several SBC ministries and Churches have used the services of or partnered with groups like the MJAA, UMJC, Chosen People Ministries and Jews for Jesus. We need to be more visible to our SBC Brothers and Sisters. Without the support of NAMB this can not be accomplished.”
“We work together to help start new works in Jewish evangelism such as Messianic congregations,” Ric Worshill, president of the fellowship, told Baptist Press. “We work with NAMB, local Baptist associations and state conventions to plant congregations who will reach the lost remnant of Israel.”
“Many SBC brothers and sisters have no idea that the SBMF exists to assist them in Jewish evangelism,” Worshill said. “They don’t know that we have highly qualified people to come and train them in Jewish evangelism. They don’t know that our members can come and lead Passover Seders and other teachings.”
A motion at the SBC in 2005 to recognize the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship “as a formal evangelistic mission entity to Jewish people worldwide” was referred to the SBC Executive Committee. The Executive Committee suggested that NAMB and the International Mission Board study the idea jointly but did not bring a formal recommendation.
The messenger who made the motion, Connie Saffle of Shalom Adonai Messianic Fellowship of Wichita, Kan., asked what became of her motion at the annual meeting in 2007. She was told a response was included in the 2006 convention Book of Reports.
“The entities take seriously what Southern Baptists mention,” SBC President Frank Page told messengers in San Antonio, Texas. Watching various SBC entities deliberate over referred motions during his first year in office, Page said, “I’ve heard them deal with sincerity and integrity the motions of concern of Southern Baptists.”
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation Leauge objected to the Executive Committee recommendation of turning a mission to Jews over to the SBC’s mission boards.
“The idea of the Southern Baptist Convention using a so-called Jewish messianic group–which misrepresents two faiths–to target Jews for conversion is disgraceful, insulting and dangerous,” Foxman said in 2005.
Foxman decried “continuing efforts by the Southern Baptist Convention to target Jews for conversion.” He termed the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship “part of a deceptive movement that falsely claims they are interested in Jewish practices when the real goal is to convert Jews to Christianity.”
For Southern Baptists, however, it is simply a strategy for evangelism. Ed Stetzer, who now works for LifeWay Christian Resources, has said Messianic congregations are an example of a “missional” church, in that they are “indigenous to Jewish culture.”
The SBC passed a resolution in 1996 pledging to direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the gospel to the Jewish people.
In 2004 the Baptist Center for Ethics sponsored a luncheon aimed at improving relations between Baptists and Jews. Some video from the event appears in the DVD, “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationships with Jews.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Previous related stories:
Southern Baptists Discuss Ways to Evangelize Jews
SBC Motion Asks WMU to Waive Auxiliary Status
SBC Executive Committee Suggests Study of Mission to Jews
Group Asks Southern Baptists to Stop Efforts to Convert Jews