With Hanukkah season upon us, Sam Nadler challenges Southern Baptists to view this holiday as a reminder of opportunities to reach out to Jews who have not embraced Jesus Christ as their true Lord and Savior.
Aside from what believers in Christ may know about Hanukkah, Nadler, president of Word of Messiah Ministries based in Charlotte, pointed out that the holiday can be found in John 10:22, where it mentions Jesus and the Feast of Dedication.
“The Feast of Dedication … That’s Hannukah,” said Nadler, noting that the holiday is a “wonderful time for outreach” and to engage the Jewish community in conversation.
“We can utilize this,” he said. “What a glorious opportunity for the Jewish people to hear the Good News.”
Nadler’s ministry works closely with the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship (SBMF) and the North American Mission Board. Word of Messiah Ministries focuses on training and church planting among Messianic Jews. He spoke at SBMF’s event in June during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Nadler also has led training at the International Mission Board’s learning center near Richmond, Va. For more information about Word of Messiah Ministries go to http://www.wordofmessiah.org/.
Photo by Bill Bangham
Sam Nadler, president of Word of Messiah Ministries, speaks during a service of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship at First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., June 16.
While many Southern Baptist churches work to advance the gospel among people groups here and abroad, Nadler challenges Baptists to not forget the Jews.
“[Christ] has been raised from the dead,” he said. “We have a mandate for the gospel to go to all peoples, including the Jews.”
It starts with learning to speak the same language and avoiding getting lost in translation with what Nadler called “Christianese.”
“You have to be ‘cross-cultural,’” he said. “You have to be able to speak in a language they understand.”
For instance, Nadler said the word “Christian” is word that can mean different things to different people.
“They don’t interpret the word [Christian] to mean that I believe He is the Messiah of Israel,” said Nadler, who identifies himself as “a Jewish man who believes that Jesus is Lord.”
“They believe Christ is the Messiah of the Gentiles. Christian is not a bad word, but it just doesn’t communicate what we intended it to mean.”
Nadler said it’s no different than when a mission team travels to another country.
“When we go to France, we have to learn French to preach to the French,” he said. “With Jewish people you just have to be able to speak their language.
“I want to see Jewish people saved,” he added. “We want everyone saved, everyone discipled, preaching the Word. God loves us all. We all have the same rights and privileges … all one in the Messiah.”
Howard and Melissa Taylor of Rich Square, N.C., also are seeking to reach the Jewish community in the northeast part of the state, where there are around 4,000 Jews. Though both are of Jewish descent, they grew up Baptist. They moved to Rich Square from Virginia a few months ago. The Taylors have started a new church plant this month focused on reaching Jews. Services are held in the West Chowan Baptist Association’s building in Ahoskie.
“It’s perfect timing with Hanukkah,” said Melissa, who grew up in Rich Square.
“We both had a heart for evangelism for Jewish people in northeast North Carolina,” said Howard, who makes a living restoring old homes.
“We figured the West Chowan Baptist Association would be a good place to start.”
Through their ministry, the Taylors hope to provide a community for Jews who choose to follow Jesus. While applying many New Testament teachings, they also apply some Jewish traditions – such as reading from the Torah. The Taylors maintain a kosher lifestyle that helps them provide a welcoming environment for Jews who visit their home.
“A Jewish community is very tight-knit,” Howard said. “It’s almost like a giant extended family.”
Jews who choose to follow Jesus often become outcasts among friends and loved ones, he said.
“They lose their entire family … their community,” he said.
“Having a Messianic Jewish community established means that there is a community that will accept [them] as a Jew … and will still be able to bring glory and proclamation of Messiah to the world.”
Regardless of the challenges, Howard said reaching the Jews for Christ is something we all should care about.
“It’s the heart of the Messiah,” he said. “It’s His people … of course He wants them to come into the Kingdom … and Scripture is clear [that] no one comes into Kingdom except through the Messiah.”
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights, is an eight-day feast beginning on the 25th of Kislev, which this year falls on sundown, Dec. 8. The first Hanukkah was established in 164 BC as a memorial to the purification and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem.