New Church Constructed in Tel Aviv

ASSIST Ministries reports on an interesting religious development in Tel Aviv:

For what is believed to be the first time, a Christian congregation in Israel is building its own church – in a Jewish area near Tel Aviv.

Although the building plan was hotly contested by Orthodox Jews and the church had to go all the way to the Supreme Court, the Christian congregation, Grace and Truth, won the day.

…The Grace and Truth Christian congregation, a Reformed and Baptist church, is an indigenous Israeli church, reaching out to Jews and Arabs. Founded in 1976, it is one of Israel’s oldest churches and has showed the way for other churches in the country and has led a successful international campaign against efforts to restrict religious freedom in Israel.

…To protect the property against vandalism by Orthodox Jews, it is guarded 24 hours a day. The cost of legal fees, security, insurance, rising prices, changing demands by the authorities and related expenses have made it impossible to afford the completion of a worship centre that will be used seven days a week for prayer, weddings, conferences and seminars.

The situation of Christian Israelis is something I have looked at a couple of times in the past: see here and here. Grace and Truth was founded by Baruch Maoz, who sees himself more as a Reformed Christian than a “Messianic Jew”. A book review at Banner of Truth (a British Reformed publisher best-known for its Puritan reprints) explains:

Baruch Maoz argues that the Messianic Jewish movement has allowed the authority of the rabbis to overshadow the rightful authority of Scripture, and that the movement is in deep trouble. He has done this in his book entitled, “Judaism is not Jewish: A friendly critique of the Messianic Movement”.

…As I understand it, the key argument Baruch seeks to establish, and one with which not all will agree, is that “Judaism” is not “Jewish.” By “Judaism” he means the religious system developed by the Rabbis in the light of the destruction of the Temple, Diaspora existence and the rabbinic rejection of Jesus. This “Judaism” is not properly “Jewish” in the original sense that God intended “Jewishness” to be – a biblical culture and identity which reflects God’s presence and values, and is fulfilled in Christ. As such this “Judaism” should have no recognised authority over the beliefs and practices of Jewish believers in Jesus, and “Messianic Judaism”, in seeking to combine faith in Jesus as the Messiah with a modified form of “Judaism”, inevitably pursues a false trail…”Messianic Judaism”, as opposed to “Jewish Christianity”, fails, according to Baruch, to distinguish between the religious and cultural/national aspects of “Jewishness”, and therefore buys into a rabbinically-imposed set of norms of what is expected to be truly “Jewish”.

This claim that non-Christian Jews have got it wrong, of course, is shared by most conservative Christians, but the belief is seldom stated so bluntly; just recently we saw Jerry Falwell being obliged to disavow a report that he held both religions as equally valid(see my discussion here). Maoz himself adds:

What is more, the creeping error that insists that Judaism is “the root of our [Christian] Faith” undermines our confidence in Scripture and our ability to read the Bible properly. The growing number of adherents to the Messianic Movement who question the deity of Christ, or who are inclined toward a form of legalism that replaces grace with works are disconcerting indications of the direction in which the movement is liable to go – God forbid – if the process is not stopped.

One imagines that Maoz must be particularly appalled by the Noahcide Movement, which I discussed here.

The church’s website gives a bit of background to Maoz – a rowdy youth in Israel followed by conversion to Pentecostalism, and then a rejection of that in favour of Reformed Christianity. Training followed in the UK – through CLC (Christian Literature Crusade) and its associated missionary organistion WEC (then “World Evangelisation Crusade”, but these days the rather more tactful “World Evangelisation for Christ”), and then work with Christian Witness for Israel:

In 1976, with the full encouragement of CWI, the first steps were taken to form what is now Grace and Truth Christian Congregation…The congregation now consists of some 260 adults and their children, and the membership is over 65. Baruch is assisted in the oversight and pastoral care of the church by a body of Elders and Deacons, augmented by a Deacons’ Committee. Most of the congregants are relatively recent immigrants, struggling to establish themselves economically.

And somewhat likely not to have any particular links with Judaism – this Al-Ahram article from 2000 has some useful background.

However, Maoz has not completely cut himself off from Messianic Judaism. Another Banner of Truth article notes:

When members of Israel’s parliament attempted to introduce legislation that would make Christian evangelism a criminal offence, Baruch set up and, for the first eighteen months, led the Messianic Action Committee, to defend freedom of religion in Israel.

This was the anti-missionary bill proposed by the Shas MK Raphael Pinchasi in the late 1990s, and which threatened relations between Christians and Israel (although the outspoken Christian Zionist Jan Willem van der Hoeven has no problem calling Shas “the great upholders of G-ds sanctity”).

Maoz retired last year, leaving elder David Zadok as the main spokesperson for the church.

UPDATE: Looks like a double whammy for Israel: ASSIST also reports that:

Daystar Television Network, which owns and operates 50 television stations across the United States, will be the first Christian network to broadcast into every home in Israel with 100 percent Christian content.

…”This is a first. Never before has the nation of Israel granted a license for a 100 percent Christian Channel to broadcast into all of Israel. Up until now, it has either been: illegal, impossible, or impractical. The message of the Gospel will now be going into every home in Israel 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This is a moment in time that we will always remember,” said [Daystar President Marcus] Lamb.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the info. I’ve been studying some Hebrew and the present Jewish culture and wondering about Christians in Israel, but particularly, I want to know if there is a Christian organization that believes like the Primitive Baptists. We believe the “TULIP” doctrines, baptism of believers by immersion, and try to stick to the Scriptural example of worship in the New Testament church. I would appreciate any information regarding this.


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