association members express optimism about future
--By Joni B. Hannigan
ATLANTA, June 15--Calling Jewish people "grossly
overlooked" in the past by Southern Baptists, Jack Johnson said all that is changing
with "new paradigms" put in place by the North American Mission Board of the
Southern Baptist Convention.
Johnson, special assistant to the president, told a small group
gathered June 15 for a meeting of the North American Messianic Association that a new
openness and attitude exists.
"We're not necessarily hampered or hamstrung by the past,"
Johnson said. "NAMB is sympathetic with every group trying to reach their people
Touting NAMB's "Strategic Focus" thrust for reaching people
in large cities across the nation as "the beginning of good news," Johnson told
those assembled to be prepared to be involved in reaching millions.
"We can give you principles, but you are absolutely indispensable
to reaching your own people," Johnson said. "We have levels of understanding,
but you have depths of understanding I don't have."
Jim Austin, association president and pastor of Congregation Beth
Shalom, Helena, Mont., said he is excited about plans for NAMB to assist in the planting
of Messianic congregations and for a special training camp planned for the future.
"We are not to just have a Jewish experience, but to be
evangelistic," Austin said.
He said it is important for Jewish people to retain their cultural and
ethnic influences which do not detract from the message of salvation through Christ, but
only bring things full circle.
Bob Ryan, director of missions for the Lake County Baptist Association
in Illinois, agreed with Austin and said Southern Baptists are working in cities, but
almost in isolation.
In keeping with cultural distinctions, while not watering down the
gospel, Baptists can reach even the "religious Jew," said Bruce Stokes, a
religious studies teacher at California Baptist University, Riverside.
Stokes predicted the modern Messianic Jewish movement will soon collide
with a new national ethnic awareness. "Where people function together, we will share
Fruit, however, is evidence of a people whose work is effective, said
Mike Smith, first vice president of the Ohio Baptist Convention and a former Messianic
Using Matthew 21 as his text, Smith said the fig tree first puts forth
its fruit and then its leaves. "Pray God we will not wither," he said.
"Reach out to the Jeshua people. Let us be fruitful and multiply."
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