Sunday, September 19, 2021

Podcast: Is there Unknown Antisemitism in Your Theology?

A conversation with Nic Lesmeister from the Church InTension podcast

The Church is growing rapidly in its understand of its Jewish roots. One big leap took place in Gateway Center for Israel Director Nic Lesmeister’s life when he discovered unknown antisemitism in his theology. Find out more in this episode of the Church InTension podcast, in which Dr. Jon Chasteen discusses the topic of antisemitism and Jewish Christianity with Nic Lesmeister.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Hey, well, thanks so much for taking some time out of your day to join the Church InTension Podcast, where we have healthy conversations about the local church, and the things that are of tension. This podcast is powered by The King’s University and Gateway Church. Those tension points or areas that we all just need to become better at. If you liked this podcast, will you do us a favor and subscribe to it. Push that button up there on the screen, like it, give us some stars, five stars preferably, if you don’t mind, and give us some comments, put it on your social media page. Help us get the word out to those out there doing ministry. Today, I have a really amazing guest that has become a really good friend of mine, and I just love his heart and what he does and what God has placed on his heart and the profession, so to speak, of what he has stepped into in ministry. And what’s cool about it is he’s not your typical minister, so to speak.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

He has an entrepreneurial background in the finance sector and just had an amazing career and did very, very well, and has a master’s degree in nonprofit management. And then God began to just do this real shift on his heart. And I want him to talk us through that about a ministry that he became involved with, and how to reach a passion and a burden for the nation of Israel. And I can’t wait to have you hear more about this, because I think this is an area that a lot of pastors, we know that there’s something about Israel and the Jews that we should be really tied to an educated and passionate about, but we just don’t know exactly what that means in a lot of ways. And that’s what this is all about. And so I’m really excited to have a Nic with us. Nic Lesmeister is an amazing man. He’s married to… His wife’s name is Tabitha. He has three kids. He lives here in the Dallas Metro area. Nic, thanks for being on the show man. We’re excited to have you.

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. It’s an honor to be here really. Excited about it too.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

So I’m really excited to have our audience listened to what burden God has put in your heart. But I really want you to start by just setting this up, man. You have a really interesting story about how this worked and how this came about to where you literally moved to Jerusalem with your family. That’s a big thing to do, man. And so walk us through that, man. Thanks for being on the show. Set us up and tell us how this all came about.

Nic Lesmeister:

Well, it’s a long story. I’ll try and keep it brief. I grew up in a Catholic family in rural Minnesota, and was actually kind of tapped by my local priest to go into the seminary, to be a priest. He thought I had a ministry calling on my life, interestingly. I had a calling to be married, so there was no question to me that that was ever going to happen.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

First priority.

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. And so fast forward, I came to faith when I was 19 and in a library in Fargo, North Dakota, I actually had a vision of Jesus just by myself. And I went to an Assemblies of God Bible School shortly thereafter. And when I was there, there was a ministry that cater to this large church I was a part of, and the speaker’s name was pastor Don Finto, pastored a church in Nashville for a long time.

Nic Lesmeister:

Michael W. Smith was at his church, and he brought this message about Israel and the Jewish people. And he made a statement. This was in 2003, I think he said, “Did you know that your savior is a Jew?” And I was real zealous for the Lord at the time. And it was like when he said that I put my pen down and raised my fist up and said, “No, he’s not.” And as soon as that happened, I mean, in a moment’s notice, it was like the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “You have antisemitism in your heart.” and I said, “Whoa, Lord. You know, I don’t hate anyone.” And what happened is the Lord reminded me of an experience I had as a young boy walking down the block to my local Catholic church. And I had probably been reading a book about Anne Frank or something like that.

Nic Lesmeister:

And I lived out in the farmland of Minnesota. So I asked my dad, I said, “What’s the story with the Jewish people?” There weren’t any Jewish people around where I was in rural Minnesota. And he turned to me and he said, “Catholics are the new Jews.” And so I didn’t think anything of it because everybody that I knew was Catholic. I didn’t know any Jewish people anywhere, and little did I know at the time that he was bought into a very, very bad theology that really the majority of the global church has bought into. So this all happened in a moment’s notice at this church service. The next guy up on the stage in 2003, after I had this momentary experience with the Lord, was Pastor Wayne Wilks, who is pastor of Church and Jewish Relations here at Gateway Church, and oversees me at the Gateway Center for Israel.

Nic Lesmeister:

And he got up and shared about the ministry that he had founded alongside Pastor Robert in 1996 called the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, that was training Messianic Jewish leaders to reach their people, start congregations, et cetera, in the former Soviet Union. And I was just so gripped by it, because it was like a story that someone kept from me that I never knew about. And all of a sudden the bible became new. And I was reading things that I had read millions of times before, it seemed like. And it was like, wait a second. There’s a Jewish understanding of this. There’s an everlasting nature to the promises to Israel. So I started giving money to MJBI as a poor college student. And I’m really to make a long story short, I ended up moving to DFW, going to Shady Grove Church, which was the predecessor that Gateway was born out of, and getting to know Wayne a little bit.

Nic Lesmeister:

And then I went off into the marketplace, got a degree in economics and started working for an entrepreneur, and just knew I had to keep this priority of blessing Israel, especially as it related to taking the gospel to the Jewish people. And so Tabitha and I, as newlyweds, were giving money every month to MJBI and we kept upping it. And our business just started growing. And, this put me on Wayne’s radar, as we were giving more and more to the ministry, I was probably in my late 20s. And he invited me to become a advisory board member. So he and I started traveling together. We ended up being in this courtyard of a Messianic Jewish Congregation in Ethiopia. And I was just there. It was the first time in Africa, and I actually grew up thinking I was going to be a missionary to Africa.

Nic Lesmeister:

And I took a previous trip to Africa and did not enjoy it. So, was like, no, that must not be it. [crosstalk 00:06:40] So yeah, here I was maybe like seven or eight years later in Africa. And I’m hearing this stories of these messianic Jews who are Jews who believe in Jesus getting persecuted by Orthodox Christians, because they were claiming to be Jewish and by the Jewish people, because they’re claiming to be Christian. And the Lord just moved on my heart and spoke to me and called me into ministry to the Jewish people and a lifelong calling oof standing with the Jewish people that I didn’t know, I had no idea how that was going to unfold at the time. And the first thing we did is we’d been saving money for years to buy a piece of land and to move out on, my wife and I. And the Lord said, “I’m not going to give you land until these people have land.” Because they were renting a congregation.

Nic Lesmeister:

So we ended up buying the first Messianic Jewish congregational building that we know of at least that in Africa. And, that started a journey, that then Wayne was approached by Pastor Robert to take over Gateways Jewish Ministry. And he asked me even to take over the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute. And as I’d sold out of my businesses, felt to just move to Israel as a Gentile to get some better equipping and better experience around Jewish people. And that was all in 2014. And so, yeah, we ended up moving to Israel in the middle of a war, which was really fun to tell my family about. You know, “Hey, we’re moving to the Middle East.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

We’re going to train for the bomb wrecks.

Nic Lesmeister:

I mean, really, it was like right after we decided to go all these rockets started flying over. But God confirmed it, and we ended up there in the fall of 2014. And so it’s just been a journey, and just one thing led to another and I took over MJBI for a season. And now we’ve merged MJBI into Gateway with Gateway Global Jewish Ministry that Wayne Wilks was leading to create the Gateway Center for Israel. So it’s kind of like a full circle thing where Wayne and Pastor Roberts started together in the 90s. And Shady Grove Church sent Wayne out in this Jewish ministry field. And now MJBI came back into Gateway and it’s like, we’re seeing a new season for something new. But yeah, as a Gentile, I would have expected to live in this world.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Yeah, that’s what I was going to point out. It’s interesting, you’re a Gentile and you were called to go and lead MJBI, Messianic Jewish Bible Institute. And now you’re over the Gateway Center for Israel as a Gentile. It’s amazing to think that God is using you in that way. When you were completely in another realm in business, all going back to this one pastor standing up, or this one preacher standing up and saying, “You know Jesus was a Jew, right?” “Oh, you mean, Jesus, isn’t a blonde haired, blue eyed guy that I see on the paintings on the walls” So, what I want to do is I really want to break down and take some terms that sometimes, that we as pastors hear thrown around, and really try to bring some life to those. Because, I think many times pastors or anybody for that matter, there’s things that we know we’re supposed to know, but we don’t really know and we’re afraid to ask questions because…

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

So I really want us to hit some of those terms today and help bring clarity for a lot of pastors. Of, why should I care? What do I need to know about Israel and the Jewish people as it pertains to the church that I lead or the church that I’m a part of today? And you talked about this, the comment that your dad made, right? Your dad makes this comment that the… What’d he say, the Catholics are the new Jews. So unpack that for a second. What does he mean by that? And maybe there’s other churches out there, maybe give us a historical perspective. We’ll just sit in the class of Nic today. Help us understand what that means. Where did that start from? Where’s the history of the church and how that all came about?

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, it’s a fundamental starting point. The term that my dad didn’t realize, that theological term that he was operating under, the more working definition of it is called replacement theology. The academic definition of it is called supersessionism. And it comes from the word supersede. And that comes from the idea of literally taking someone else’s place. Like they were sitting in a chair and you just took their place. And so that’s really the best way to understand it. Is that it’s the view that the church has literally taken the place of Israel. So in its most raw form, it would be like going back and reading the Hebrew scriptures, the old Testament. And every time you see Israel or Jerusalem, you just scratch it out and write church. Because ultimately this is what God’s plan was.

Nic Lesmeister:

So, there’s different levels of this supersessionism, but the one that my story exemplifies is really probably the biggest one. Which is that God was working through Israel, and his purpose and desire was to save all the nations and to save humanity. And basically Jesus comes on the scene because Israel messed up. I mean, this is kind of the idea that we all work under. And then Israel rejects him. And so, because they rejected him, God punished Israel and said, “I’m done with you, I’m doing something new.” The Gentiles come in. So the church becomes the new spiritual Israel. So it’s a people group from all over the world, from every background, but it’s now spiritualized. And this is what most seminaries and most pastors grow up in. It’s the paint on the wall. And we don’t realize that that’s the case, because all of these terms and ways of thinking are familiar to us until we start to scratch.

Nic Lesmeister:

And, when someone says something as provocative as your savior is a Jew, it causes you to stop and really quickly reevaluate everything. And we believe that… At Gateway and obviously at TKU, that that’s a incorrect view of scripture. And it all goes back, ultimately, why is that important? Well, ultimately, we like to say that it’s because the character of God’s at stake. And if God can change his mind at some point along redemptive history, and make all these promises and then get to a certain point and say, “Hmm, that didn’t really work out. I going to do something else.”

Nic Lesmeister:

There’s a Messianic Jewish scholar that says that, “Replacement theology turns Israel into God’s ex wife.” And when you really think about it like that, that’s what it is. It’s basically like God said, “I’m tired of this.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

“I made a mistake.”

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. “I’m tired of this one. I made a mistake. I might have to do over. And I had a few years of experience, and man, she just doesn’t cook well, and doesn’t treat me right. So I’m going out to find somebody that will.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

That’s all good.

Nic Lesmeister:

And, what does that ultimately say about God? And, what does it say about the authority of scripture?

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Do you think most pastors, and really lay people for that matter, if you were to really ask them the question, do you think it’s more indirect by ignorance than anything? It’s not that people are literally saying, I really believe that it’s replacement theology. Or do you think that it’s just the way we talk? And so we train people without knowing we’re training people. And we talk in a manner in which unknowingly this theology kind of creeps in. Or do you think most people it’s blatant decision that I’m choosing this route or is it just happens kind of inadvertently?

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. We like to say it’s innocent. I think most pastors today, especially in the modern evangelical church, it’s an innocent replacement theology or an innocent, ignorant, naive replacement theology. And I think we have the freedom to be able to say that today, because unfortunately everything that happened in the 1940s in Nazi Germany, and I would say up until then, it wasn’t innocent. And it was the leading theology of the time, because of some key errors that were made in the early first centuries of the church that were just built upon, one layer after another. And it came to a tipping point with Adolf Hitler who ultimately did. He persecuted Jewish people on the basis of the fact that they killed Jesus. And, so then he just developed… He had this ugly antisemitism. And the Holocaust really did make scholars and theologians take a second look and say, this is one of the most Christian countries in the world. How on earth did this happen?

Nic Lesmeister:

And when they started digging, you start to see why. Because there was this stream of thought that said the Jewish people are responsible for the death of Jesus. They didn’t accept him. Therefore God’s cut them off and curse them. The church now is triumphal over Israel, and it was ugly. And so I don’t think most pastors believe that today. I think we’ve seen the error of that. But what we don’t realize is that the leftover fumes of that theology still kind of get into our system today. So I think what you said at the beginning here is really the more average starting point for a pastor. And in fact, I remember when you and I, Dr. Jesse, were in a meeting one time recently, and we were talking about this, but you made the comment that, Hey, I read Israel all over in the Bible.

Nic Lesmeister:

And so it jumps out to me that God seems to have something favorable towards Israel. And I think most pastors, that’s where they’re at. They know Israel’s important to God, but they just don’t know what to do about it. And the honest truth is there is a lot of unhealthy stuff out there on Israel and the church. And pastor’s mind is going to go towards the unhealthy thing, because it’s the most visible and it’s the loudest, and it’s the most divisive. And we’re concerned about that. And we don’t think that that’s healthy or biblical. And so I think pastors just feel paralyzed by it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

I want to circle back around. Eventually we want to land the ship at Center for Israel. Because I really want our listeners to hear the heart of what it is, and see it as a resource for them to go to and educate themselves. And we’ll get practical in a minute on that. But I want to talk about it. We did one. We talked about replacement theology and a term that people use here, but they may not know what it is. And I think you did a great job of describing that. I want to talk about a couple more, that kind of stick out that many of our listeners would be like, well, why are we talking about that? I know what that is. I want to talk to the people that are listening that may not know. So even, okay, let’s talk about you’ve used this term a couple of times, and I would assume that all of our listeners would know, but let’s just go there. We talked about this antisemitism. What is antisemitism.

Nic Lesmeister:

Antisemitism, essentially, any action, whether it’s through word or deed that word persecute or lessen the Jewish people just on the basis of their Judaism, that’s it, or on them being Jewish. So it is probably the oldest ism in the book. And between us, I think it’s rooted in the fact that Israel is chosen by God. I think there’s a lot of spiritual forces behind that. And because the enemy knows that this is God’s covenant people, Jesus obviously is himself a Jew. And so it’s anti-Messiah. Antisemitism is anti-Messiah, because Jesus is Jewish. So it’s rearing its head. And it’s something that our grandparents were really familiar with because of the Holocaust, but it’s coming back around.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

And I think it’s important to even talk about the inadvertent times that it’s done. You could talk about racism and people might say, well, I’m not a racist. But there might be things that we do that tend to, well, yeah, you are. And it can be the same with antisemitism. That even using replacement theology, unknowingly that you’re legitimately doing that, you’re still acting in that way. And so. you can still be activating something that you don’t even realize you’re activating. And it’s this idea of purifying our hearts and exposing those things in our hearts to let God… And this is what happened to you. You were saying, “Oh my gosh, I think I might have some of this in my heart. I didn’t even know it was there.” And it can be a process of walking through that. So, here’s another one. What is a Messianic Jew?

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Because, I think that that term was really common in the 1960s and ’70s, but I think it’s starting to become a little bit harder to understand. And it has some changes to it. I don’t use it that much anymore. I like to say a Jewish believer in Jesus. Now, some people might disagree with me on that. But a messianic Jew is just a Jew who believes in the Messiah of Israel, Jesus. Yeshua. So, that would be the key differentiator between just a Jewish person and a Jew who believes in Jesus. They’re Messianic. They put their hope in Israel’s Messiah.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

And they have these all over, Messianic Jewish congregations.

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

If somebody is curious, if somebody is just wanting to… Would you advise them to go to one, experience it? What are they going to experience when they go to a Messianic Jewish synagogue?

Nic Lesmeister:

Well, we affirm the Messianic Jewish community in that we affirm Jews who want to live their life as Jews, even though they follow Yeshua, Jesus. We believe that the Bible actually lays out pretty clearly, that there is a distinction between Jew and Gentile, Just like there’s a distinction between male and female. And that, that wasn’t done away with in Jesus, contrary to some misunderstandings that people believe about what Paul said about that. And so we at Gateway affirmed Jewish identity, holy. And what we mean by that is we believe that God called Israel and he created a people group to himself to be distinctive, and that he puts some parameters around what life looks like. And so therefore we believe that even when you come to faith in Jesus, it’s important to live within that system. It’s important for all of us to be a part of our people.

Nic Lesmeister:

I mean, we as modern Americans, it’s a little bit more mixed, but that’s a part of identity. And for us, you have to know your identity because I think it ties into what God’s destiny is for you. And we believe that the Messianic Jewish Community is one that the church has to affirm because they are a witness to the Jewish people. We can be witnessed to the Jewish people through our sincere love, I believe as Gentiles. But there has to be a community that can be a light and say, you can live Jewish completely as a follower of Jesus. And yeah, there’s messianic Jews everywhere. I mean, the statistics on that vary, but in America, there’s probably two, 300,000 Messianic Jews in Messianic congregations, but there’s probably another 700,000 Jewish believers in church. And what I mean by that is if they have a Jewish parent or a Jewish grandparent.

Nic Lesmeister:

And then in the land of Israel, there’s about 20,000 Messianic Jews there. And that’s growing. I mean, that’s up from like 60 when the state was founded 72 years ago. So, it’s a modern phenomenon. And really, we believe it’s a resurrection, it’s kind of an end times resurrection. Because, the first century all the followers of Jesus were Jewish. They were all Messianic Jews and the fathers-

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Yeah. That’s important to note.

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah, it is. If you opened the book, the New Testament and it’s all Jewish people and it’s a Jewish story. And it really isn’t till Acts chapter 10 that we see a large amount of Gentiles coming into the Kingdom and into the Commonwealth of Israel. So it’s something I think God’s doing in this day and age. And I think we as pastors and leaders need to be aware of it, because it is a prophetic sign of revival on the earth.

Nic Lesmeister:

And, it’s all connected to what Paul lays out in Romans 11, and all Israel being saved and the nations coming into revival. So I would definitely encourage pastors to just try to find a Messianic community or a Messianic congregation in their community and just take the Messianic leader, rabbi, pastor, or whatever they call themselves out to lunch, get to know them. It’s important to hear their story, because they have been walking on this very marginalized line most of their life, where they were rejected by the Jewish community for following Jesus, but they’re also kind of rejected by the church for wanting to continue to live as Jews.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Wow. That’s so true. So, give perspective to our listeners on how to approach, not even necessarily a Messianic Jew, but a Jewish person? What would be some of your recommendations? Because what I want to do is I want to look at it from both angles. The Christian’s view of the Jews. And then I would like for you to even talk about the Jews perspective of Christians, and it might give us some perspective there.

Nic Lesmeister:

I think the Jewish perception of Christians is starting to change because the state of Israel is giving us this opportunity where evangelical Christians are some of Israel’s loudest supporters. And I think that there’s a really great dialogue happening between Jews and Christians about what it looks like to be uniquely linked through the God of Israel, even though Jews disagree that that Jesus is the Messiah, and that they would say he’s a false God. But, I think for the average Christian, it’s important to understand how to interact with the Jewish person. And the best way that we encourage people is just love them, and be aware that they’ve been through a lot and they are connected together. And that if you think about the Holocaust, and you talk to almost any Jewish person, and they grew up in a house where the only thing that Jewish people agree on, they disagree on everything.

Nic Lesmeister:

There’s this old phrase. “If you’ve got one Jew and two opinions…” And the only thing the Jewish community around the world just unanimously agrees on is that you cannot believe in Jesus and be Jewish. Because they have all been brought up, especially after the Holocaust, with the idea that Jesus and his followers were Jewish persecutors. And the new Testament is a handbook on how to persecute Jews. And this is just the history we would have to live with because it. And it doesn’t start with the Holocaust. It goes all the way back to the first century where there were just anti-Jewish statements. Anti-Jewish decisions made one after another and all through many fathers of the church who were wonderful people, but they were just wrong on this. And it continues today. There’s modern theologians today that are wrong on this, and they’re right on a lot of other things.

Nic Lesmeister:

And so there’s a lot of repentance, I think in humility that we have to take a posture of as church leaders, and to build that friendship, and to show there’s a lot of sincerity. So this is our working vision statement for the gateway center for Israel. We want to inspire the church to a biblical and sincere love for Israel and the Jewish people. And unfortunately, a lot of the church views the Jewish people as a means to an end. Where let’s get all Israel saved, then Jesus will come back. The end times we’ll strike all these cords and set off an end times event.

Nic Lesmeister:

We don’t look at it that way. We believe that that loving the Jewish people is itself the end.There’s no means to it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

It’s not a formula.

Nic Lesmeister:

It’s not a formula. And, I mean, God, the scripture is full of a demonstration of his love for Israel. And so if we love God, we want to love the things he loves. And he placed Israel as a special possession unto himself. And so we believe loving the Jewish people is itself the goal. And the best way to do that is to couple that with the good news that Paul talks about in Romans 10. And that’s actually referenced in Isaiah 52, that, “This is good news, that the God of Israel rains and that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel who forgives all your sins and you can put your hope in him.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

So talk about the term, and if you’re not familiar with… If you haven’t been exposed to the Gateway world, so to speak, you may not have heard this term before, but one thing, Pastor Robert and the leadership of Gateway Church pride themselves in, there’s this thing that’s continually said as, “To the Jew first.” And it’s part of the vernacular, and it’s a part of the, so to speak, core values of the church from the early days, and maybe even proceeding Pastor Robert, even in the Pastor Olin and Shady Grove days. But what does that mean? What does the heart of, “To the Jew first” mean for the local church?

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah, it did come from the Shady Grove days, and it’s based out of Romans 1:16. And this kind of goes back to our earlier conversation about replacement theology and how it’s just in the soil that we all grow up in. Is that, we all know Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” And then we stop. But the rest of the verse says, “To the Jew first and then to the Gentiles or then to the nations.” And so that is even a kind of a, “What?”

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Wait, what?

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. You know.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Second place.

Nic Lesmeister:

What’s that supposed to mean? I thought it ended it verse 16A. And what we believe in that is that there’s a priority. There’s a priority in the heart of God. And then as you begin to unpack that and look at it in the new Testament, you see Paul went first to the synagogue. Yes, he was called to the Gentiles. But if you look at his first missionary journeys, he went to the synagogue.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Always went to the synagogue first.

Nic Lesmeister:

Always went to the synagogue. He got kicked out, he’d go back to the synagogue. He got kicked out again, he went to the synagogue leader’s house. You just see this as a priority. Jesus comes, and he says things like, “I’ve come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And so you see this priority in God’s heart because I believe he knows that as Israel knows him and comes into relationship with the God of Israel, through Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, it touches all the nations.

Nic Lesmeister:

And that goes back to Ezekiel 36, where there’s this prophetic scripture about that. And so that’s what we mean when we say, “To the Jew first.” Is that we’re making a priority intentionally on putting Israel and the Jewish people in a place of priority for us as a church, by taking the gospel to them first, by blessing Israel. And even at Gateway we go down to the first service of every month is a Messianic Jewish service on a Friday night where we have a typical service. But it’s a place for the Jewish believers in the church to come and fellowship. And so we’re intentional about it. And our desire is to see other churches to become intentional about it too.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

And I know Pastor Robert has said several times, even in the front of the blessed life book, he really points to that in his viewpoint as being one of the reasons Gateway’s blessed financially. That it’s even tying that “To the Jew first.” And they even in what the church tides into ministry, that the first check that they ever wrote, even in those early days of MJBI, the first check that was written, went to that first. Because, it was this “To the Jew first.” So even talk about that a little bit, even this idea of maybe to the local church out there, the local pastor, maybe they need to make this a priority. Maybe this is something that God would begin to store on their heart to even begin to pour into giving into a Messianic Jewish Ministry in someway.

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. It goes back to Genesis 12:3 when God calls Abraham. And he says, “I’ll bless you. And I will bless those who bless you.” And you see this repeated all throughout scripture, that when the friends from the nation bless the Jewish people, that God puts a blessing on them. Well, why? Because they’re attaching themselves to what God’s doing on the earth. They’re saying, I want to be a part of what God’s doing. And I want to bless the work that God’s doing. And that’s how Pastor Robert and the elders feel about this. Is to say, we want to be a part of what matters to God. And we want to make a priority out of the things that are priorities to God. And so, yeah, the first thing that they decided to do was to actually put their money in, which is typically one of the hardest things to put in first.

Nic Lesmeister:

And it’s true. I mean, I can attest it in my own life. When I first started giving to MJBI, it was like five, 10 bucks a month. And the Lord took Tabitha and I on a really wild journey and really blessed us to where we were giving a thousand dollars a month at some point. I totally, totally believe that it was because we continued to make it a priority to financially bless ministry to the Jewish people, because it’s at the center of God’s heart. As Pastor Robert tells it, this is his original family and the kids have left home, because the adopted kids moved in and they got jealous of them.

Nic Lesmeister:

And we’re the adopted kids, that’s from the nations. And so Pastor Robert tells the story that that’s why God blessed Gateway Church so much. Because one day, Pastor Robert, as an adopted son, came up to the father of the house and said, I want to go out and get your original children back. And he say, the father, this case, God, the father opened up his wallet and said, “How much do you need?” And it’s really been like that ever since.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

So let’s talk practically to the pastors out there, whether they’re lead pastors, maybe they’re not a lead pastor. Maybe they’re just pastoring. Maybe they’re not a pastor at all. Maybe they’re just involved with an organization. Let’s talk to the pastor first. What are some really practical things? Let’s say there’s a pastor out there that even this podcast is a moment for them. Like you having this revelation from the Lord that, oh my gosh, this needs to become a priority for me and my ministry. What are some really, even baby steps that a pastor may not be able to write a massive check to an organization. But what are some things they can begin to do to cultivate this in their own congregations?

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. I think for a pastor, the very first place that all of us can start is by praying. And Pastor Robert again, has another story about this. He was reading Psalm 122:6 one morning. It says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” And he says, “So I did. I started to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I started to pray for the Jewish people. And as I did, I got a burden.” And because I think when you pray for something, you give it value, and you say this matters. And it does something in our heart. And we do believe you have to have some kind of a heart-based revelation to really engage in this. You have to have a healthy theology about it. You got to get the mind part of it, right, absolutely. But then you have to have something done in your heart, prayer moves that.

Nic Lesmeister:

And then we feel that the third thing is there’s got to be an active response. You can’t just sit on that and say, oh, what a great revelation. But we actually have to do something about it. You can engage with a… See if there’s anybody, a local Messianic Jewish congregation is a great way to start. Giving financially to some trusted Messianic Jewish Ministries. And we’re available at the Gateway Center for Israel to help guide in any of that. Taking a trip to Israel is a huge piece of that.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Yeah. It changed my life.

Nic Lesmeister:

Yeah. You know about it firsthand.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

It changes your life.

Nic Lesmeister:

It does.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

And every pastor on the planet needs to go to Israel. It is one of those life altering… I’ve heard a lot of people say it and I didn’t believe it till I got there. Many people told me when they got to Israel and they stepped off the plane. There’s this sensation in your heart like, I’m home to a place I’ve never been before. But it’s just like you’re back at the roots of everything at your core. And so I think that’s critical. And one thing, maybe some of our listeners that can just not afford to go to Israel. It’s just not nowhere on their radar. Their church can’t afford to send them. They can’t afford to send themselves. So talk about this partnership. Something really cool is about to happen between the King’s University and the Gateway Center for Israel. We’re partnering to launch something on the university’s church ed platform. You can go to churched.com or you can go to centerforisrael.com, but we’re partnering to do an Israel experience completely virtual. So talk about that.

Nic Lesmeister:

Well, that’s the heart of it. Is we realized that it’s expensive, and honestly, it’s hard for a pastor to break away for 10, 12 days to go to Israel. And it’s true. You mentioned it. People told me all the time, the same thing. You need to go to Israel, you need to go to Israel. And it was like, yeah, okay. I also need to go on vacation to Colorado, Then you go and you think, “I should have done this 15 years ago.” And so we want to give a taste of that. And so, yeah, you’re going to be with us and we’re going to go in a month, and we’re going to do high quality video of our kind of unique tour through the land of Israel. Which isn’t just stopping at sites and pointing out rocks and talking about Bible events that happened there.

Nic Lesmeister:

The great thing about the way that we’re able to do this with Dr. Wayne Wilks and Pastor Olin, Pastor Robert’s spiritual father, is we’re tying it all together. And we want to show people that there’s a past, present and future role for Israel and the Jewish people. And that we, as members of the church are connected to that. And so we’re going to go through and film a whole course called The Land of Israel. And we’re going to I think stop about 26 different places, and capture this footage in an immersive video way that hopefully people can go through it then and get a taste for it. And if they can’t ever get there, then at least they got to hear some of this, get a taste for it. But I think it’ll wet everybody’s whistle-

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Yeah. With drones, with, I mean, top quality production, we have 360 degree cameras, drones, the whole bit. And so at the timing of this taping, so we’re going to Israel, depending on when you’re listening to this podcast, we’re going to do all this footage shooting late February, right? And hopefully we’ll be able to release this, roll this thing out mid 2020, maybe fall 2020 at the worst. So depending on when you’re listening to this, be on the lookout for that. You can go to churched.com or you can go to Center for Israel. So, let’s finish by talking about Center for Israel. For me, all things point back to Center for Israel as a one-stop shop. If you’re a pastor, you’re curious, you need to get more resources, you want to learn more, you want to connect with Nic or the Center for Israel, it’s centerforisrael.com is the website. And you need to go there and check this out.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

And I would also urge you to consider giving to it. If you’re saying, okay, I want to adopt this whole, To the Jew First. And you need a place to sow a seed into fertile soil to do so. And you’re like, well, I don’t know any good Messianic Jewish organizations out there. Who do I give to? Center for Israel would be a very healthy, safe place to sow your seed for your church to begin this root system of To the Jew First. Anything else you want to talk about, Center for Israel, directing them there, any other resources, websites, social media, whatever.

Nic Lesmeister:

That’s it. Start at centerforisrael.com. We want to come alongside you, if you’re a church leader or a pastor, and just help you to understand this. It’s taken us years to really unpack all of this. And we’ve got the tools,, thanks to TKU to be able to do that from an academic point of view. But then also we’ve got 20 years now as a church of just knowing how does this actually work in a church culture? The unique thing about what we’re trying to do is we don’t want to make your church Jewish. And that’s a key point. If you’re listening to this, we don’t want you to become Jewish. I am still a bacon eating Gentile. I’m a Gentile, man. And we believe in equality with distinction, just like male and female. And that God created this with a distinction.

Nic Lesmeister:

And so we don’t want it to be weird either. There’s just a lot of weird stuff out there. I mean, I’d say… I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this. But I think most of it is weird. And it’s not weird. Anything that God’s doing is never weird. And so we just want to help you figure out how to navigate through that. We believe we’ve got a healthy model and we don’t think we’re right about everything. But I think we’ve got some things that really are birthed out of humility and out of a lot of prayer. And a lot of years of walking down this road, and a lot of really key relationships.

Nic Lesmeister:

So centerforisrael.com. Definitely reach out to us. We want to get to know you and help you out on this journey, and be a tool because we really do believe that a church that engages with Israel and the Jewish people just will never be the same. There’s a financial blessing. Pastor Robert can attest to that. But there’s a dynamic, spiritual blessing that comes upon this. It’s just hard to put words on it. I mean going to Israel and reading the Bible from a Jewish perspective, it’s just totally life-changing. And, that’s really what this is. It’s a journey of understanding the character and nature of God, and you can’t put a value on it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

Yeah, it makes you a better pastor. It will flat out make you a better pastor. So Nic, thanks so much for being on today. Thank you for answering the call. You could have been out making a lot of money.

Nic Lesmeister:

I know. Sometimes I think about that.

Dr. Jon Chasteen:

So, thank you. Seriously, although you’re picking up a mantle that some of your predecessors started, thank you for answering the call and being obedient and believing God’s going to bless it and do some amazing things. So thank you for the listener. Love you guys so much. Thank you for tuning in today. And continue to plow. Continue to do your work pastors and lay people. You guys are awesome. Can’t wait to see you at our next episode. Have an amazing week. Love you a lot.

Church InTensionhttps://church-intension.simplecast.com
The Church InTension podcast is a place to have healthy conversations about areas of tension and the intentions of the Church. Hosted by Dr. Jon Chasteen and powered by The King's University and Gateway Church.