We are not the “Jewish church”
For many Christians that are supportive of Messianic Jews and the work of Messianic synagogues they support us as the “Jewish church”.
The “Jewish church” being defined as a Jewish cultural form of Christian faith. This can be seen in Hispanic, Korean, Filipino, Arab and other culturally sensitive forms of Christianity. Using the nomenclature of missiology this is called “contextualization” and these other cultural groups like the local Hispanic Baptist Church or Chinese Methodist Church are true examples of putting Christian faith and practice within either Hispanic or Chinese culture and language and this is a great way for these non-Jews to experience their Christian faith within their distinct culture, history and language.
This view of contextualising of evangelical Christianity for Jews can be seen in the founding of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (now the MJAA). The HCAA was founded in the early 20th century as a way for Jewish people who were Christians and in the local church to also be able to have an outlet to express Jewish cultural expressions like Jewish holidays (Passover seders, Hanukkah menorah lighting, etc.) while having their faith practice within evangelical Christianity.
Messianic Judaism is as our name says we are a JUDAISM, with our distinctive is that we are a Judaism with the Messiah in our midst and therefore we are Messianic Judaism which is in contrast to the contextualization model which would make us the “Jewish church” or a Jewish culturally sensitive version of Christianity.
The full adoption of this name as who we are and where we are moving for the future sets us in a scary position in a place outside either evangelical Christianity or mainstream Judaism, but it is the place that we must embrace. We are pioneers of a renewal of an old idea (Jews believing in Yeshua and living Torah) and also something new (building a 21st century Judaism within the context of over 2000 years of development of Rabbinic Judaism).
So then we go forward defining who we are and making clear who we are not.
May we truly build a mature Messianic Judaism for the future…