Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Why can’t we all just get along?
by Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman

My congregation is in Cape Coral, Florida, part of the greater Fort Myers area.  There are four other Messianic congregations in our area.  Most people are loyal to their particular congregation.  There are a few people who bounce back and forth, visiting different congregations.

The congregations are all different, and all small.  One congregation focuses mainly on worship music and dancing.  They have a Torah scroll, take it out, and parade it around, but don’t open it up or read it.  Another congregation is made up of Hispanics and the service is in Spanish.  Another congregation is very charismatic in their worship style, and the other two are more traditional, with different emphases.

At our congregational meeting, I had a woman ask why we can’t all just get together, and wondered why we can’t just come together and be one.  Its a question that most people wonder about our movement in general.  To most people, style of worship is really important.  Some people really want a more Charismatic service.  Others don’t care for it at all, but would prefer a more traditional Jewish service.  Some want dancing, while others don’t think its appropriate for worship.  Some want more liturgy, some want more heart.   These are all good things, but everyone feels differently about how to worship the Holy One.

Historically, there has been a lot of water thats gone under the bridge.  People left one congregation and started another.  Bad memories of conflict and feeling betrayed persist.  If we all tried to get together even once, there would be arguments about who’s congregation we would go to?  Who would be in charge?  Who would set the agenda? What would the service look like?   Getting together in such a setting would just remind us why we have five congregations.

The reality is, its not a bad thing that we have different congregations.  We all have different needs.  Its not one size fits all, or my way or the highway.  God allowed the different congregations to form and develop so we would have a place to go where we could worship feeling connected.  Thats not a bad thing. The important thing is not that we all get together in one congregation, but that we learn to accept one another as sister congregations, and view one another as family.  People don’t need to do the same things I do for me to get along with them.  People don’t have to be in my congregation for me to care about them.  We need to have an attitude of cooperation and mutual support.

One of the other congregations in our area was holding a concert.  They asked us to advertise it to our people. I was put off at first, because they have never really been supportive of things we do, and I had approached the artist performing the concert some months ago to come to our congregation, and I never heard from him.  I was feeling slighted. After all, I am human.

After I got over the idea that I don’t want my people going there, lest they skip my precious bible study, I thought better of it, and placed a message on our congregational page that our sister congregation was hosting a concert and suggested to our members that they might want to check it out.  I wasn’t worried I would lose people,  because if my people wanted to be there, they would be.  Meanwhile, they can go and enjoy a good concert.  I called them our sister congregation because that is exactly the relationship I would like us to have with them, as well as the other congregations in our area.  First we have to think it, then we have to say it, and hopefully, we can become it.  I am praying that their concert will be a great success.  Our congregations may never become one congregation, but I have hopes, that we can one day have an all Lee County, Messianic Picnic.  There is unity in diversity.


12 thoughts on “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

  1. Messianic congregations are more or less like any other congregation in that they serve a specific group of people. As you say, some prefer the dancing and music, others scholarly study, others a prayer and Torah service, and so on.

    When I was a member of the leadership committee at my former Hebrew Roots/One Law congregation many years ago, we always struggled with size. That is, we were never very big. At one point, we had the opportunity to merge with a Spanish-speaking Hebrew Roots group, but in the end, their leader said the members would feel too uncomfortable in a service that was in both Spanish and English (many of them didn’t understand English).

    Our group tended toward an “adjusted” prayer and Torah service with teaching afterward (I loved doing the teaching part), but often we would get phone calls from people who had either moved to the area or were visiting and they typically had two questions: Do you have a Rabbi (No) and do you have Davidic dance (No). Lacking those two was a real deal killer for most folks.

    Once my studies led me away from a “One Law Fits All” doctrine, I resigned from that congregation (which folded some months afterward). I know there’s sometimes an impression that Messianic synagogues are pretty commonly available, but in my experience, the quality ones are rare. Sure, anyone with a theological ax to grind can put on a kippah and a tallit, call themselves a “Messianic Rabbi,” and gather a following, but that can lead to all sorts of strange praxis and doctrine (and I’ve experienced my fair share).

    I’ve been following the various posts on a private Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles,” and in response to one fellow’s question about being “Messianic,” attending a Baptist church, and what to do about taking communion, a number of people responded by suggesting the original poster start his own Messianic congregation.

    Only someone who’s led or co-led a congregation knows the incredible challenges involved and I don’t think it’s sustainable to create a fellowship just to satisfy the needs of a single individual. It’s probably better in the long run to seek out a place where there are others like you and settle in there.

    The alternative, which is true in my case, is simply to have no community (I tried a Baptist church for two years and it didn’t end well). Like I said, actual Messianic congregations are fairly rare, and finding one near you that you will fit in with (or finding one near you at all) is even more of a challenge.

    If someone can be “Messianic” and fit in at a Baptist (or other denomination) church for the sake of fellowship, then I admire them and that’s good. But fellowship and community isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Sometimes community means just the person and Hashem.

  2. According to studies of church growth, a common myth about starting a new church is that an area is “fully churched” and that if a new church is started, the same total number of people will attend, that the new church will simply draw members from existing churches.

    Studies have found that the FACT is that EVERY congregation develops its own “personality”. When a new church is started, MOST of the people who wind up attending there regularly are not from the other churches.

    I’m quite unusual in that although I’m a non-pentecostal gentile Anglo and was raised Catholic on Long Island, on a weekly basis I attend a black pentecostal Methodist church and a Messianic synagogue and a Reform temple. I have visited OTHER Reform and Orthodox synagogues but they just didn’t hold any attraction for me. The same for the numerous black churches I’ve visited. I attend the particular congregations I do because each has a particular attraction for me — I get to teach in Children’s Church, at the Messianic synagogue there are actually people who will talk about apologetics for more than 30 seconds, and the Reform temple is the largest synagogue in the South and particularly emphasizes social justice — the prophetic ministry.

    (Yesterday we were teaching about miracles and one of the kids asked whether someone else could turn water into wine. I said, “Theoretically, but I doubt it will ever happen again. That is the ONLY type of miracle that ONLY Jesus performed, and it was his FIRST miracle. Jews have a lot of blessings with standard wording and one of them is, ‘Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who CREATES THE FRUIT OF THE VINE.’ What do you think the reaction would be when the people at the wedding realized THIS guy DID that!’ )

  3. Thank you for this article. I have been that woman asking why can’t we all be one, and your response is beautiful and gives me a renewed perspective and hope.
    May God bless us one and all.

  4. There’s a joke going around, about how the people of the synagogue got in a continuing argument about whether to sit or stand for the Shema. They decided to ask a certain old man, who had been there ever since its founding. They told him some people wanted everyone to sit, and he responded, “That is not the tradition.” They told him some wanted everyone to stand, and he responded, “That is not the tradition.” They told him there was a constant argument about it, and he responded, “THAT is the tradition.”

    There has never been a time when everybody got along, especially Jews, and I doubt it will come any time soon. That doesn’t mean we all hate each other, but we do need to tolerate and love each other, no matter what.

    One of the wonderful things about Judaism is that, unlike Christians, we don’t judge people on what they believe. We judge them on what they do. “Actions speak louder than words.”

    We currently worship Yeshua, albeit silently, in a Reform congregation. Some of the people are aware of what we believe, and some are not. We have been told Yeshua is not the Messiah by a few people, including the Rabbi, yet not once have we been judged for our beliefs, or asked to find another synagogue. We are completely accepted, and we even had our B’nai Mitzvahs there.

    It is my opinion that acrimony among Messianic groups will decrease as we continue our attempts to establish ourselves as a form of Judaism, rather than a form of church or a blend between the two.

    • David ben Avrahm Yes I agree! Zechariah 8:23 Thus saith the L-RD of host:In those days it shall come to pass,that ten men shall take hol, out of all languages of the nations,shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying: We will go with you, for we have heard G-D is with you. Shalom.:)

  5. Dr. you hit the nail on the head! Great article.Even though we may not understand how some usher in Shabbat or worship I do believe in everyone of these conngregations G-d has a purpose. Sometimes I wonder how the apostles did it? David ben Avraham loved that analogy you quoted. G-d bless you all and may your congregation increase in spirit and in truth,if I am ever in Florida for sure I will come visit!

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