Worship is like the wind. Sometimes it appears as a gentle breeze. Other times it appears with great power and might. The wind can lift us up, propel us forward and refresh us. We can approach the wind with wonder and awe or as something that is an everyday part of our lives. All of these elements are true of the wind at different times and in different circumstances.
The worship experience for Jewish believers is like that, too. Some of us regularly worship in traditional churches. Others enjoy worship in messianic congregations. There are those who look to home fellowships, others to Bible studies and havurah groups. Most of us do not experience our worship of Y'shua exclusively in any one way, anymore than we experience the wind in any one form. Worship is much bigger than the boxes in which we tend to want to place it.
Perhaps that's why so many Jewish believers feel some confusion in choosing a place to worship. Some who try messianic congregations find them lacking, while others have the same experience with their local church. Others complain that churches are just too alien to Jewish culture, while at the same time they might consider certain messianic congregations overly orthopractic. How should we as Jewish believers look at worship?
What Should Worship Be?
In Scripture we find the command to worship, and the hunger of our reborn souls demands it. Nevertheless, worship is not a candy store experience, where believers browse and fill a brown penny bag with whatever they choose. Through worship, we connect and identify with God. We acknowledge His worthiness to be praised. We do this to please Him, not ourselves.
Why Worship Regularly with Other Believers?
Some question the necessity of formal" worship. They ask, "Isn't worship something personal, just between me and God?"
Scripture makes it clear that while we need times of private communion with God, worship should also be celebrated with others. Psalm 111:1 says, "Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation." Psalm 149:1 tells us, "Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints." Again, Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
Through regular times of corporate worship, we connect to a local community of believers within the larger body of Messiah. Corporate worship signifies our obedience to God. It is the outward evidence of an inner reality—our relationship to Him and to His people.
What Can Be Gained from Attending Worship?
- Worship is a way of regularizing our lives. It's a vital habit, akin to showering regularly, brushing your teeth, calling your mother or sending a Father's Day card. Habits and routines identify us and reinforce to ourselves who we are. The regular habit of worship with others reminds us who we are in God.
- Worship can separate and transport us from the mundane to the divine. The anticipation of a spiritual encounter with God should motivate us to attend services; and once there, we can have that divine encounter.
- Worship is keeping a "holy appointment" with a holy God. We make a commitment to meet Him in a particular place, at a particular time; whether it is Saturday morning, Sunday evening or even Thursday morning. Our part is getting there; He promises to meet us.
- We attend worship services because hopefully they will produce significant spiritual moments that will cut across and into our busy lives to restore us spiritually and recharge us emotionally for the new week ahead. We need such moments to reaffirm our relationship to God and to others.
Though our primary purpose is to please God, worship is best when we enjoy it! It even has its own rewards, because our lives were meant to have a particular design. God created us with a need for worship and the capability to enjoy it.
Below on this page you'll find testimonies of two Jewish believers who worship God in distinctly different settings, even on different days of the week! Perhaps their words will challenge you to think further on the why's and how's of worship. In our next issue of Havurah we'll continue this theme and talk about how to gain from worship all that God has for you, plus principles to guide you in finding a place to worship. For now, we've run out of room!
Melissa Dell Moskowitz
I Love My Congregation!
by Dan Sichel
For me, worshiping at B'nai Yeshua Congregation is about being with my mishpochah. I originally attended a church for 15 years. Then, a Jewish Presbyterian pastor friend urged me to meet a group of Jewish believers who were meeting together in Sacramento. When I walked in the door, I immediately felt at home. What began as a cultural affinity blossomed into a conviction that this was the place God wanted our family to be. I came to see that the principles contained in both the Old and New Testaments were alive and applicable to our lives. Living and worshiping among other Jewish believers is a way of witnessing to others about God's promises for His chosen people.
But attending a messianic congregation is more than just our preference for a particular cultural style. We encourage each other to take God's laws to heart and live them in service to each other and our community. Observing the Old Testament holidays together has been especially meaningful. Last Simchat Torah, I had the blessing of both carrying the Torah and reading from it. God's Word came alive to me in a new way through this service. We were able to relate this to the Word of God being given to us in the person of Y'shua and revealed in our hearts by His Holy Spirit. Indeed, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." I never had such a good holiday!
I cannot imagine worshiping anyplace else. It is a blessing being devoted to our Lord and to others who put emphasis on His entire Bible, from Bereshit to Revelation. It is a delight to worship and sing in Hebrew. And, recently, it was a special moment when our son Ed was a bar mitzvah at our congregation. Indeed, I love this place!
I Love My Church!
by Steve Tilles
I grew up in a nice Jewish home in North Carolina and accepted Y'shua as my Messiah in 1983. That year, I moved to New York City to attend medical school. The Lord blessed me with being able to attend Kehilat Y'shua, a messianic congregation in Manhattan, while I was in school. In 1988, I moved back to North Carolina to begin my podiatry practice, and there was not a messianic congregation in sight!
I knew that fellowshipping with other believers was not an option, and I needed to find a place to worship. A non-denominational church, Community Bible Church, was nearby and my wife Melinda and I began attending. That was ten years ago, and we are still there.
There are four things that I love about this church: their commitment to evangelism; the wholehearted, fresh approach to worship; the deep esteem for the Word of God; and the relationships we have developed and enjoy. True, few there share our preference for gefilte fish, but the lessons God has taught us there cross cultural lines and impact our souls for eternity.
In the ten years we've attended, I've served on the mission and deacon boards, as leader of a small group fellowship, as a Sunday School teacher, and for the past three years, as an elder. I've had many opportunities to encourage and teach the congregation to see the gospel in a Jewish context. I still miss being part of a messianic fellowship. But the reason I call Community Bible Church my home is because of the love I see there, the commitment to bring unbelievers to know their Messiah, and the consistent, strong biblical teaching. The church has grown over the last ten years, but the vision, "To Know Him and Make Him Known," will keep our family there for many years to come.