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Jewish Mission Matters

No, it’s not a joke. It happened on Saturday 7th February when the historic St Aldates church in Oxford hosted To the Jew First? a one-day conference which set out to answer why Jewish mission matters. Speakers on the day included Azar Ajaj the president of Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary, Simon Ponsonby the Pastor of Theology at St Aldates and our very own Joseph Steinberg.

‘There are two opposite but equally dangerous attitudes to the Jewish people among Christians,’ announced Charlie Cleverly, the rector of St Aldates, to the crowded church. ‘The first is to exalt Israel above the Church and the second is to exalt the Church above Israel.’

Around 200 people met to praise, pray and hear the issue of Jewish mission addressed from different perspectives. To begin with Simon spoke from John 3 of Jesus’ after-dark disputation with Israel’s teacher Nicodemus while Azar addressed Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman from John 4.

A question and answer session followed with CWI’s Israel Field Leader David Zadok, our worker in Leeds Richard Gibson, and Azar Ajaj, in which Charlie Cleverley asked them about their respective ministries.

The day continued with the commissioning of Joseph as CEO of the Society. After CWI Council Chairman Alex Cowie addressed the gathering, it was truly moving to see representatives from CWI alongside St. Aldates staff gathered round Joseph and his wife Naomi to commit him to the ministry of leading CWI and to pray for God’s blessing on them.

Following his commissioning, Joseph delivered a passionate address, based on Romans 10, in which he shared that in his teens a friend dared risk their relationship in order to lead him to Jesus. He concluded with a rousing call to pray for the salvation of the Jewish people and a plea to support CWI in this great ministry. Over the years, he told the gathering, as
he had participated in mission among his people he had encountered people in the Church who opposed Jewish mission; some out of a misplaced love for the Jewish people, others out of dislike or even hatred for them. His only reaction to the ostracism he has experienced from those who either love his people too much or those who love them too little is the same: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Messiah, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.’

Response to the conference was enthusiastically positive and all who attended were greatly encouraged.

This article was first published in the Spring Herald 2015

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