Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
Jeff & Barb’s Story
When Jeff first began to believe that he should be keeping the Sabbath the way that God instructed, on the seventh day of the week instead of the first, he did what many good Christians do: he asked his pastor for advice. Jeff’s pastor told him what he had been taught: Jesus canceled the Sabbath so we didn’t need to keep it anymore, and the Apostles moved the Sabbath to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, in honor of Jesus’ resurrection. When Jeff asked where that was in the Bible, his pastor could only point to where Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees about how to keep the Sabbath and where the first century believers consistently gathered on the first day of the week. He couldn’t point to any verse that plainly stated Jesus canceled the Sabbath or that the Apostles changed the day, nor why the Apostles would change the day of an observance that Jesus had canceled.
Unsurprisingly, Jeff wasn’t convinced.
The pastor asked him to keep these concerns between just the two of them, but the unanswered questions accumulated, and they came to frequently derail the intended course of discussions in the small group where he and his wife, Barb, met with other church members on Thursday nights. Some of the other members in that group also began to ask questions. Then there was a shouting match.
Jeff and his family began lighting Shabbat candles just before sunset on Friday evening, and spending Saturdays together at home. Although they frequently helped clean up after services on Sunday, they stopped participating in Saturday work projects.
They began feeling like outsiders in the church they had attended for many years. They no longer believed the same as everyone else on some significant issues. They couldn’t participate in some Friday night and Saturday events. Their attendance at Bible study was sometimes fractious and always resented by a few. Barb had begun asking awkward questions about every dish at church pot luck dinners.
“Is there pork in that meatloaf?”
“Do you know what kind of sausage that is?”
When the pastor called and asked them to meet with him again, he didn’t say what it was about, but Jeff and Barb both knew. They would either be asked to leave or to stop asking questions. Jeff wasn’t sure which would be worse. For both of them, the heartache started before they even got in the car.
Their church wasn’t their home anymore.
God is calling people all over the world to return to his instructions, to keep his Sabbaths, his appointed feast days, his rules for living, speaking, and loving. Some of those people call themselves Messianic Jews, some Hebrew Roots, Sabbath Keepers, or some other label. Most, like me, don’t fit cleanly into any of these groups. They only know that the churches are missing some vital aspects of the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and all of the Scriptures, and they’re trying their best to find those pieces and put them back into the puzzle where they belong.
But in following God’s call to repentance, they face two major challenges:
- The loss of old relationships
- The lack of new relationships
Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue regular fellowship with those who have not yet heard the call or who have heard and rejected it without deafening oneself. To speak is to bring strife, but to remain silent seems like complicity in a lie.
This degree to which this is a problem varies from one church to another. Some churches are little more than social clubs, and others barely make a pretense of Biblical doctrine. Jeff and Barb probably wouldn’t have lasted so long at one of those churches. Some are much better–and therefore much harder to leave–and a few are very good, even to the point of openly tolerating us Hebraic misfits.
If you find yourself in a situation like Jeff’s, I can’t tell you what you should do–every situation is different–but eventually, you will either have to transform your church or exchange it for something else.
Becoming a spiritual hermit isn’t a viable option. People without community tend to lose their grounding. Without the balance of other believers and guidance of more knowledgeable teachers, their spiritual pursuits often become dominated by shiny object syndrome. They jump from one fringe idea to another with nobody to keep them anchored to reasonableness. Their understanding of Scripture becomes unbalanced, and their spiritual lives either stagnate or get lost in irrelevancy. We need community to be healthy by every conceivable metric. Internet teachings and live streams just don’t cut it.
Finding a Home
When you look for a congregation (I write “congregation” rather than “church” because many of them will use some other word.) that both recognizes Jesus as Messiah and keeps God’s Law, you might find a variety of options, or you might find nothing at all. Let me give you a brief rundown of what’s available.
- Seventh Day churches of various denominations. You’ve probably heard of the Seventh Day Adventist church, but there are also Baptists, Church of God, and even LDS (aka Mormon) churches which keep a seventh day Sabbath. If you are serious about keeping God’s instructions, these will come up short in time. They keep the Sabbath and the Biblical feasts to varying degrees, but usually stop there. They also tend to come with an amount of baggage related to false prophecies and extra-Biblical scriptures.
- Messianic Jewish. Technically, Messianic Jews are Jewish people who believe that Jesus (aka Yeshua) is the Messiah. They will call their meeting place a “synagogue”, and their services and operation range from Jewish to liturgical Christian.
- Other. These are the Hebrew Roots congregations, non-denoms, upstarts, rebels, and flakes. Since neither you nor I have the time to list every possible variation, I am forced to dump all that remains, good and bad, into a single category. Here you will find home fellowships, Black Hebrew Israelites, Torah-observant Christians, Sacred-Namers, and just about anything else that you could imagine. They will range from the outstanding to the diabolical, and it can be very confusing to sort through them. Here are a few warning signs to watch out for. Only the last one would be a total deal-killer for me. Your mileage might vary.
- The pastor/rabbi/leader has changed his name to sound more Hebrew or otherwise ethnic.
- They use bizarre spellings of commonly known Hebrew words, especially if it’s really important to them.*
- They rely heavily on extra-Biblical writings, such as the Talmud, Books of Enoch, or Kabbalah.
- They keep a lunar Sabbath (a weekly Sabbath that drifts through the days of the week because it’s calculated from the new moon, not the historic 7 day week that the rest of the world uses).
- They believe the earth is flat. Run, do not walk, to the nearest fire escape.
You will never find a perfect congregation nor meet another human being who agrees with you on every point. If you did, you probably shouldn’t be friends with them. Like many fruit trees need winter freezes, we need an amount of conflict and disagreement in our lives to be healthy.
Identify what’s really important, and therefore what isn’t. A church or synagogue that promotes behavior God abhors, can be easily eliminated. If they calculate God’s feast days by the sighting of the new moon in Jerusalem instead of the astronomically calculated calendar used by the mainstream Jewish calendar, that might not be such a big deal. You’ll have to decide what your priorities are, as well as what they should be, and then act accordingly.
The one thing you should not do is go it alone. God made us to be communal creatures. His Law teaches us how to love, but only within the context of community. If a Methodist or an Assemblies of God church is the best option available in your area, don’t dismiss it.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Go to church if that’s what God has provided, and then consider starting something new. Maybe God has placed you where you are for just that purpose.
A Note on Names
* I hate that I have to bring this up, but there is actually a lot of disagreement about how to spell and pronounce the Hebrew name of God and Jesus, and some people get very intense about it. I think these arguments are mostly wastes of time, but since they are out there, they need to be addressed, however briefly. The table below presents the various ways I have seen the names spelled. Those in the “Good” column are conventional and widely accepted by most historians and linguists. Those in the “Iffy” column are less likely to be accurate, but aren’t terribly unreasonable. Those in the “Nope” column are almost certainly wrong, and people who insist on them probably have much more serious problems. I strongly recommend avoiding congregations that insist there is one, and only one possible correct spelling or pronunciation of the divine names, and anyone who doesn’t use their version is a heretic.
Everything that Yeshua (aka Jesus) & the Apostles taught
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11 Replies to “We don’t fit here anymore. What now?”
I edited this article to say that only the flat-earth doctrine would be a total deal killer for me. While I believe that the lunar sabbath idea is biblically unfounded and historically absurd, I know some lunar sabbatarians teachers who are fantastic otherwise. Trying to be a part of such a congregation would be a lot like being in a Sunday Christian church in many ways, but better in some others.
I’m a spiritual hermit. Have you started a weekly gathering of your own? If so, can you share any helpful hints?
Hi Dean. Since we live in a small town more than an hour’s drive from any large cities, we had to start something new. It’s tough finding fellow Torah-keepers. Social media is ineffective and advertising is expensive. Word-of-mouth depends on well connected, socially outgoing members.
Check https://fellowshipfinder.com/ and https://www.119ministries.com/resources/fellowship-finder/ for fellowships in your area first. “Strength in numbers” is a sound principle on many levels.
Interesting description of beliefs and practices… thought I’d venture in, and test the waters… I’m from Brenham, Texas, so a ways away from most everybody…
Hi Alan! Yes, I remember you came to one of our events years ago.
Thank you for this great article. I am a hermit too. My husband wants nothing to do with “church”. He was raised as a Jehovah Witness. I was raised a Baptist and in 1990 was Baptised with the Holy Spirit. I’ve always believed something was incomplete in our Christian walk and continued to study and search. By 2003, I found a Messianic congregation in Stanford Texas called Beth Messiah. I learned a lot there and felt more complete but it was quite a distance for me to drive on Sabbath. By 2014, I was keeping Sabbath better and began studying the Feasts. By then I’d found a full gospel church who were also studying the Feasts and I learned much more there in one of their bible studies. But this church never converted over to seventh day Sabbath or to keeping Torah. I don’t know what the point of studying was for them except I took it seriously. I am currently their children’s Sunday school teacher for the elementary age group. I keep and teach the complete Torah commandments, Feasts and Sabbath. This is confusing to the children, sometimes, since this church still puts huge emphasis on christmas and easter celebrations. I have naturally disconnected with most my friends over the years and the best teachings come through 119 ministries, Mark Biltz and groups like yours. Thank Yah for the Internet! All of that being said, my hubby and I are planning a move three hours away and do not plan to come back to the Houston area. So far, I haven’t found any Torah keepers near the new area. We will be between San Antonio and Austin. I am open to the Fathers direction in this area and pray that I find a group or congregation, quickly!
Hi Wrenn! I know it can get awkward. Your church family are probably great people, but it can be discouraging to be a Torah-keeper in a Sunday church. Please check out the links I posted in response to Dean’s comment above. Even if there is no organized Torah-observant fellowship in your area, it will help to find some friends!
Shalom Jay! And may I say this stumbled upon website was quite the pleasant find!
I love your illustration of events to depict the journey of a Christian realizing Matthew 5:17. It is indeed so similar for many of us!
Alan, my wife’s family is from Brenham, and I agree, there aren’t too many options out there. =/
Wrenn, I don’t know your exact location, but northeast Houston/Humble has Emmaus Road and City on a Hill, both Messianic/Torah-observant. I hope you find an encouraging congregation in which you can grow in Him!
Peace to you all!
Hello. I’m starting a Hebrew community in Ohio around Akron area and have only one older lady who has the knowledge, commitment and discipline and urgency to join me and recognize that the Holy Spirit has anointed and sent me to Ohio to be a judge and establish truth and the righteousness of the creator in Ohio and remove the evil from this place and help the people here have the space and freedom from sin to have prospering family and a lasting inheritance. If anyone is interested in joining us let me know! I’m not legalistic or Jewish and have learned to be trained to follow the spirit of the Torah with love and studying the whole counsel of God and serving others as the main focus, not Jewish flavored Christianity or American religion. I aim to help us all learn to activate faith in our lives with real scientific results that empower us to remove demonic and rebellious flesh patterns whether religious or lawless. Science, truth, faith and love all work together for effective abundance of life that we all are created to have and share. There’s no playing church in my group. I don’t have time to waste with lukewarm people. It doesn’t matter how young or new in the faith you are at but what degree of focus and commitment and determination you have to help us all work together and fight the devil, that world system and our flesh which are keeping us from inheriting the promises of God! Email me at AnswersInGenesis at live dot com
I’ve been involved with a Sabbath-keeping/Holy Day observing group (and it’s splinters) for over 55 years. The WCG of HW Armstrong. Over the years I could see much of the hypocrisy, falsity, etc., but even tho I kept changing from one splinter to another, it never worked out! A few months back we started observing the Torah, and all ).
Apparently my whole comment was not printed, there must be a maximum or letters or something, so I’m sorry, I won’t try to repeat it. Thanks anyway for allowing me to get a lot off my chest anyways.