Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Gospel in Modern Israel
Israel Church Wins Battle to Build
Kirstin Engelbracht, ASSIST News Service
UNFINISHED: There is still much to do to complete the new church building and finance is a continuing problem.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (ANS) -- For what is believed to be the first time, a Christian congregation in Israel is building its own church - in a Jewish area near Tel Aviv. Although the building plan was hotly contested by Orthodox Jews and the church had to go all the way to the Supreme Court, the Christian congregation, Grace and Truth, won the day.
David Zadok, an elder of the church, has just returned to Israel after visiting reformed churches in New Zealand and Australia where he sought to raise awareness for Israel and his ministry and funds to complete the building, in which his church members can meet in safety. The Grace and Truth Christian congregation, a Reformed and Baptist church, is an indigenous Israeli church, reaching out to Jews and Arabs.
Founded in 1976, it is one of Israel's oldest churches and has showed the way for other churches in the country and has led a successful international campaign against efforts to restrict religious freedom in Israel. With friends in Britain, Finland, Germany, the United States and Holland, Grace and Truth ministries are always seeking to make the most of the opportunities to reach out for Christ and his Gospel. They also hope to develop relationships in New Zealand and Australia and elsewhere.
"The gospel has not really penetrated all levels of the society," said Mr. Zadok. "Although the numbers of Jewish Christians are growing, it is still too small." His church has been continuously increasing over the last couple of years. There are 450 adherents; of whom 150 are under 18 and 150 are new believers. As well there are four fulltime evangelists so building a place of worship was an urgent need. The new church is near the centre of the country, close to Israel's largest port, the international airport as well as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The building now stands unfinished. The walls are up, the roof is in place and most of the wiring, plumbing and tiling have been completed. But there is still much to do. "We have received much support from different denominations in different places. But we also had lots of difficulties in continuing and especially financing the building," said Mr. Zadok.
To protect the property against vandalism by Orthodox Jews, it is guarded 24 hours a day. The cost of legal fees, security, insurance, rising prices, changing demands by the authorities and related expenses have made it impossible to afford the completion of a worship centre that will be used seven days a week for prayer, weddings, conferences and seminars.
Said Mr. Zadok: "Prayer is the most important thing to begin with. I believe that for many it has been good to see the work that God is doing in Israel and hope that they can be more effective in their prayers and support for us and especially for our church.
"It would be good if people came to Israel to visit and teach us. We can use the experience of brothers and sisters who have been Christians for many generations.
"The Church in Israel is still very young and that is part of the paradox. As a Jewish nation we probably have the oldest history, but when it comes to the New Testament we have quite a short history."
Mr. Zadok believes that his time in New Zealand and Australia was fruitful. "It was a great blessing to see so many people of the same mind, and to see the unity that we have in Christ no matter what culture language or country we come from."