Import jQuery

A crisis, and an opportunity by Aaron Hecht

Ancient Chinese figures for "crisis" and "opportunity" respectively (Illustrative)

Have you ever heard that in Chinese, the symbol/word for "crisis" is the same as for "opportunity"?

Well, that's not true. It's an urban legend that was repeated so many times that it entered the canon of received wisdom. However, I think the principle behind this urban legend has some truth to it, and that's what I'd like to talk about in this blog.

First, let's talk about the crisis.

In case you have yet to hear, it has been reported that large Christian Zionist organizations operating in Israel are in trouble because the Interior Ministry has inexplicably decided to stop issuing visas for some of their most important workers. The reporting I've seen indicates that this is likely to be a short-term crisis that will be quickly resolved.

However, there's a chance it won't be. What can be done if this turns out to be the new normal?

In that case, we're likely to see a consolidation and/or transformation of these organizations, and that's where the "opportunity" comes in.

There are five large, well-established Christian Zionist (CZ) organizations with large operations in Israel and there are a handful of smaller, less well-established groups. Candidly, this situation has led to a great deal of overlapping and sometimes wasted effort, a lot of confusion, and even a certain amount of animosity and unhealthy competition for funding, personnel, and publicity.

With that in mind, some consolidation might not be a bad thing.

BTW I'm not going to use the names of any of these big organizations because I used to work for one of them and I now work for another one of them. I also have good friends who work in all the others. All these organizations do good work and they all deserve to be supported with prayer, donations, and in other ways. But as Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us; "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot." 

With that in mind, it might be time for five to become four, or maybe even three. There's been quiet contemplation of these matters in many circles for some time, so I'm not saying anything particularly bold here.

As for transformation, it's unquestionably time for that.

With two notable exceptions (people know who they are) these large CZ outfits have been very hesitant to support local Israeli Believers in any meaningful way. They've been especially unwilling to hire local Israeli Believers to fill open positions in their organizations, preferring to hire gentile Christians who are citizens of other countries. This allows them to work with Israeli government agencies and Modern Orthodox individuals and groups who are usually very hostile to Messianic Jews and any hint of "missionary" activity. It also allows the government, which obviously wants to benefit from the support, financial, political, and otherwise, which Christian Zionists are eager to bring to Israel without having to worry about getting pressure from their Jewish supporters over working with "missionaries" etc.

This fraught and somewhat fragile arrangement has worked well for both the CZ groups and their Israeli allies for many years. It hasn't been as beneficial for the local Body of Christ in Israel, which has seen enormous sums of money and material support flow from Gentile Christian churches all over the world to all kinds of Israelis who weren't followers of Jesus Christ while receiving crumbs themselves.

Despite getting the crumbs, these local Israeli congregations, organizations, ministries, and associations are thriving and the Body of Christ in Israel is growing and maturing at a very rapid pace. The progress is uneven and there have been setbacks, but there has been and continues to be healthy growth and progress.

This brings us back to transformation.

I know I'm not the first person to say so, but it is LONG past time for the local Body of Christ in Israel to step up and take over some of the work that these Gentile Christian Zionist organizations have long been doing. Maybe it's because I recently removed the training wheels from my youngest son's bicycle, but I'm in the mood to start saying this more loudly. I can see with my own eyes that my son has gotten to a point where the training wheels on his bike had ceased to be helpful to him but had, instead, become a hindrance to his growth and development. It's a great metaphor for the situation whereby so many local Israeli ministries are no longer being helped, but rather held back, by the assistance they receive from these big CZ groups.

To be sure, these CZ groups laid a lot of groundwork and opened a lot of doors. Local Believers should be profoundly grateful for this. But we should also be ready to grasp the baton as it's passed to us and continue running forward toward the finish line.

At the same time, these CZ outfits who are having trouble getting visas should be ready to consider the possibility that this is God's way of getting them to hire more local Believers to do some of the jobs that need to be done. If that costs them some relationships with certain rabbis or even entire organizations, so be it! I doubt very much if it'll cause them serious problems with the government.

The phrase "the Lord works in mysterious ways" isn't in the Bible, just like the Chinese symbols for "crisis" and "opportunity" aren't the same. But, again, there's some truth in these old fairy tales.

This is the way to turn a crisis into an opportunity, as the Lord just might be working in His mysterious ways here.

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