Friday, November 9, 2007

Learning from the Evangelicals

From New York Time aerticle on how the evangelicals grwo so rapidly and what e can learn

"Those desires resonated immediately for Jewish leaders frustrated in the failure of synagogues to engage the unaffiliated, the disaffected, the spiritual seekers. Mr. Warren’s informants had told him they yearned for a friendly welcome, quality child care, a sermon that had a pragmatic message for their weekday lives and an overarching sense that the church cared more about each member as a person than as a revenue stream.

Mr. Warren told the workshop listeners what he had come to realize: “A congregation isn’t a building. God dwells in people.” He explained that Saddleback did not construct its own building until it had 10,000 congregants. Even in the church’s current vastness, a decentralized network of ministers and laity seek to connect every newcomer to at least six longtime members.

“The biggest challenge we have in transforming synagogue life,” Mr. Wolfson said recently, recalling the workshop, “is transforming the basic relationship of most Jews to most synagogues.” He added: “It’s a fee-for-service model. I’m going to write you a check, and you’re going to give me what I need — a rabbi on call, High Holy Days seats, a Hebrew school for my kids. It’s not deep.”

Mr. Hoffman said the most obvious exception in the Jewish world was the Chabad movement of the Lubavitcher Hasidim. Its success at what is called “inreach,” meaning proselytizing unobservant Jews, has become a source of fascination, envy and enmity. In a strange way, it may have been less controversial for Synagogue 3000 to emulate Christians who are total outsiders rather than a Hasidic sect that competes for the same pool of Jewish souls.

“Jews need to be more quote-unquote evangelical,” Mr. Wolfson said. “We need to do a better job of presenting Judaism to our own people. The story doesn’t get across that Judaism is a way to find meaning and purpose in your life. And that’s another lesson I’ve learned from the evangelical model.”

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