Topic: Training Messianic Jewish Leaders
Kirill Polonsky, director of Chosen People Ministries in Moscow, emphasized the need to train followers of Yeshua in holy living and to be of practical help to the body of Messiah. He believed that formal theological education is good but limited in the Russian Messianic Jewish context. As a local pastor, he is more interested in training lay leaders.
In his view, formal training – a typical seminary degree, cannot easily adapt to the individual needs of leaders and congregants – especially if they have jobs and ministry responsibilities and families to care for as well.
He believes that structured lay training courses bring the information to the student rather than necessitating that the student travel to the theological training institute for their education. This is why he has emphasized seminars, personal mentoring and highly individualized training for Russian Jewish Messianic leaders.
Training for ministry in Israel among Russian Messianic Jews requires a more professional level of training according to the Russian-Israeli Messianic leader who directs a training institute in Haifa.
The Messianic Jewish movement in Israel has seen tremendous growth and it is said that 60% of the Messianic believers in Israel speak Russian as their first language.
The leader from Haifa made the observation that many Russian Jewish believers came to faith in churches of varying theological views and that Messianic Jews who became believers outside of Israel often take on the theological perspective of the groups with whom they were associated with at the time.
However, upon immigration to Israel, their Jewishness usually becomes more important to them and they need to gain a better understanding of their Jewish identity and how to serve Yeshua in the midst of an Israeli/Jewish world.
The Haifa Theological Institute provides a non-degree program, which seeks to train leaders who are serving in the Messianic movement. This is a well-organized Messianic Jewish theological training program that is taught primarily in Russian and geared to meet the needs of the growing Israeli-Russian Messianic movement.
There is no doubt that the Messianic Russian movement is now entering a stage of growth that requires training for pastors, children’s work, outreach ministries, and to generally provide a deeper understanding of the Jewishness of the Gospel and need to integrate the best of the Jewish world with that of historic Christianity.
The Russian-speaking Messianic Jewish believers view themselves as part of the Jewish community. Especially in Israel and have a great burden to reach both Russian and Hebrew speakers in Israel.
Their children are quickly adapting to life in Israel and the Russian Messianic Jews are now touching the lives of those raised more traditionally Jewish, though they are not necessarily religious. This new context requires training in Jewish Studies, the Old and New Testaments, as well as in theology and practical ministry.
There are a number of other training programs in Israel as well, including Israel College of the Bible, which has a Russian language program and is a degree-granting program.