First Baptist Raytown pastor reaches out to Jewish community
By Bob Baysinger
March 30, 2004
Paul Brook, pastor First Baptist Church, Raytown, Mo. The largest Southern Baptist church in Missouri — is taking big steps to reach out to the Jewish community in the Kansas City area
Shares gospel by building friendships
RAYTOWN – First Baptist Church , Raytown – the largest Southern Baptist church in Missouri – is taking big steps to reach out to the Jewish community in the Kansas City area.
About 2,000 Christians and Jews gathered at First Baptist in early March for The Gathering 2 – the brainchild of First Baptist Pastor Paul Brooks and some Kansas City Jewish leaders. The event was advertised as a time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle described The Gathering 2 as “a sign of deepening ties between the Jewish and evangelical Christian communities."
Brooks said the idea developed about two years ago while he was attending a rally at a Jewish school in the Kansas City area following a massacre in Israel.
“I didn’t know anybody in the Jewish community at the time," Brooks said. “While sitting there, I felt like the Lord spoke to me. He reminded me that if we can come together politically – Christians and Jews – we can get together and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, setting aside our differences. We don’t have to agree who the Messiah is to obey Scripture and pray for peace."
Brooks met with several Jewish rabbis to begin planning the first Gathering.
“The rabbinical association met and decided it was a good idea," Brooks said. “We held our first joint prayer meeting last winter and had about 1,700 people, 30-40 churches and 5-6 synagogues present. The second Gathering on March 1 brought in more than 2,000 people, and we had 50 or 60 churches.
“Everybody is really excited about this and want to know when we can do it again," Brooks said. “The Jewish people feel pretty alone in the world. They’ve been driven out of country after country and slaughtered by many different maniacs. A lot of the anti-Semitism has come from the Christian community.
“I have made friends with several rabbis. I tell them I can’t undo what has been done in Europe, but maybe we can make things better in Kansas City. And that’s what we’re trying to do – make things better and get along better."
Brooks said both sides understand there are different views toward Jesus Christ.
“One rabbi told me that when the Messiah comes, we differ on whether it will be the first or second time," Brooks explained. “He went on to say that since we can’t agree, we ought to set that aside and just be friends."
In an interview with The Jewish Chronicle, Brooks said he understands why there is mistrust on the part of the Jewish community.
“I’m a Southern Baptist, and I know that not all Southern Baptists would agree with me," Brooks said. “I can only speak for myself and for many of my friends in Kansas City and say that we have no hidden agenda to try and convert the Jews … .That’s not our goal. Our goal is to be friends."
Brooks also told the Jewish publication that Southern Baptists are a “people of The Book" and recognize that Jews are a covenant people with a unique relationship with God.
“We believe that we are also a covenant people under a different covenant and that we have a unique relationship with the same God … . Because we love the same God, we ought to love each other."
Brooks said he does not agree with some in the Christian community who subscribe to dual covenant theology – the teaching that there are two roads to Heaven, the Abrahamic covenant for Jews and the New Covenant for Gentiles.
“It is true that God has a covenant with Jews," Brooks said, “but that does not change John 14:6 where Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ The book of Romans teaches us that the Jewish people have been blinded to the truth. It goes on to say that the Messiah will come and all Israel will be saved at some point in the future.
“Now, however, Jesus is the one and only way to Heaven," Brooks emphasized.
Concerning his relationship with Jewish people in Kansas City , Brooks said he doesn’t have the power to open their eyes to the truth if they are blinded.
“I try to establish a friendship," he said. “I am very up front with all of my Jewish friends. I tell them that I believe Jesus is the Messiah. I can’t persuade them and am not trying to convert them in that sense.
“We are trying to be friends and be supportive. In the process, I share the Gospel message with a large portion of the Jewish population I have contact with, but I don’t attack them or try to be offensive.
“When I got involved with ministering to the Jewish community, I did receive some criticism, but none from my church that I know of. They (my church) know that I don’t compromise anything."