The Birth of a Son
At age 30, Doug Friedman became a father. When he held Aaron, his newborn son, in his arms and looked at him, he thought, “This beautifully formed little human could not be the result of a series of accidents— this did not ‘evolve’ out of the slime.” As an aerodynamics engineer, he knew that creating complex things takes intelligence, and this baby was much more complex than any airplane. Wanting to identify Aaron’s designer, he began to read many different books—including a Bible handed to him by his believing wife, Bonnie.
As a Jew, it made him uneasy to see that this Bible contained a New Testament. When he started reading it, he was amazed to find out how Jewish this “Gentile” portion of the Bible really was. He wondered why this had been withheld from him. The words of Yeshua were like a cool breeze on a hot day. They held so much wisdom, he could hardly put the Scriptures down. The more he read, the clearer it was.
He had finally found the answer to his question about Aaron’s creator. His Name was Yeshua. Doug embraced his new faith, and he and his family began attending a local church. Years later, a Messianic congregation moved into town, and Doug finally found a place where he and his family could worship Yeshua, in the original Jewish context.
The Birthing of a Congregation
“But life does not always bring us good things,” says Doug. After a painful decision in that congregation, he had the choice to “cry over the lemons, or make lemonade.” Understanding that God uses even negative experiences for His glory, he and Bonnie gathered with a few people around their dining room table, reading and studying the Scriptures on Shabbat mornings. God blessed, and they grew.
In seven short years, without any fulltime staff, the congregation they named Ben David (“Son of David”—reflecting their focus on the person and nature of the Jewish Messiah) moved to a fairly large meeting hall in the nearby city of Orange, and increased to well over a hundred people in regular attendance. They are currently seeking an even larger facility. “It is only His hand,” says Doug, “which can take such pain and brokenness and turn it into such blessing!”
Integrity and Love
From the beginning, the Friedmans set out to build a congregation which is not only theologically sound and culturally sensitive, but led with integrity and committed to following Yeshua’s most fundamental teaching, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Once folks have visited, it is these two qualities—integrity and love—that keep them coming back.
Worship and Teaching
The expression of Ben David’s worship and teaching takes many forms. Doug thanks God for blessing the congregation with Chuck Ott, “one of the most experienced and gifted worship leaders in the Messianic movement,” who has developed an outstanding worship team. Ben David has a large and growing Shabbat school staffed by an unusually high percentage of credentialed, professional teachers. Beginning Hebrew classes are offered for both children and adults. Once a month the congregation is blessed with a d’rash (teaching) by an Israeli Jewish believer/Talmudic scholar who brings unique insights into the weekly parshah (Scripture portion). Congregants are encouraged to serve, using their gifts to bless others and enhance individual growth. Shabbat is celebrated, not only as a time of assembling together to worship God, but also a full day to enjoy an extended time of fellowship through a weekly oneg (joy around food) that usually extends well into the afternoon, and often into the evening.
Impact and Plans
Ben David tries to make good use of God’s appointed times—the Holy Days that the Lord has provided in His word—to reach out to family and friends who do not yet know Him. Events such as Passover Seders are natural and effective opportunities to invite the Jewish community to come and hear about Yeshua in a non-threatening environment. Their vision is “to grow a spiritually healthy family that has a Messianic Jewish orientation and that is sizeable enough to make an effective presentation of Yeshua to the population at large and the Jewish community in particular.” As the congregation expands, they hope to further increase their impact on the local Jewish community. They are developing what they believe is a unique and previously untried method of outreach to the Jewish people. If it works, they’ll be sharing it with the rest of the Messianic community.
Generations and Associations
God has used Doug as the catalyst in leading many of his own family members to a saving knowledge of Messiah Yeshua, making him part of a still relatively small group of Jewish believers spanning three generations. Raising his children in a Messianic congregation, he says, has provided them with an important cultural connection between their heritage and their faith. One challenge, however, is to find other congregations as they grow up and move away from home. “We need more high quality Messianic congregations to enable this next generation to maintain those connections,” he says. One step Ben David has taken toward ensuring that such congregations will exist is to become the first west coast Messianic congregation to join and support the newly formed Association of Messianic Congregations (AMC). They continue to pray that others will see the wisdom of joining and supporting this new organization as a means of promoting the future growth and success of the modern Messianic movement.
Truth and Hope
The heart’s desire of the Friedmans and the other leaders of Ben David is twofold: first and foremost, to follow the teaching of Yeshua, who said “make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20), and second, to present the wonderful news that Yeshua of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures to Israel and to the world: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your countrymen, you shall listen to Him” (Deuteronomy 18:15). As they walk daily with Yeshua, they pray that He will continue to make them bearers of truth and hope to a world that desperately needs both. MT