Mevasseret Zion is a suburb ten kilometers west of Jerusalem, straddling both sides of the highway to Tel-Aviv. With its 25,000 inhabitants, it’s one of the largest and wealthiest municipalities in the Jerusalem area. Until recently, there was no Messianic congregation in the city, and the believers in the city would attend congregations in Jerusalem or other cities.
But on Friday, September 17, 2021, I had the privilege of attending the first-ever meeting of a new Messianic congregation in Israel, as the new congregation of Mevasseret Zion was born. The official name is “Kehila Meshichit Mevasseret,” which has a double meaning. “Messianic Congregation of Mevasseret,” or “Messianic Congregation which proclaims [the gospel]”
Because the name of the city means “proclaimer to Zion,” or “bringer of good news to Zion.” It is taken from the passage in Isaiah 40:9 – “You who bring good news to Zion (Mevasseret Zion), go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’” – and this is exactly what this congregation intends to do.
The congregation is the first daughter-congregation of the thirty-year-old Jerusalem Assembly. As the Jerusalem Assembly kept growing, and they had no desire to turn into a mega-church, they decided to plant a new congregation. For the past few years, Jerusalem Assembly has been engaging, training, and equipping elders, formulated a statement of faith, purchased a building, and facilitated for the Mevasseret-based local home group to develop into an independent congregation.
The first meeting took place outside, next to a parking lot of a nearby national park, as the building won’t be ready until January 2022. About 100 people attended the event, including many children. Most sat in rows of camping chairs. Others sat on a large outdoors mats laid out for the occasion. Behind the congregants, tables were set up with food, drinks and deserts for fellowship time after the meeting. Throughout the meeting, the speakers stood in front of an amazing panoramic view of the Jerusalem Mountains.
One of the senior pastors, David, opened the meeting with the words: “Thirty years ago, 13 people of a home group turned into what is now the Jerusalem Assembly,” acknowledging the names of some of the original 13 people who were present at the meeting. “From that congregation, this congregation was born, Kehila Meshichit Mevasseret. Just like the mother congregation, we are a congregation of Jews and Gentiles who believe that Yeshua is our Messiah, and that salvation comes only through what he did for us on the cross to pay for our sins. Tonight we celebrate together. We will have a short teaching on parashat hashavua, we will have worship, and Tibi [Frank, one of the senior pastors], will deliver the sermon. Let’s pray together.”
After leading the congregation in prayer, David handed the congregation over to the worship team, who came up for a first song. The first song ever sung in the first meeting of this congregation was “This is the Day that the Lord has made.” Following the song, there was a short teaching on the parasha, which that week was Haazinu. After the teaching, the worship team led the congregation in additional songs.
After the worship, the children were sent to their Sabbath School lessons, and Tibi Frank came up to deliver the first-ever sermon of the Mevasseret Zion congregation. It was, of course, a sermon on Isaiah 40.
“Shalom, and thank you to everyone who came to take part in our joy,” he started, before leading the congregation in prayer. After the prayer, he continued. “This is the opening meeting of the Messianic Assembly of Mevasseret. We thank God we can conduct this meeting here. Not far behind me, if you look carefully, you can even see the building which is being built. With God’s grace and his help, we will enter the building in the next few months. We thank God the congregation starts before the building is ready, because the congregation is not a building of dead stones, but of living stones. We are the congregation. So I’m happy that everyone who came for the opening event doesn’t see the building, but you see the spiritual building here that has been built during the past few weeks, months, even years. So I’m not going to tell you our short history. Most of you already know. I want to focus on the Word of God. Turn with me to Isaiah 40, and let’s read the first 11 verses.”
Tibi gave an excellent sermon on the meaning of Isaiah 40, especially focusing on the mission to proclaim “Here is your God.” Most of the people of Israel don’t accept that Yeshua is God, and that’s what our mission is – to point to Yeshua and shout to Israel “Here is your God.”
In the sermon, Tibi also pointed out that the language switches from masculine to feminine in verse 9. That’s why it’s Mevasseret Zion, in the feminine form. Why is that? Because he is talking to us, his bride. “We need to be like ‘Mevasseret Zion’ the proclaimer to Zion, who go up on a high mountain, which is an effort, and lift the voice with a shout, which is also an effort, and proclaim without fear ‘Here is your God.’ We need to authenticate this message by living it day by day,” Tibi said. “Yeshua said that a city on a mountain can’t be hidden. Let our congregation be like that. So our congregation won’t be hidden because of the love and the light of the Messiah among us. It entails effort, it entails suffering, it entails service, it entails perseverance. Therefore, the slogan we have decided upon for the congregation is ‘Serving together in faith, and speaking the truth in love.’ May God help us fulfill it, as Yeshua did. He served in faith until his death on the cross, and he spoke God’s truth, but he did so in love, until the end. May God help us maintain it. We want to be a congregation which proclaims the love of the Messiah and lives accordingly. We must be faithful in our generation, in our place, and proclaim every day ‘Here is your God.’”
After finishing with a closing prayer, Tibi asked the visiting elders from other congregations to come and say a few words. First up was Meno Kalisher, senior pastor of the mother congregation, the Jerusalem Assembly.
“First of all, it’s an exciting day. How many times in our lives do we have the opportunity to take part in the event of establishing a new congregation? It’s such an amazing occurrence, it’s such a grace. I thank God for it. Tibi, the team you have here is a foundation, not for a villa, but for a skyscraper. What you have here are pearls, foundation pillars. I pray this congregation will be a congregation which ‘proclaims to Zion’ (Mevasseret Zion). I want to encourage you and all the others to read the letters to the congregations in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Reading that is a procedure pastors must never forget. If we make sure to be like Smyrna and Philadelphia, we are good. We have no right to be like the others. May God bless you.” Meno then turned his attention to a couple who now serve in a congregation in Yad HaShmona, but who were a part of the Jerusalem Assembly when it started, thirty years ago, thanking them for everything they did. He stated that they, together with another couple, were like Paul when he was little Timothy. “It’s such a privilege that you are here, such a blessing,” he added. “Thank you. We learned so much from you, so continue with that, and I know you do.”
The couple in question came forward and gave their blessings to the new congregation. “Shalom, dear friends,” the husband said. “We are so happy to be here today. We helped plant a congregation thirty years ago, together with Meno and Anat. Thank you for inviting us to take part in this day. It’s such an important day, which we will remember our whole lives, I’m sure. It’s the start of a new local congregation in the Body of the Messiah here, in Mevasseret Zion. We talked and prayed with Meno and some other people over twenty years ago that Jerusalem Assembly will one day have a congregational baby. And today the day has arrived. We pray this congregation will be strong. That it will stand and be founded on truth. That you will teach the Word of God until the Messiah comes back. That you will have fruit that remains.”
His wife added, “Shalom to the next generation. We thank God for the opportunity to be here. We want to give all glory to God. Today, we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Because of the love of the Messiah. That’s the goal, that’s our motivation, because he is worthy. Sometimes it’s hard, but he is worthy. I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more satisfying than serving the Lord like this. Taking part in something he does. Remember how to work in faith, according to hope, and love, not in pride, fear or guilt. May God bless you to do what’s right. Serve with all your hearts, and even if there are failures, you can go forward and develop spiritual muscles. That’s what I pray for you today. Remember from the New Testament that there is no higher authority than the local congregation. Invest in everything, fulfill all duties of a local congregation. To evangelize, to teach, to disciple, to baptize, have communion, serve, send missionaries, manage, give, have compassion, and plant another congregation in the future. On these duties, the health of the congregation depends, so you will give fruit that remains.”
David Zadok, the head of the Messianic publishing house HaGefen, and pastor of the congregation “Grace and Truth” in Kanot, close to Gedera, came up and added words of encouragement, giving a short message from 2 Timothy 4. “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”
Finally, Herbby Geer, pastor of the All Nations Congregation, and representative of the Southern Baptist Convention in Israel, also said a few words. “We are excited to see the start of a congregation. We have prayed for a congregation in Mevasseret Zion for many years. The need has been evident for so many years, and to see you stand here and fulfill God’s plan is really exciting. We want to stand by you in any way we can, pray for you. May the gospel and the light of Yeshua shine on everyone around you. I can see you are faithful people. Faithful to Yeshua, and faithful to see him as Messiah and as God, and faithful to his word, to do what he wants this congregation to do. From our heart we pray, and we want to bless you, and if we can, we will gladly help with anything we can. Thank God for you, and each and every one of you. We are excited to see what God will do through you.”
After this, Tibi came forward with the other elders and deacons and distributed communion to the background music of a final worship song. The meeting was dismissed, and the attendees were free to eat and drink and fellowship together. The sun was setting by now, and the beautiful view was darkened, but many people stayed and talked for long after the meeting was over. After all, how often do you have the opportunity to attend the first ever meeting of a new Messianic congregation in Israel?
Pray God will bless this new congregation, and may they live up to their name – Kehila Meshichit Mevasseret.
“Neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Cor. 3:7