Gateway Center for Israel

The New Future for MJBI

By Nic Lesmeister, President and CEO
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Posted in Featured Articles, Latest News, Zealous Magazine, on August 11, 2019

“Babe, I’ve been praying about our calling. Listen to this…”

These were the words out of Tabatha’s mouth on the Shabbat afternoon of July 28, 2018. She walked enthusiastically into the dining room of our home in DFW with the Bible laid open in her hands and her eyes wide.

Earlier that week, she had been studying the book of Ephesians in her quiet times. As she read chapters two and three, the Lord illuminated some key Scriptures to her regarding our family’s calling, and she was eager to share them to me.

During the stillness of our kids’ nap time, I was excitedly working on my laptop, writing out the vision for a new future for MJBI. For months, close friends and advisors had been encouraging me to compose an executive summary detailing this vision. Prayerfully I had not felt a “release” to do so, but I’d finally felt a peace to put my thoughts on paper that day. This vision was the culmination of a patient process that began in Ethiopia on July 19, 2011—the miraculous day when I was called into Jewish ministry, and when the Lord showed Wayne Wilks that I was his “Joshua.”

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Taking over MJBI for Wayne and Bonnie was no easy commission. How do you fill the shoes of two of your greatest heroes? How do we build on their amazing legacy? When I started working for MJBI in the fall of 2015, these thoughts filled my mind. No one championed us like Wayne and Bonnie. “Go for it! Dream with heaven’s power! God is with you! We’re cheering you on!” These were the consistent encouragements we received from the Wilks.

The first year I was President of MJBI, Wayne and I traveled extensively—nearly 175,000 miles in the air! On one of those trips, we stood on the balcony of a hotel overlooking the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary. It had been in Budapest in 1999 that the Lord showed Wayne that MJBI would expand around the world from its single location in Odessa, Ukraine. As we overlooked the city that evening, I prayed the Lord would similarly show me how MJBI would expand under my leadership.

In the fall of 2017, we were drawing close to solidifying MJBI’s newest school in Warsaw, Poland. This was a surprise from the Holy Spirit for all of us. In the epicenter of the Holocaust, God was breathing “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15). As Europe’s first-ever accredited Messianic studies degree took shape, I began to see something unique coming into focus. To launch this new school, five organizations collaborated with great trust in a short amount of time: MJBI, Gateway Church, Christian Fellowship North (Warsaw), Warsaw College of Theology, and Or HaMashiach (Valentin Sviontek’s Messianic congregation in Odessa).

“What if we could replicate this around the world?” I thought to myself. “What if we could plant more and more programs to train leaders to reach the Jewish people? What if we could combine our efforts to do this more quickly and with greater influence?”

In early 2018, I began to share with Wayne the idea of a new “center.” Well-known universities host centers as collaborative initiatives to solve some specific problem, like curing cancer, ending poverty, defending biblical values, etc. At these centers, experts come together to collectively advance solutions.

Wayne and I had begun to see a major “problem” in Jewish ministry. The Church was not understanding the fullness of its Romans 11:11 mandate: “Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.”

Paul saw that it was God’s plan to use the Church to lovingly, biblically, and sincerely “provoke envy” within the Jewish people—envy that would cause them to turn to Yeshua, their Messiah. And through this, we would see “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15), which would result in “all Israel being saved” (Rom. 11:26).

What if we could build a center that would work to solve this “problem,” and model a healthy, biblical way to love and reach the Jewish people, one that would bring greater education to pastors with this calling, advancing the Romans 1:16 mandate of taking the Gospel “to the Jew first?”

Wayne loved the idea and started sharing it with Pastor Kevin Grove, his overseer at Gateway Church, who is responsible for Gateway’s global ministries as well as Chairman of the Board for The King’s University. Pastor Kevin also loved the idea and wanted to hear more. But, as I mentioned earlier, I felt the Lord encouraging me to wait.

Wayne and I had begun to see a major “problem” in Jewish ministry. The Church was not understanding the fullness of its Romans 11:11 mandate: “Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.”

Finally, on the afternoon of July 28, 2018, I felt released to write out the vision for this new center. I talked with Wayne, and he agreed that I should create an executive summary to review with Pastor Kevin. So I sat down at my computer that Saturday and typed out the vision. I was brimming with excitement.

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“Wow, the Lord showed you these Scriptures this week?!” is what I responded to Tabatha, amazed at the timing of this revelation. “Yes! Read this with me, Nic…” she said, as she began to read Ephesians 2 and 3. Then, she came to Ephesians 3:8-9 (TLV):

This favor was given to me (Paul), the very least of His saints, to proclaim to the Gentiles the endless riches of the Messiah and to bring to light the plan of the mystery— which for ages was hidden in God, who created all things.

As soon as the words left Tabatha’s lips, it was as if lightning struck me. I had read these verses countless times, but they had never landed on me so personally like they did when Tabatha shared them that afternoon. I immediately sat back in my chair and exclaimed: “Oh my goodness, that really is our calling!”

We both knew that we had been called to serve the Jewish people after my experience in Ethiopia in 2011. But, we felt there was still more to be understood. When Tabatha and I read Ephesians 3:8-9, it made greater sense. Like Paul, we began to see that we also are called to proclaim the Jewish Messiah to the Church, teaching church leaders the riches of their Jewish roots, but more importantly, the treasure of loving the Jewish people with the Gospel.

As mine and Tabatha’s special conversation came to an end that Saturday, I finished typing up the proposed plan to merge the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute and Gateway Church Global Jewish Ministries to create the “Gateway Center for Israel.”

Wayne and Pastor Kevin excitedly affirmed this proposal. Pastors around the world have been getting a revelation for Jewish ministry in their communities thanks to Pastor Robert Morris’ “to the Jew first / blessed to be a blessing” message, and many of them had been coming to Wayne, Gateway, and MJBI for help in understanding this and initiating it in their communities.

In November 2018, we shared this vision and plan with Pastor Robert, Pastor Jimmy Evans, and the Gateway Church elders. After being silent for over 15 minutes of discussion, Pastor Robert spoke up but was immediately overcome with emotion. Through tears, he voiced his excitement for this new initiative. He looked back on the historic Shady Grove elders’ meeting in 1994, when the Lord gave him, Wayne, and Pastor Olen Griffing the revelation of taking the Gospel “to the Jew first.” He could clearly see God was reconnecting us all for something greater ahead. The Gateway elders unanimously approved the plan and vision, and everyone in the room knew we had just experienced a holy moment.

In January 2019, our MJBI Board of Directors met to discuss everything that was happening. Jonathan Bernis, the Chairman of the Board since our founding in 1996, helped us all see that MJBI was moving from a “building-the-Messianic-community” ministry model to a “serving-the-Messianic-community” model. He voiced his great excitement for this, as did the other members of the board. It was unanimously approved to move forward with the plan to adopt MJBI into Gateway Church to create the new Gateway Center for Israel.

On January 1, 2020, MJBI will officially transition to become the Gateway Center for Israel. We will close our offices at the end of 2019, and myself and Sam Arnaud will become employees of Gateway. The Gateway Center for Israel will continue to support MJBI Odessa, our Poland school, and the Zimbabwe Kadima program until graduation in September 2020. Our few smaller programs in other countries will be given indigenous control or supported by sister ministries.

Our online School of Messianic Theology (SMT) will continue, and we will begin to build new resources in partnership with The King’s University and the Gateway Church Network. We plan to gather influential church leaders for seminars, host events in countries around the world, and support the Messianic Jewish community with even greater intentionality. We will launch new podcasts, online training, and web articles that will help church leaders better love, understand and reach Israel and the Jewish people.

Each month, Wayne and I meet influential pastors who tell us God has been speaking to them about reaching and loving the Jewish people—from London to Tokyo to Moscow to Sao Paulo! These pastors are interested in starting Jewish services in their churches, hosting outreaches to their local Jewish communities, or supporting Messianic ministry.

Though a legal entity called MJBI will no longer exist, the vision and mission of the MJBI are being carried on in the Gateway Center for Israel at an even greater level of influence. Because of this, we prayerfully hope that you will continue to financially support our new ministry. You are not simply giving a gift to Gateway Church. You are supporting the Gateway Center for Israel specifically, where MJBI lives on with a tremendously increased impact.

On January 1, 2020, MJBI will officially transition to become the Gateway Center for Israel.

We will be sharing more detailed information with you in the days and months to come. I sincerely hope you can join us for our September 10 event with Pastor Robert at Gateway’s Dallas campus. You will be hearing much more about our vision for the Center, and how you can join with us to see Romans 11:11 and 11:26 become a reality in our lifetime!

Tabatha and I are honored to continue building on the legacy that Wayne and Bonnie laid for MJBI. As Wayne’s Joshua, I am overjoyed to know that I will be working under him in the new Center and that God has brought us together to declare the endless riches of Yeshua to Israel and the Nations!

 

ANSWERING KEY QUESTIONS

1. Does MJBI still need financial support?

Yes, please! Our international ministries are running until the end of 2019, and some will continue beyond that. We sincerely need the support of our donors to continue training our students for Jewish ministry.

2. Are donations needed for the new Center, too?

Yes, please! After 2019 ends, we truly desire for you to continue supporting the mission and vision of the Gateway Center for Israel as well. Because of Gateway’s generosity to pay for the overhead and administrative costs of the Gateway Center for Israel, more of your donations will be used to go straight into Jewish ministry around the world than ever before!

3. What is happening to MJBI’s schools?

Nearly all of our international training schools and programs will continue through the end of 2019. Some will be transitioned over to partner ministries and others will continue to be overseen and funded through the Gateway Center for Israel.

4. What is happening to MJBI’s website, newsletters and other resources? 

We will continue updating our website, sending you valuable resources both through postal mailing and e-blasts, as well as engaging with you on social media through the end of 2019. In early 2020, we’ll transition our digital resources over to our new website and merge MJBI’s social media with that of the new Gateway Center for Israel.

5. What about the current MJBI staff and offices?

MJBI’s office will permanently close on December 31, 2019. Nic Lesmeister and Sam Arnaud will transition to Gateway Church as full-time employees on January 1, 2020, working at the Gateway Center for Israel. The MJBI Board of Directors will conclude and dissolve as well. In the meantime, our office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. Please feel free to contact us during those hours at (817) 552-3777, or email us at info@mjbi.org

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT OUR FAQs PAGE!

 


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Fall 2019