Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is Grassroots?

"Grassroots is not a conference."

That's just one of the catchphrases I heard two weekends ago at Congregation Sha'arei Shalom in North Carolina, where over 80 100 (!) young Messianics gathered for a weekend of prayer, worship, fellowship, and discussion.  It meant that Grassroots doesn't offer famous speakers, well-known musical artists, or an extensive schedule filled with breakout sessions or activities.  But what Grassroots does offer is lots of space for relationship-building.

How did Grassroots start?  Sometime in the early/mid-2000's, four young Messianic believers met each other for the first time in Israel.  Two grew up in one large Messianic Jewish organization, and two in another.  After introducing themselves and beginning to talk, they quickly became astonished by how much they had in common.  "How do I not know you?" they started asking.

They realized that there was a whole parallel universe of fellow Messianic Jewish believers they didn't know, simply because they were part of a different organization.  This realization helped plant the seed for Grassroots, a movement for unity among Messianic believers in the U.S. and abroad.

This year was the sixth fifth Grassroots (and the second one I've attended).  Both years I heard the organizers tell everyone, "We honestly don't know what to expect"---while simultaneously encouraging everyone to be free and true to their identity in Messiah.

Each Grassroots takes on a distinctive flavor from the community which hosts it.  This year one young leader likened it to honey: did you know that one way to lessen your allergies is to have some of the local honey?  That's because the pollen residuals in the honey can soften the affects of the allergies.  Similarly, this young leader said, by being together and sharing the best of what we have to offer, we can lessen our "allergic reactions" to each other.  This was followed by another buzzword for the weekend, "cross-pollination"---which, as you can imagine, sent giggles through the mostly under-30 audience (especially as it was followed by an unintentional reference to "the future of the Messianic movement").

One thing that Grassroots does promote is honest dialogue.  One year, a dozen or so people who grew up in the UMJC sat down with a dozen MJAA people and basically said, "Here's what we (learned to) think about you."  The conversation led to a lot of repentance--changing minds and hearts about our fellow believers.

If you search for Grassroots online, you won't find a conference website or schedule.  There's no invitation committee or outreach wing; information about it spreads through word of mouth.  What makes Grassroots so disorganized ("We're not an organization!" was another catchphrase) is also what can make it spread. Grassroots is us.  If you want to see unity happen among Messianics, then start making it happen.  If there's another Messianic congregation in town, get together with them for Shabbat dinner and discussion or for prayer and worship.  Invite each other to things.  Think locally.  As one of my favorite captains from childhood once said, "The power is yours!"

(Some "local honey" from the worship team at Sha'arei Shalom in NC.)