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Fathers to sons: A relay race

A respected Korean pastor once sat in my office and asked me a deep question: “What are the keys to transferring leadership from one generation to the next?” This question is being asked by ministry leaders around the world.

Other Asian Christians with passionate hearts for Israel, also perceive this same need. As a result, they initiated a multinational conference, held in Taiwan in August, 2017, with the theme “From Generation to Generation/M’Dor L’Dor.” They invited me to be one of the speakers.

To my great joy they also invited a spiritual son of mine, Guy Cohen. The organizers said, “We want both you and Guy, so that we can understand the dynamic of a spiritual father and son. How does a father prepare a son for ministry responsibility? What are the keys, the tensions, the pitfalls, and the blessings of such a relationship?” To top it off, Guy decided to bring his son, Ofek, who had recently celebrated his bar-mitzvah. Thus, we represented three generations of Israeli believers.

The conference, held in Taiwan’s hi-tech capital, HsinChu, was attended by dedicated believers from Japan, Korea, India, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and China. Guy and I were received with more love and respect than was possible to absorb. There is a hunger in the Asian body of Messiah, to build real relationships with Israel’s Messianic Jews. Their heart is to learn, to intercede, to serve and to support the reawakened community of Yeshua in His land. Truly, we experienced the fulfillment of what the prophets of Israel saw:

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock’” (Jeremiah 31:10).

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:23).

How were Guy and I to present the richness of our relationship, developed over a period of 20 years? We decided to “team teach.” We alternated, speaking honestly of our trail together. The approximately 1000 Asian believers who took part in this remarkable event (called Asia Messianic Forum) received our message at a far deeper level than I had dared to hope. Here’s some of what we shared in Taiwan:

Generational Contrasts

Obviously there are differences from one generation to the next. In addition, Guy and I come from very different backgrounds. I find this both challenging and rewarding.

I was born in the USA, the son of a mixed marriage (Jewish and Gentile). Guy was born in Israel, of Moroccan Jewish and Yemenite Jewish families. Before coming to Yeshua my knowledge of Judaism was minimal. Guy spent five years in ultra-Orthodox education studying rabbinic texts in the original Hebrew.

Contrasts between generations of leadership can and should enrich both sides – causing us to learn from each other.

The Unfolding of Friendship: 
A Relay Race

Chronicling the history of our relationship was unexpectedly moving. We reflected on the gradual building of trust and the many stages we went through in growing together. Guy has always pursued goals with intensity. This was no exception. We found our hearts woven together as we faced ascending challenges. From being a learner (disciple) he became an assistant. Then, years later, he planted a congregation with my supervision.

Generations turn toward each other I see these inter-generational relationships as a relay race. The runner who receives the baton must begin running before the hand off. As he gains the same speed as the previous runner, the baton is placed in his hand without him even looking back. Quite a metaphor, eh? This is, in fact, the holy, down-to-earth process required to “win the race” of God’s kingdom taking root in the earth.

Prophetic Timing: 
Why is this Important Now?

Page-2-Image-5We are walking into the end-times. Malachi’s conclusion stresses the next generation. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5, 6). God knew that we would be challenged in our faith before an increasingly secular/idolatrous world. He knew that a dynamic transfer would be needed to raise up leadership for the last generation before Messiah’s return.

There is a leadership vacuum. Many, including secular voices, are asking “Why the vacuum? What must we do to produce leaders?” I believe there are no shortcuts. It’s not about inventing more programs. Rather, the key is the time-honored method of investing life, of pouring ourselves — our time/love/ instruction and example of how to live — into spiritual sons and daughters.

Overwhelming Response

When we finished the presentation, Guy and I invited the fathers and mothers to seriously consider making As a baton such an investment in the youth of their nation. To our amazement, scores of men and women from the nations of Asia came forward. I then challenged the younger believers present. “Are you ready to receive the relay baton from these spiritual moms and dads? If so, come and face them, so they can bless you.” The sons and daughters came up to receive the loving prayers of veteran believers from their nations. There were virtually no empty chairs after the youth came forward. It was one of the most remarkable responses to a message I’ve seen in over 40 years of ministry.

I believe this simple key of inter-generational love, respect, and dedication will transform nations. May the Lord energize and focus us to engage in His own method of expanding the kingdom—now, preparing for the day.

This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, October 2017, and reposted with permission.

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Eitan Shishkoff
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.

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