Londoner Brian Greenaway grew up in a loving family very much aware of his Jewish identity – but from a political Zionist rather than a religious point of view.
He was prejudiced against Arabs as he felt they were trying to destroy his people, and he hated Christians because of the history of terrible persecution they have suffered at the hands of the Church.
So it may surprise you to learn that he is now not only a believer in Jesus, but also an ordained minister who heads up the UK branch of an organisation reaching out to both Jews and Arabs in Israel.
“I was born in south London in the late 1960s and grew up in a loving family, but without any faith or any kind of religious observance,” Brian told me.
“However, two things greatly impacted me. My father taught me about my Jewish identity, but very much from a political Zionist viewpoint, which gave me a strong link with Israel and the Jewish people. But I was prejudiced against the Arab people as I saw them as trying to destroy us.
“I also hated Christians and churches, and could not even face going into a church. It used to give me shivers and, if I ever saw Christians on TV, I would hurl abuse at them and not want to listen. I didn’t really understand why at the time, but now I realise that it was because of the history of terrible persecution of Jewish people by the Church.
“The second thing that really impacted me was when I became involved in spiritism and other occult activities – Jewish people are often very interested in spiritual things. But they did me great harm mentally, emotionally and spiritually. By the age of 20, I was suffering from mental health problems and could not see a reason for living. My health deteriorated rapidly and my parents, who cared for me very much, were very concerned.
“About that time I started working in an office where two young ladies, who were Christians, told me about Jesus to which I gave the standard answer: ‘I am sorry – I’m Jewish. Jesus has nothing to do with Jewish people.’
“So they gave me a copy of a book called Betrayed by Stan Telchin. It’s the story of a Jewish man whose daughter becomes a believer in Jesus, and how he set out to disprove her new-found faith. But in the end he too becomes a believer! This really made me think about the relevance of Jesus to Jewish people, and set me on a voyage of discovery, reading several other books.
“Later, they invited me to a meeting of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International where I met several very reasonable and intelligent men, about my age, who seemed just like me. That was until the end of the meal when they all started to sing; I thought I’d been ambushed and felt out of place. However, they all had a genuine faith and had integrated that into their lives. I wanted to know more.
“A short time after that, I was invited to a church which was similar (with lots of exuberant singing, but I was more prepared for it this time). They were enjoying themselves, praising and clapping, and I knew there was something real about it. I had tried out other churches, but they had seemed cold and formal. At the end of the meeting, the speaker gave an appeal for those who wanted to know Jesus. Everything I had tried had failed and my life was spiralling out of control. I felt strongly drawn to respond and went out to the front of the church to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.
“Instantly, life changed for me. Suddenly things had colour, purpose and meaning. In subsequent weeks I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and healing from depression. I was also healed of an ulcer and soon became physically much healthier.
“I soon became much involved in church life and found myself part of the youth leadership team. And, after several years, I ended up pastoring the church as an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God.
“However, having dealt with my prejudices, I had forgotten my Jewish heritage. Then, in 2005, we had a visit to my church from Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram from Maoz Israel Ministries who spoke about Israel and the Jewish believers in Jesus there and across the world. This sparked my interest, realising that you can be fully Jewish and also a follower of Jesus, which was not something I had heard before.
“This started me on a journey of discovery about my own identity which I have continued ever since. In 2011 the opportunity came for my wife Elizabeth and I to become more involved with Maoz, which led to my current role as head of the UK branch. I am still an Assemblies of God pastor and part of the leadership team of a church in south-east London.
“By the way, I ended up marrying one of those young ladies at the office I mentioned, and we just recently celebrated 30 years together!
“In my current role with Maoz, I oversee the UK office and also travel across the country talking about our work and providing teaching for churches. We have a number of churches and individuals who partner with us in our work, which is really centred on bringing the gospel to Israel until ‘all Israel is saved’ (Rom 11:26).”
Editor’s note: Though Maoz works to encourage and support gospel growth in Israel generally, they are also doing much to boost the growing integration of Arab believers in the ongoing outreach of Messianic congregations made up mostly of Jewish followers of Jesus. For more information on their work, see www.maozisrael.uk
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.