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Lion of Judah World Outreach Center is known for the Penetcostal flame on its roof and, by many, for its rabbi, Kirt Schneider, whose show, Discovering the Jewish Jesus, is on many of television’s religious channels, and who has a distinctive arm gesture that is “a symbol of the word of God, which is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword—and that’s actually a Bible quote,” he said.
The center also has a prayer room that has been in continuous use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since Valentine’s Day, 2007.
On Tuesday, Lion of Judah and one of its pastors, Joshua James, will welcome visitors to the center at 11 a.m. at 5732 Douglas Rd. as a stop on the Toledo Area Ministries summer tour of houses of worship. Lion of Judah had used the name Adat Adonai until the beginning of 2014 but changed its name to one that had been “in my spirit,” Rabbi Schneider said, and that would be “a lot more open to connecting with people.” Rabbi Schneider, who lives in Columbus and stays in an apartment at the center Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, will not be present for the tour.
The congregation has roots in Messianic Judaism, which often has Jewish practices but recognizes Jesus as divine. Lion of Judah ended its association with Messianic Jewish organizations. When he came to Adat Adonai in 2002, “I was inheriting a ministry. I felt responsible to carry on the tradition of that which had already been founded here, which was pretty rabbinic.” But after 12 years, his congregation is not in that tradition, and he wants to attract new people.
“I have tens of thousands of people that are connected to my ministry [through TV], yet here I’ve been laboring to lead [Lion of Judah] for 12 years and I have a congregation of 200 people. … It’s dawned on me that the thing that’s in the way is the Jewish thing. People might love the teaching on television, but they’re not going to go to the congregation because they think it’s Jewish and they’re not Jewish.”
Rabbi Schneider said that “we’ve got to get past the roadblock of letting this Jewish thing stand in the way of reaching people.”
“This congregation is 97 percent gentile,” Rabbi Schneider said. “This is a congregation that is helping people understand the Jewish roots of their Christian faith, but this is a Christian congregation.”
Rabbi Schneider says he is a Jewish believer, but “I want to break down this wall of separation” that Messianic Judaism built.
He uses the title “rabbi” for authoritative respect - -“It’s like calling a pastor ‘pastor,’” he said. Rabbi Schneider served as a pastor in Christian churches before going to Adat Adonai.
Born in Cleveland, he was raised in a Jewish family that went to temple for major holidays. “Realistically, my family was secular,” he said. He had his bar mitzvah at age 13 in a Conservative Jewish synagogue; he is 56 now. “I never thought about Jesus one way or the other. Jesus was just, to me, not part of my universe.” That changed for him at age 20 when, he said, in bed, he had a vision of Jesus on the cross. This was at a time when his life wasn’t going well; he had not fulfulled his goal of being a state wrestling champion and he had dropped out of college hoping to open a disco but was selling encyclopedias door-to-door.
In his books Awakening to Messiah: A Supernatural Discovery of the Jewish Jesus (2012) and Do Not Be Afraid! How to Find Freedom from Fear (2104), Rabbi Schneider expands on his salvation story.
His sudden conversion to Christianity didn’t sit well with his family. They hired a deprogrammer who took him to California, he said, but that didn’t work. Then he was committed to the psychatric ward of a hospital, but was released for legal reasons after two months.
In 1983 he married, and he and his wife moved to Toccoa Falls, Ga., and he enrolled in “a strong traditional evangelical Bible college,” he said, receiving a B.S. in 1985 along with the school’s award for preacher of the year. He became a pastor in Christian Missionary Alliance churches. At a church he served in Fremont, he said, he heard the voice of God telling him he’s an evangelist.
Only in the past two years, after he was invited to preach in Haiti, has he felt as if his evangelical calling is being fulfilled. He recently returned from an evangelical trip to the African continent.
Discovering the Jewish Jesus is in “a sister relationship” with Lion of Judah, Rabbi Schneider said. “There’s really good teaching coming out of this ministry. I mean, if it wasn’t good teaching, I wouldn’t be able to be spending $100,000 a week for broadcasting time on television. If there was not teaching that was helping people and ministering to people and God was using to bless people and change people, I could not pay to do what I’m doing. I can do it because people are being blessed and they’re sending in money.”
Discovering the Jewish Jesus and Lion of Judah are separate ministries, but Rabbi Schneider invites TV viewers “to be personally ministered to by the congregation.” Recently, the TV ministry hosted a conference on the biblical book Song of Songs at the center, “the first strategic way that we launched to more fully incorporate the world outreach center.”
Look for world outreach to continue, in a more Christian way.