Israel Changed Christian Pastor’s Heart

August 24, 2018

6 min read

Pastor David Decker came to Israel in 1980 as a proud evangelical Christian, with a clear agenda to preach to the Jewish people. Thirty-eight years later, he’s advocating for Israel-loving Christians around the world to “come together under the spiritual direction of the leaders of Judaism” to help inaugurate the Messianic era.

His story begins in the 1950s. Raised in a devout Christian Zionist family in the US, his father was a Baptist minister who made 25 trips to Israel. Decker described his childhood to Breaking Israel News. “We grew up to love Israel. We were a very conservative evangelical Christian family. We had family Bible study seven days a week. The Bible was my life!

“We were more worried about Israel than about America. This was before the Internet, but we got the weekly International edition of The Jerusalem Post to keep up with news about Israel. The whole family got on their knees and prayed for Israel.

“I was taught that God will actually kill you and ruin your life if you don’t bless Israel. That’s a literal promise of God. That’s how we were brought up.”

I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you. Genesis 12:3

When he was a public school student in 6th grade, Decker defended a Jewish teacher who was being subjected to antisemitic taunts from her students. “I knew that was wrong. And I was able to change the atmosphere in that class so she could continue teaching. Miss Cohen wasn’t the first Jewish person I met, but that was my first encounter with antisemitism. I knew it just came from ignorance.”

Decker’s first trip to Israel was to attend a Christian Zionist gathering in Jerusalem in 1974. He returned in 1980 with his wife, who was pregnant with the first of five children. The Deckers came on a tour and stayed.

As a trained meteorologist with skills that were not yet common in Israel, Decker found work with the Israel Weather Service. He was granted a work visa that had to be renewed annually. He chose to be transparent with his future employer about his intention to preach to the Jewish people, knowing that, in any case, it would come out as part of his security clearance. “I was aware that Israelis are smart and would catch on quickly,” Decker commented.

In the early years, working full-time, raising a family and serving his church, Decker found time to take to the streets. “I would go with a megaphone, with my bumbling Hebrew and I would stand on street corners in downtown Tel Aviv, preaching the gospel.”

It didn’t take too long for him to realize this was not an effective strategy. Numerous Jews took him aside. “They told me, ‘You’re not going to get the best results this way. You’re going to get hurt.’ They protected me and saved my life. They were very kind to me.”

Jewish strangers suggested that he take time to learn more about Judaism and why the Jewish people were offended by his message. “They were so sweet to me. These were precious people who were trying to help me. I realized that God was basically telling me, ‘David, what you need to do now is shut up.’”

Decker resigned from his street pulpit and began a messianic congregation in the Tel Aviv area, where he served as the pastor. “We were very respectful of Jewish customs. That was part of my learning curve.” As he developed a greater sensitivity to the Jewish perspective, “I realized this wasn’t the best way to do it either.”

In 1991, after more than a decade of being in Israel on a work visa, Decker and his family were able to get permanent residency through a God-directed set of circumstances. “In the 1980’s, I was a well-known Christian weatherman.” For six years, his show was exceedingly popular. “It was a Christian weather show on which I used to preach the gospel. It was very pro-Israel. I talked about God’s great love for Israel.”

Immediately after the Gulf War, during which residents of Israel sat in sealed rooms to protect themselves from Iraqi Scud missiles, the Decker family was told that non-Jews who had stayed in Israel during the Gulf War were being considered for permanent residency. The clerk who processed their application turned out to be a big fan of Decker’s weather show. “He facilitated our permanent residency status. He went to Jerusalem with all our paperwork. That was like a miracle for us. We were destined to be here,” Decker reported.

At the same time he was flailing in his missionizing, his 20-year marriage was ending. “I was a terrible husband. My marriage was completely ruined and mostly it was my fault. I was getting kind of burned out after 20 years. I was going through a very painful and public divorce. I was not allowed to be a pastor anymore. I really came to the place where I was going through a spiritual crash in my life.”

In these darkest moments is where Decker’s story takes a dramatic turn toward the light.

He had support from his missionary board in the US who encouraged him to stay in Israel and to, “Go a different way. Learn more about the Jewish way. Do works of love. Don’t be so preachy. Learn from the Jewish people. Maybe there’s another way to dialogue with them.”

Decker said he became,”less of a preacher and more of a learner. I wasn’t qualified to lead a congregation anymore, but I began to bring homeless Jewish people into my home. I became friends with them and tried to help them.”

In the meantime, Hashem was preparing an entirely different mission for him.

Joshua Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, said, “We have to celebrate what God is doing here.” (Credit: Maayan Hoffman)

In 2004, the newly formed Knesset Christian Allies Caucus reached out to Decker and gave him an assignment – help them build their database of Christian Zionists worldwide. “Now I was doing real Jewish-Christian relations at a high level. There were twenty people working on this database and we brought them thousands of names of friends of Israel from all over the Christian world.”

With no job, no marriage and no ministry, Decker had plenty of time to assist the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. Soon, he was flying internationally in El Al’s business class, making connections with Christian Zionists.

From there, he went on to help form Covenant Alliances which facilitated Christian Zionists to connect with Israel, with members of the Israeli Knesset and with the Jewish roots of their faith.
Decker recalled, “A whole new relationship was developing with the Jewish world. This was a breath of fresh air for me.

“I had reached rock bottom. This was from God. It was a whole new lease on life. I loved the relationships I was having with Jews. I realized that Orthodox Jews were so precious and I could learn from them. I got a smidgen of humility and I started to realize I need to sit at the feet of these amazing people and learn.”

During this time, Decker began working as a Christian advisor to Compedia, an Israel high tech company specializing in interactive educational technologies. “I worked with Compedia 80 hours a week for six years. It was very intense.

“After six years, I felt like I wanted to get to know ultra-Orthodox Jews. I needed to learn from them. With the help of Hashem (God), I started to meet the most ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.” Decker, who learned Hebrew in his early years in Israel, began delving even more deeply into his studies about the Sanhedrin and the key role it will play at the end of days. He was particularly inspired by the Cyrus and Trump silver half-shekel, recently minted by the nascent Sanhedrin and the Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center.

Trump-Cyrus Silver half-shekel (Courtesy Mordechai Persoff)

Decker concluded his interview with Breaking Israel News with a vision. “There are hundreds of thousands of people like me. But the potential is for many millions more to get this vision. I believe now is the time for it to happen.

“For Christians to have an impact on the world at all, they have to get this relationship with Jews right. 99.9% of the problem is on our side. We need to own up to this.

“Now we need Christian leaders with their heads bowed to come to the leaders of Judaism. We need to swallow our pride. We have greatly sinned against you. Instead of preaching or trying to coerce you, we realize that we need to have a relationship with you, that we are nothing without you. We say please forgive us and show us the right way to go.”

Thus said the lord of Hosts: In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold—they will take hold of every Yehudi by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you.”  Zechariah 8:23

“This has to happen. We come to you with heads bowed in sorrow. If you would give us a chance, maybe we will be able to be in proper relationship with our older Jewish brothers.

We all want Moshiach ben David (Messiah, son of David). We will dance and rejoice together. This is the fulfillment of all the prophecies. Jerusalem is destined to be the joy of all the earth.  All the Christians need to come together under the spiritual direction of the leaders of Judaism.”

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