Christianity is Jewish!
I know, I know! I’m stating the obvious! Or perhaps that’s a revelation to you. Well, whatever your response to that statement, know that my views about that statement have changed dramatically in my life. At one point it was completely irrelevant. Today, that statement plays a major role in who I am as human being.
Growing up in a Reform Jewish home in St. Pete, FL, I attended synagogue, and at age 13 went through Bar-Mitzvah. If you’re wondering, Bar Mitzvah means “son of the commandment” and is a ceremonial rite of passage when a Jewish boy becomes a man. Though we were culturally and socially very connected to the Jewish community, we were not a particularly religious household.
I considered myself a spiritual person growing up. I believed in God and had some sense that he knew me. In 1986, though I embraced neither my Judaism nor any other religion, I began examining different philosophies and world religions for answers to life’s biggest questions.
My earliest memories of people sharing Jesus with me go back to my college years. But, I consistently rejected any conversation about Jesus and turned down invites to church, bible studies or Christian concerts.
As I searched for something I could believe in, something that would fill a void I felt in my life, I found myself drawn to Christianity and the person of Jesus, but I wrestled. It really wasn’t until a stranger on a plane challenged me to ask the God of Israel if Jesus is the Messiah, that I cried out to God as I knew Him to show me the truth about Jesus.
He did, and in December 1987 I trusted in Jesus. I believed for the first time that He died for my sins and rose again from the dead so that I could be forgiven. Knowing Messiah was and is the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life, but it’s not been easy being a Jew for Jesus.
Something profound occurred in my life as a new Christian. I made a discovery that was quite astonishing to me at the time. As I began studying the New Testament, I learned about the Jewishness of Jesus. I also learned all the writers of the New Testament were Jewish with the possible exception of Luke. And Luke was a doctor, so who knows?! I thought to myself, “Christianity is Jewish!”
In one sense the gospel narrative is simply a Jewish debate among Jewish people about the true identity of a Jewish man, Jesus. And the story takes place in Israel. What could be more Jewish than that?
The Impact of the Holocaust
My father immigrated from Bonn, Germany with his family in June 1939, escaping Nazi persecution. My paternal grandparents and my young father escaped with help from an SS Agent in the Nazi party. The agent, a friend of my grandfather’s from WWI, falsified immigration papers enabling my father and his parents to escape to Belize, where they lived for a year before moving to Daytona Beach in 1940. None of my father’s remaining family in Germany survived the holocaust.
Professional Tennis Coaching
I picked up my first tennis racquet at age 9 and from the ages of 12-18 was annually ranked in the top- 30 in the state of Florida. It was my sport, though I loved playing lots of sports. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1986, I began coaching under my high school coach, Billy Stearns, at his academy in Seminole, Florida. I trained and coached world class juniors, college and professional tennis players. During my 20s and 30s, I was a professional tennis coach who loved my outdoor “office” and working with people. I came to East Tennessee to pursue my Master’s Degree in 1991, and joined the coaching staff at East Tennessee State University under Head Coach Dave Mullins. Coach and I worked together for 9 years, and I taught private lessons and clinics on the side with a faithful client base.
Stepping Away from the Racquet
As I grew as a Christian, my desire to share this good news with my Jewish people also grew. I wanted them to know that yes, it is Jewish to believe in Jesus, for He is the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world. I prayed for God to make an opportunity for me to share the gospel with fellow Jews.
In 1989 a family friend passed on a pamphlet from Jews for Jesus, a missionary society committed to sharing Messiah with the Jewish people. Before receiving this newsletter I thought I was alone, the only Jew who believed in Jesus.
After a few years of receiving the newsletter, I decided to serve for a 6-week summer outreach with Jews for Jesus. In the process of applying, I learned about The Liberated Wailing Wall, a mobile evangelistic music team. This team shared the good news of Jesus around the world through music, drama, and testimony, mainly at churches and at Christian colleges. They also would engage a lot of street evangelism in big cities and on college campuses. After much consideration and prayer, I went ahead and applied for the music team as well.
In the plan of God, a 6-week short-term mission trip turned into a two-year full-time ministry commitment. In June of 1997, I left Johnson City, TN with no more than a book bag, a 29’ hardshell suitcase, and a guitar. Everything else I left in storage. I boarded an airplane, flew away and entered a life-changing adventure!
In December of 1997, before my team left for our tour of ministry, we recorded a messianic praise album called, This is Jerusalem.
In January 1998, my team of six members and I loaded our gear onto a 30-foot fully equipped tour bus which would become our home on the road. I co-led the traveling music team on our journey around the United States and Canada from January 1998 – March 1999. At the end of our North American tour, we embarked on a 2-month world tour doing ministry in England, South Africa, Australia and Hawaii.
Needless to say, after doing over 500 presentations in a myriad of diverse church settings and evangelizing around the world, my life would never be the same!
During my tour, I courted a beautiful woman named Lori, and at the end of the tour I asked her to be my wife. We were married in the fall and two years later God blessed us with our firstborn son.
Does Your Mother Know What You’re Doing?
In 2002, I was accepted onto vocational missionary staff with Jews for Jesus and my family and I packed up our house and began the move to Manhattan. Arriving in the Big Apple in January 2003, we moved into our apartment in midtown Manhattan. Shortly after arriving in NY City, Lori and I learned that we were expecting our second child, a daughter.
In Manhattan, I trained under some of the brightest and most gifted missionaries and bible teachers including the late Dr. Jhan Moskowitz, who taught me much about preaching, and Dr. Jack Meadows, my private theology professor. Following the training, I was ordained, and then continued on as a missionary in the heart of New York City.
I have been a member at Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City, TN for over 20 years, first coming to the church in 1993. Grace Fellowship has been the most influential church in Christian life. It was here I learned to function in a local body of believers. The church supported and sent me out on both my 2-year and 6-year missionary stints with Jews for Jesus. Just prior to leaving for NY City in January 2003, I sat under staff pastor Tim Bowers in a six month resident’s program where my main responsibilities included developing a seeker-sensitive gospel-centered bible study.
After leaving staff with Jews for Jesus in 2009, I served as Missionary-in-Residence for a year before becoming the full-time Local Outreach Pastor. In my role as Outreach Pastor I developed and directed various community outreach programs and missions activities, trained missions teams, taught classes and preached on a number of occasions.
Larry Stamm Ministries
Who I am is a Jewish Christian in love with Jesus the Messiah and the Word of God. God’s work in my life up to this point prepared me to launch Larry Stamm Ministries in early 2013 with the full support of our Board of Directors, my family and my home church. My experience since 1997 in witnessing around the globe to people of all walks of life has uniquely qualified me to teach and share biblical principles with others…and to help you share your faith more confidently.
More and more Americans are not walking through church doors, and an increasing number of both irreligious and religiously unaffiliated no longer have friends who are Christians. We can’t afford to isolate ourselves, or to stop reaching out to our co-workers, neighbors, classmates, and the like. The onus is ever more upon individual Christians to share Jesus in the marketplace — at the coffee shop, with your neighbor or coworker, your classmates and others with whom you have every day contact.
Larry Stamm Ministries exists to make the Gospel of Jesus a confident topic of conversation for every Christian. We offer equipping events, one-on-one evangelism coaching and teaching that connects the dots between the Old and New Testaments in order to inspire Christians to press on in fulfilling the Great Commission – to go out and share the good news. In 2015, I wrote and published Serving in His Court which is available in paperback, ebook and audio, as a resource for Christians who want to witness with confidence.