An Evangelical Zionist’s Testimony

In Blogs, Devotional by Mike Stallard1 Comment

The date was June 5, 1967. I was only 13 years old, but I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I was visiting my grandparents in Virginia, watching the news on TV, which spent quite a bit of time on Israel’s so-called preemptive attack on Egypt in what would later be called the Six-Day War. Although I understood little of what was going on, I was mesmerized.

Why was I so attracted to this event? The answer may be surprising.

Growing the Seeds of Zionism

My parents had given me a Bible years before, a common cultural practice in the southern United States. I had started to read it off and on. One thing that stood out was that the word Israel was mentioned hundreds of times. I was not Jewish, but I had respect for Israel because it was in the Bible. Though it may sound simplistic, it was a starting place for a young man developing his worldview.

Seven years later, as a senior in college, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and became an evangelical, born-again Christian. The local church that I joined taught biblical truth about God’s plan for Israel throughout history and its wonderful future. Although I had studied about the pogroms and the Holocaust in college classes, I now began to look at these atrocities against the Jewish people from a biblical worldview. How could anyone do such heinous things against other human beings? The issue became more than just academic to me.

Working Side by Side With Israelis

After graduating from college, I began a career as a computer analyst and engineer working on missile defense systems. A few years into my work, my heart was drawn to go into the ministry, so I went to seminary, where I studied, among other things, biblical Hebrew. As I progressed, I moved to Dallas, Texas, to work toward a PhD degree in theology at a Zionist seminary. However, I needed to work to pay my school bills and provide for my new wife. 

My love for Israelis and Jewish people grew and became much more personal. Their cause, which was already mine theologically, became mine experientially.

I applied to work at General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas, which made F–16 jet fighters. When I received the offer letter from the company, joy filled my heart when I read that my first project would be working with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). At that time, Israel was procuring many F–16s, which they still fly today. I worked for five years as an avionics engineer on one of the cockpit computers, rubbing shoulders with IDF soldiers. For almost a year, I was a classroom teacher on software for them. A colonel and his wife ate dinner in my home. My wife and I were invited to celebrations of Israeli Independence Day.

The highlight of those years working on F–16s for the IDF was a free trip to Israel. I spent July 1982, during the First Lebanon War, working with soldiers in Israel. I didn’t tour much of the country, but I got to know the people and their concerns during that time of war. My love for Israelis and Jewish people grew and became much more personal. Their cause, which was already mine theologically, became mine experientially.

Perhaps the most special moment from this trip to Israel was a dinner in the home of an IDF colonel. As we sat around the table, someone mentioned that he was a hero from the Six-Day War. He was asked to show us his medals, which he did, and we discussed what had happened and a little about that war. Looking back at that precious moment, I think of the word Israel that I had encountered in the Bible as a young boy and on that newscast on June 5, 1967. I never would have dreamed then that I would be sitting in Israel with a hero of that war during another time of war in 1982. Beyond that, I would never have thought that I would be helping Israel physically defend itself against its enemies. I felt like I was in a movie.

From Local Ministry to Global Advocacy

My ministerial career began to develop in 1986 beyond only speaking in a few venues. I spent the next three decades as a pastor of local churches, where I promoted Zionism, and as a theology professor in seminary, where I made sure to emphasize to my students that the word Israel was in the Bible. So many Christians ignore Israel in the Bible or claim that the term does not refer to the Jewish people today. But due to my earlier experiences with Jewish people and Israelis, I could speak on such topics with confidence, using meaningful illustrations to highlight the truth about present-day Israel.

I would never have thought that I would be helping Israel physically defend itself against its enemies. I felt like I was in a movie.

In 2016, my ministry pursuits took a dramatic but logical shift. While I served on The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s board, Executive Director Jim Showers asked me to consider becoming the director of International Ministries, which I did. Now, as vice president of the department, I write, teach, and administrate a worldwide program advocating for Israel and opposing antisemitism throughout the world. By God’s grace, that 13-year-old boy from 1967 has come a long way.

I can understand why some Jewish people would be skeptical of evangelicals like me who support Israel and the Jewish people. The unsettling history of those who have called themselves Christians while persecuting Jewish people shows why such barriers exist. But I share my story in the hopes that Jewish people might remember that a theological friend is one of the best friends they can have. For me to abandon the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, I would have to abandon my testimony, my entire theological worldview, and the Bible that I began reading as a child.

About the Author
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Mike Stallard

Mike is the Vice President of International Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

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