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June 2016

What I Learned as a Disciple of Chuck Kopp


Chuck Kopp, Chairman of Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation, retired this past month from his position as Senior Pastor of Narkis St. Congregation in Jerusalem after 24 years.  Charles Martin Kopp was born in Barranquilla, Colombia on May 14, 1948, the same day that the State of Israel was birthed.  Chuck first came to Israel in 1959 on a six month ministry trip with his parents and sister.  At the age of 18, Chuck moved to Israel in 1966 and has lived here ever since, marrying Liz and together raising seven children.  Besides pastoring, Chuck has headed his family’s Cornerstone Ministries and helped lead the Evangelical Alliance of Israel (EAI) during the last three decades.   

This is an abridgment of a sermon given by Gary Alley at Chuck Kopp’s retirement service on June 4, 2016.

In ancient Jewish tradition, you could have more than one father.  Yes, you had your birth father, the one who raised you, but if you followed a sage, a rabbi, a teacher, he also became your father.  He was the one who mentored you in ministry.  He discipled you over 2,000 years ago.  You left all and followed him.[1]

I consider Chuck Kopp to be my father, my mentor, here in Israel.  When I say that Chuck has been a spiritual father to me over the last 21 years, and when I say that I feel he has discipled me, to the human eye this might seem hard to understand, at best ambiguous.  Maybe, we could call Chuck the “Ambiguous Rabbi.”  There was never a ceremony.  I was never given a badge or swore an oath.  No course books were followed.  There were never marching orders or a great plan of attack.  In fact, it took me years to figure out that I was being discipled. 

Often, my discipleship was sitting around and waiting.  It was carrying stones from one place to another place.  And then years later moving those same stones to another place.  It was moving boxes and boxes of books.  Or gathering and chopping wood wherever you found a fallen tree in Jerusalem.  In between one of the stones you would lift, or a piece of wood you would chop, Chuck might give a word of wisdom, but he wouldn’t tell you to pay attention or listen up.  It would just happen.  So you had to be ready to receive the wisdom in the midst of the mundane.  It was like being the Karate Kid, “wax on, wax off”—“how many more stones do I have to carry?”  “Don’t you have enough wood to burn in your stove for winter?”  “Why do we need all of these books, anyway?”  It was washing the dishes and picking up trash in the church parking lot when no one was watching, and no one cared.  It was burying the dead.  And the dead can’t repay you.

I think this type of dirty discipleship is summed up by Pirkei Avot, or the “Sayings of the Fathers” which is found in the Mishna.

"May your house be a meeting house for Sages,
become dirty in the dust of their feet
and drink their words thirstily."[2]

In the ancient Jewish practice of discipleship, whoever sat at the feet of a rabbi was their disciple.  Sitting at someone’s feet is not glamorous, but rather it’s quite humbling.  It can be dirty and smelly.  But only at the feet of a teacher is where you can truly learn, where you can collect wisdom in between each stone lifted, between every piece of wood chopped, and between every box carried.  Sitting at the feet is a persistence of effort and an ongoing work.  When you sit at the feet, it’s easy to get burned out and sometimes you might even feel like you’re being stepped on.  But Chuck led by example, he never asked you to do something that he wouldn’t do.  He was always on the front line, laying his life down so others could step on him.

In summary of Chuck’s life, work, and discipleship, I offer Jeremiah 9:23-24.

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
 Let not the strong boast of their strength
 Let not the rich boast of their riches,
 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
 that they know and understand me,
 that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, justice and righteousness on the earth,
 for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

Pirkei Avot 4:1 offers insight on these verses from Jeremiah:

Who is the wise one? He who learns from all men, as it says, "I have acquired understanding from all my teachers" (Psalms 119:99).

Who is the mighty one? He who conquers his impulse, as it says, "slowness to anger is better than a mighty person and the ruler of his spirit than the conqueror of a city." (Proverbs 16:32).

Who is the rich one? He who is happy with his lot, as it says, "When you eat [from] the work of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be well with you" (Psalms 128:2). "You will be happy" in this world, and "it will be well with you" in the world to come.

Who is honored? He who honors the created beings, as it says, "For those who honor Me, I will honor; and those who despise Me will be held in little esteem" (I Samuel 2:30).”[3]

God’s perspective on success is radically different than the world’s understanding.  Pirkei Avot interprets Jeremiah's words as:

  • The wise are those who say, “I need to keep learning from others.”
  • The mighty are those who control the power of their temper.
  • The rich are those who are content with their life.
  • The honored are those who love and serve everyone.

In the case of Chuck, I would say: 

  • Chuck is wise because he is open to others.
  • Chuck is mighty because he is humble.
  • Chuck is rich because he is content.
  • Chuck is honored because he loves and serves everyone.


“Chuck is wise because he is open to others.” 

This reminds me again of Pirkei Avot:

"May your home be open wide, may the poor be members of your household…”[4]

One of the greatest gifts that Chuck and Liz Kopp have bequeathed to Narkis Street Congregation is their legacy of liberty and generosity to people from all walks of life.  The Kopps’ openness to others is contagious and a hallmark of their love.  With regard to discipleship, openness is essential. Availability is a crucial requirement of being a rabbi.  A mentor can’t be holed up in an ivory tower.  They have to be among the people.  They have to be open and that includes their front door.  An open door policy is so important.

Another part of Chuck’s legacy has been an open pulpit.  Chuck rarely gave sermons, but instead he invited many to share and teach from the pulpit.  Whether all of us agreed with each speaker did not matter.  Chuck challenged us, the listeners, to find something good from every message.  I think this type of open pulpit pushed each one of us to spiritually mature by listening to things we wouldn’t always like and learn how to deal with them in a healthy way.

Chuck also had an open leadership where he took chances on a mix of people from diverse backgrounds.  It was important for him to connect people with various experiences, divergent political persuasions, and wide-ranging opinions.  Because Chuck was open to hearing others’ thoughts, opinions, and input, he created opportunities for gaining wisdom. 

“Chuck is mighty because he is humble.” 

Chuck would tell you he didn’t have all the answers.  Admitting that is humbling for a leader but empowering for his followers.  Chuck’s natural character was not loud or charismatic as many have come to prefer in popular pastors.  Instead, Chuck preferred to quietly lead, never attracting attention to himself.  Even though he worked largely behind the scenes, Chuck always had a strategy that controlled his decisions and actions. 

Especially regarding conflict or disagreement, Chuck’s approach was often to seemingly do nothing.  That’s how it would often appear.  But now looking back, it seems his greater plan was to wait….wait….and then wait some more.  After time, he might reevaluate the situation and see if anything had changed and then reconfigure his strategy toward the problem.  Rather than instantly react to a problem, Chuck waited for the opportune time to act.  Chuck’s patient humility was not an erupting volcano spewing burning lava everywhere but a dripping stalactite that slowly strengthened in trying times. 

Humility is a slow spiritual gift birthed from experiencing failure and acknowledging brokenness.  Chuck has called our congregation an “emergency room” where people who are sick and in need of help can come and find hope and healing. Chuck’s slowness to anger and humble attitude helped create this accepting environment for others.

“Chuck is rich because he is content.” 

As mentioned earlier, Chuck’s ambiguous discipleship was especially built on finding contentment in being faithful in the mundane and laborious task.  Initially, this type of discipleship can be more frustrating than satisfying—“What is going on?  What am I doing here?  I’m spinning my wheels going nowhere, while there are mountains to climb and cities to conquer!” 

In our society of success, lack of accomplishment, is not a popular path to take; it’s slow going and not filled with instant gratification. Yet, satisfaction is ultimately more powerful than success.  As Mother Teresa said, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”  As believers, knowing that we have followed and obeyed God should be our ultimate goal and reward. If we truly follow the Lord, we will find satisfaction both in the great and little things.  Even now, Chuck’s peace in the face of adversity has enriched and strengthened those who follow his example.


“Chuck is honored because he loves and serves everyone.” 

Love of others has encapsulated Chuck’s entire ministry.  His desire to serve others has come from his love of the Lord.  He has honored others by serving them in many ways.  I think Chuck’s service is truly symbolized by his past VW vans that moved so many different people, boxes, homes, clothes, and supplies over the years.  If you added up how many tons of stuff and people those vans moved, they probably literally moved a mountain.

Perhaps one of the most important of Chuck’s ministries has been his service to the local Evangelical community which is sorely represented in the Israeli political arena.  He has been an active leader in the Evangelical Alliance of Israel (EAI)[5] and has traveled throughout the world to speak for religious liberty and to raise awareness of Evangelical issues in Israel. Chuck’s service of helping obtain hundreds of visas for assorted Christian workers in the Land has allowed many to serve.

God’s ways are not our ways.  His ways can be ambiguous.  The path of discipleship is not always obvious, whether for the student or for the mentor.  Likewise, following the Lord can be different for each of us.  But if we truly follow the Lord, he will hone us, making us more and more in His image, stone by stone, wood by wood, and box by box.  We can’t understand everything that happens—why and what purpose it happened for.  But we know that God is in control.  We know that God is good, and we can trust him.  This was Jeremiah 9:24’s charge, “let the one who boasts boast about this: that they know and understand me.”

The Apostle Paul also grappled with Jer 9:23-24’s words on what it meant to know God and His calling on one's life.  I believe, Chuck Kopp’s calling and ministry could be accurately summed up by Paul’s following proclamation to the Corinthian Church.

“Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters.
Not many were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were born to a privileged position.

But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise,
and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 
God chose what is low and despised in the world,
what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something,
so that no one can boast in His presence.

He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God.  For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling.  My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

(1 Cor 1:26-2:5)

[1] One of the greatest biblical examples is Elijah and Elisha’s relationship.  In 1 Kings 19:19-21, “Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing…Elijah passed by him and threw his robe over him.  He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, then I will follow you.”…Then he got up and followed Elijah and became his assistant.”  This father-son relationship is emphasized in 2 Kings 2:12 when Elijah was taken up to heaven  as Elisha cried out, “My father, my father! The chariot and horsemen of Israel!”

[2] Avot 1:4b

[3] Robert Travers Herford’s 1925 commentary on Avot 4:1: “He who learns from every man is wise because he has an open mind, ready to acquire knowledge, and has also the sympathy and humility which are not restrained by pride from seeking knowledge wherever it is to found.  He is truly strong who is master of himself; he is rich who find enough in what he has and is not craving for more.  He is deserving of honor who himself honors his fellows (pg. 96).”

[4] Avot 1:5

[5] Formerly known as the United Christian Council in Israel (UCCI).

Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Individuals and Families during April and May 2016

70 Israeli orphans and foster children will receive a card on their birthday and a small gift on the next Jewish New Year from their social worker who is handling their case. This is to strengthen the relationship between the social worker and the child ($272).

Tonya, a Christian Arab enrolled at the Bethlehem University, has been excelling in her studies and seeks to eventually transfer to a German university.  JCF gave $214 to her recent German studies.

JCF continues its partnership with the Nazarene Church in Jordan in aiding Syrian and Iraqi refugees.  This month, JCF sent $32,900 to help refugees in Mafraq, Amman and Madaba with food, education, and emigration.

A recent Nazarene report from Jordan:

Many of the Iraqi families who come to us are desperate.  But since coming to Jordan, after having the very foundations of their lives shaken, many of them have found new hope and a relationship with Jesus here.  These families are emigrating and we are finding them church homes in Canada and Australia.  One pastor from Canada wrote me and said the Iraqi family we sent them (just before Christmas) had jumped in and got involved at the local church and were already serving as greeters and helpers. God is using all of this help to draw these people unto Himself.  Thank you for your support in helping us to help others.

The "War on Terror" Fifteen Years Later:
From New York to Orlando


On September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a "War on Terror" in the aftermath of the Islamic extremist group, Al-Qaeda’s, September 11th attacks on the United States.  Interestingly, similar words were first used by the Reagan Administration in 1984 when it called for a “war against terrorism” in reaction to the bombing of the American and French barracks in Beirut which was linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  While the United States has had a history of homegrown violence with mass murderers, like Timothy McVeigh’s 1994 bombing in Oklahoma City, the 9-11 attack easily became the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil as nearly 3,000 died and more than 6,000 were injured.     

After Barack Obama entered office as the United States President, in March 2009 the United States Defense Department shifted from using “Global War on Terror” to the obfuscated “Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO).”  In 2013, President Obama expounded on why the United States’ "War on Terror" was over.  He stated, “We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘Global War on Terror’, but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”  

Yet, what is not publically spoken by the current United States government is “who are the violent extremists” America is “targeting.”  Regardless of political posturing, America’s declared “War on Terror” was and continues to practically be against Islamic extremists who attack the United States.  Nonetheless, Obama has argued that the semantics of naming the terrorists as “radical Islamists” does not help eliminate the danger.  Instead, he contends that highlighting the terrorists’ religion only plays into their propaganda.   

Despite this American policy change, Islamic extremist attacks have continued unabated throughout the world during Obama’s tenure.  During the last three years, some of the attacks that have garnered our attention—Boston, Paris, Istanbul, Brussels, Nairobi, San Bernardino, Chibok, and Sinai—are only the tip of the terrorism iceberg since 9-11.  

The Obama administration has correctly pointed out that this “War on Terror” is not a traditional war—nation versus nation or army versus army.  Rather, what we are witnessing today is increasingly a battle for hearts and minds.  We see in recent years that more Islamist attacks are happening because of local, individual initiatives inspired by global precedence.   

Israel has also observed this phenomenon over the last two years as Palestinian youth and young adults, inspired by social media, have made up the core of the autonomous attackers of the “Silent Intifada”.  These amateur terrorists have often brandished crude knives and home-made weapons, like the Carl Gustav-like guns which were used in this month’s Tel Aviv restaurant attack that killed four.  In the United States where guns are more easily available to the greater populace, the recent Orlando attack against a gay club that killed 49 offers a terrible portent into the future.  

Nearly 15 years after Bush’s declaration of “War on Terror,” most nations are still struggling to understand the threat that Islamic extremism poses, much less how to contain it.  What has become progressively clear is that governments cannot eliminate threats that originate from one or two individuals.  Today’s lone wolf Islamic extremist easily complements the stereotypical American mass murderer, whether as a disconnected ideologue, unmedicated psychopath, or vengeful individual.  In a world where physical contact is shrinking while online associations are growing, we must grapple now more than ever with what it means to be a neighbor.                 


News in Israel and the Middle East

  • Meet Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Controversial New Defense Minister.  Here.
  • Holy Land heats up.  Israel says region's intense heatwave combined with Palestinian Water Authority's refusal to approve additional infrastructure had led to 'old and limited pipes being unable to transfer all the water needed.'  More.
  • Israel's race to find ancient scrolls.  Israel is conducting a national campaign to recover as many artefacts as possible, particularly scrolls, left behind by Jewish rebels who hid in the desert some 2,000 years ago, before they are snatched up by antiquity robbers.  Video.

Prayer Requests

  • Mary Ehrlich who is recovering from back surgery.
  • Yoni Gerrish and family will be traveling through the United States over the next two months.
  • The Biblical Language Center will be running a beginning Biblical Hebrew course in Jerusalem from July 3-29.
  • Peace and Security in Israel and the West Bank
  • Iraqi and Syrian refugees who are seeking safety and refuge
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.