A sign of a healthy church is large-group gatherings aren’t the core of its life together.
The need for inner transformation
The book of Nehemiah serves as a continuation of the story begun in the book of Ezra. It unveils a significant aspect of the Israelites’ journey back to their land from exile, focusing on the spiritual and moral renewal of God’s chosen people.
While Ezra and Nehemiah labor diligently to rebuild the city and the temple (chapters 1-7), they soon discover that the people’s external restoration is not enough to bring about lasting change. This realization sets the stage for a profound message conveyed throughout the book – an urgent call for a holistic transformation of the heart.
After the combined efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah spark a spiritual revival among the Israelites, a momentous festival is organized. This week-long gathering serves as a powerful platform to teach and remind the people of their sacred covenant with God.
The Torah is read and taught extensively, and the ancient feast of Tabernacles is joyously celebrated, commemorating God’s faithfulness during the exodus and wilderness journeys. The Israelites confess their sins, recommit to the covenant, and vow to follow the commands of the Torah (chapters 8-12).
However, Nehemiah’s subsequent tour of the city reveals a disheartening reality – the people have not fully embraced the promises they made during the festival. Despite the external reforms implemented by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, the inner transformation remains elusive (chapter 13).
The book highlights the inherent struggle faced by God’s people – a gap between the fervor of revival and the challenges of everyday living.
Embracing a new lifestyle
Some good music and a moving sermon can really pump you up. A weekend retreat can create zeal for the Lord that can last days or weeks. A revival can last weeks or months.
While this has purpose, the story in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are an example of how this doesn’t always translate into a godly lifestyle. God rescued them from exile, but they didn’t embrace what He saved them for with their lives.
This is all too common in churches. In Ezra, we learned that God’s people need to come out of the world’s system before they can be built together into a temple in which God dwells. In Nehemiah, we see that coming out of the world’s system involves a transformation of the soul that involves all of one’s life.
For many Christians, what the world offers is still very appealing. So appealing that these things are their primary pursuits. So their “Christian life” consists of pursuing what the world offers most of the time and then “re-setting” spiritually by attending church services and other Christian events.
This is essentially what the Israelites had going on. They had a big, long, emotional church service and then went out and lived a similar lifestyle to the world around them. The way they came in was the way they went out (probably after the emotional high of about a week wore off that most of us have had after a spiritual retreat).
God’s people are to be remarkably different
God is more concerned with how we live our day-to-day lives than how (and how much) we worship. A healthy church consists of people who reflect transformed hearts by expressing the character of Jesus Christ corporately in their day-to-day lives in the midst of our fallen world.
God’s promise to Abraham was that His family would bring God’s blessing back to the rest of the world. The plan for doing this was through showing them what God was like by how they lived. Their day-to-day lives were to be remarkably different than those living around them.
Church services and other events have a purpose. But they are not the substance of what it means to be a member of the family of God. The substance is our day-to-day lives and how we live life together.
Day-to-day life together is where we get to deal with the core issues of the heart and work out the holistic transformation that’s occurred inside of us. When day-to-day life is the core of a church’s life together and they’re being built together as God’s people should be, then we have all the more reason to get pumped up.
It’s healthy when the core of the church experience is working and growing together in close-knit community.