Nehemiah, Ezra, and the American Church

dog tagsIn an earlier post, I mentioned that as part of my current course work I will be sharing some reflections on what we are discussing in class. Scriptures I covers Genesis through Nehemiah, and yesterday we began our discussion by focusing on Ezra and Nehemiah.

While discussing the historical context of the books, our professor suggested that for us, as seminary students looking to do ministry in our current context, that these two books are a fitting place to start. He went on to say that thirty or forty years ago we could have started at Mount Sinai, but today we need to take guidance from Ezra and Nehemiah.

I think he is on to something (and I’m not just saying that for the grade).

A quick survey of the American cultural context reveals a society in which Christianity is becoming an echo of what it once was. Each week as I prepare Ministry Briefing it seems that I am reading yet another study which suggests that the church is losing (or has lost) its voice within our culture (this is the most recent example). Compare this to the situation that Ezra and Nehemiah find themselves in: a people who have been scattered for generations, losing much of their spiritual identity in the process, who are under the rule of a government that has little use for Judaism.

I find it fascinating that the primary task shared by Ezra and Nehemiah was to restore the spiritual identity of the Jews. Yes, they rebuilt the wall and instituted social reforms… but their focus was in the restoration of identity.

Earlier today I read a post from Mark Howell which reinforced the message communicated in class. Mark asks if we have an Acts 2 small group ministry in an Acts 17 culture… in other words, does our approach to ministry enable us to naturally engage the world around us, or are we asking them to conform to a set of cultural norms that no longer exist?

Ezra and Nehemiah began with reestablishing the Jewish identity…

Where do YOU need to begin in order to reach YOUR unique ministry context?

Interested in another take on our classroom conversation? Check out my friend Jessica’s blog.


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.