Rebuilding the Church From the Inside Out
The state of the church has been on my heart for some time now. I entered a deeper relationship with God about ten years ago and immediately wanted it for everyone else. That desire has become my passion. For the past ten years, a dear friend, with the same passion, and I have prayed and sought how we might facilitate change. Early on in this quest, we organized area-wide youth events, women’s events, searched for locations for a coffee house type environment, etc. In our hearts we knew something was missing from the typical church atmosphere; we just didn’t know what to do about it.
Throughout this process, I began to realize that even though teenagers, college students, young adults desired a spiritual connection with God, they weren’t really interested in the church. And I began to realize they weren’t interested because going and singing a few songs (traditional or contemporary), listening to announcements and a high-brow doctrinal sermon only meant a waste of time for them. What did it mean? What did it matter? Yes, they love God, or want to love Him, but is this all there is to it?
Having gone through a phase in my adulthood of saying, “Is this all there is to it?”, I felt like I understood. So I determined the problem was not with teenagers or even society. The problem was the church itself. The people who appear to be going through the motions of something that has little benefit or relevance and appears to have made little change in their lives. The solution seemed to be to rebuild the church from within. I thought of the rebuilding of the temple in the Old Testament, particularly Ezra’s role. While Nehemiah, Zechariah, and some of the other prophets focused on the physical rebuilding of the city wall and the temple, Ezra’s charge was to restore the “worship service.” From there the name “Ezra Project” came, and it has been our unofficial name for what we want to accomplish with the gifts God has given us.
I think we’re on the right track anyway. God seems to be moving in that direction. I was also encouraged by an article on the Christian Post this morning by Rick Warren. He opens by saying, “I believe God is preparing the church for another reformation. The first reformation focused on what the church believed; this one will focus on what it does.” The article lists five stages of renewal that must take place in the local church: personal (repentance), relational, missional, cultural, and structural. You can read the entire article here. The gist of what he is saying is, change must take place inside the church. And to do that, I say, we must have genuine worship restored.
That’s right, I used the “w” word; a word that is over-used and miss-used more than any other in the church right now. I don’t profess to have a full understanding or practice of it, but I do know corporate worship is vital to the church. Among other things, it is an indication of our love for God, our surrender to Him, and that we are not ashamed for others to see our hearts opened up to Him. God continues to send people with similar burdens and passions our way. I pray that God will use us and many others to bring about an Ezra-al restoration to His church.