By Michael Hernandez
REDDING—“We cannot restore, revive, reform a world we refuse to touch,” said Pastor Nathan Edwardson preaching a sermon series from the Book of Nehemiah on Sunday, Oct. 31st. “Passion, vision, revival will not transform a city without people willing to put their lives on it (the wall),” said Pastor Edwardson as he described how Nehemiah—the cupbearer of the Persian King Artaxerxes—walked the ruined walls of Jerusalem (approximately 445 B.C.) before challenging the Jews to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah 2:17).
“The ruins of our cities are places people ignore and avoid and oftentimes critique and complain about,” said Pastor Edwardson. “We are called to the ruins and broken places of families, generations, homes and our city.”
“Church-centric churches revolve around the church and serve themselves and call themselves anointed. Church-centric churches form a fortress from the city not for the city. God is not church-centric.
“Jesus is Kingdom-centric. Jesus ministered to the broken, to the marginalized places of the city. Broken cities do not need bigger churches but bigger people. Kingdom-centric churches become a force for the city.
“Today, there has been a divorce of the church from the city. But in a move of God, Jesus happens everywhere: in education, in the family, in film, in food, fashion, in the arts, in government and politics.
“Church vision gives us awesome churches. City vision gives us awesome cities. Our call is not to do church better but to do everyday life better. We can raise our sons and daughters for the church or we can raise our sons and daughters for the city.
“We have actually built churches that allow us to spend our entire lives in church but not touch the city. Have we created a culture of loyalty to the church rather than God’s calling to the city?”
(Author Note: Oct 31st is the 504th anniversary of the event that inspired the Church Reformation. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg).
Pastor Edwardson explained in his sermon that Zerubbabel had led the first return of the scattered Jews (the 10 northern tribes in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17 and then the depopulation of Jerusalem from 605-586 B.C. by the Babylonians in 2 Kings 25) and led in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1-6). Later Ezra re-established Judah’s national calendar of feasts and sacrifices (worship) and chronicles the Jews second return to Jerusalem in Ezra 7-10 in 458 B.C. Nehemiah records the Jews third return to rebuild the walls of the ruined city of Jerusalem.
“What walls of our cities are in ruins?” asked Pastor Edwardson. Gender dysphoria, fatherless families, family fallout, mental health burnout, and identity crisis.
“Who restores the walls of a city? Who restores the ruins of a city?” asked Pastor Edwardson. “A people committed to restoring and renewing. People not just invested in a building project but those who will put their hands on people and do the work of Jesus. We have neglected the work of Jesus to restore marriages and to help the blind see.
“I applaud worship; but have we ignored the work of Jesus? I love the Presence (of the Holy Spirit) but do we know how to build someone’s life? Are we worshiping Jesus but not following Jesus? We need to learn the work of renewing people or rebuilding people. This is the work of Jesus.
“I applaud everyone who serves in the church; but I consider this family chores. Serving at church is not your placement on the walls of a city. We cannot miss our destiny. We must be more than a church that serves itself; but be a church that serves the city.
“Jesus said the workers are few (Matthew 9:37 and Luke 10:2). Have we raised up a church of worshipers but failed to raise up a church of workers?
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families—is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts and is now working with the Redding Elementary School District. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].