Nehemiah: Chapters 1-8. The story of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of desolate Jerusalem is the greatest case study of the power of partnership in the Bible. In the time of global crisis we face Nehemiah’s story is highly relevant. In the sectors where our partnership or network has influence or is engaged, the primary challenge may be medical, it may be community awareness and/or engagement, it may be economic circumstances, or it could be churches or Christian ministries trying to figure out how to respond – how to help. Whatever the challenge, examine Nehemiah and see if his experience can suggest anything that might apply to our network, partnership, or other form of Kingdom collaboration.
Nehemiah’s Leadership Challenge:
Nehemiah didn’t face just an ordinary problem –
- He faced a challenge of catastrophic proportions/scale
- The challenge he faced had been in place and unresolved for decades
- The people he had to serve and lead were dispirited and largely hopeless
- He was only a servant with little personal ‘status’ or natural ‘leverage’ as a springboard for addressing this staggering challenge. — 1:11:b
- He had no personal resources and had to seek the favor of others in authority for the resources he needed. — 2:7-8
- He had no known experience in construction or project management yet was facing a dauntingly complex challenge! — 2:11-15
- He had adversaries who actively sought to discourage if not, outright, derail his efforts. — 2:19-20, 4:1-15
Nehemiah’s Leadership Assets:
- Absolute faith in God — 1:4-11
- Respect for his culture, its values, and his people — 1:10-11
- Vision of what could be done despite the ‘impossible’ circumstances — 1:10-2:5
- Courage that empowered him to take risks, dream the impossible dream, and realize success — 2:1-4
- Understood the essentials needed to carry out the vision — 2:7-8
- Understood the power of collaboration/partnership – many helping realize what seemed like an impossible challenge. — 3:1-32
- Tenacity – unrelenting commitment to the vision – despite all obstacles — 4:11-23
- Constant vigilance – attention to potential problems — 4:2-23
- Valued celebration – everyone having a real sense of making a significant, valuable contribution – 8:5-18
Nehemiah’s Leadership Action:
- Was diligent in evaluating and understanding the scale and the details of the challenge – 2:11-15
- United his fellow Israelites around a highly motivational vision – encouraging them that the “impossible” was “possible” by working together – 2:17-18
- Ability to break the impossibly large task into small, ‘doable’ elements giving individuals a high sense of ownership and pride — 3:1-32
- Kept the clans and families encouraged as they worked day after day despite serious opposition and discouragement — 4:4-8
- Devised a plan to address challenges and engaged everyone in ownership and execution of the plan — 4:7-23
- He understood the wall was a means to an end, not an end in itself – 7:4-5
- He understood the importance of celebration and widespread sense of ownership – 8:9-12
PERSPECTIVE # 2
As we think about working with others for evangelism, church planting, or other forms of ministry, it is good to remind ourselves that —
- All principles regarding effective relationships and working together are rooted in God’s character and shared with us in Scripture. These principles are vital to the future of your vision.
- Because of this it is of great value for us to consider Biblical case histories to identify the principles that are most important for effective future work together in ministry.
- After we consider these principles and priorities that are given to us in the Biblical case histories we are then able to agree more clearly on how we will work together — who does what, who is responsible, leadership roles, etc.
As a simple, reflect on the case history of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around devastated Jerusalem:
Nehemiah Chapters 1-8.
As you look at each of the following passages in Nehemiah, ask three questions for each passage:
- What is the guiding principle in this passage regarding any work with others?
- What should I do to ensure this guiding principle is present in my work with others?
- As I work together with others, how will we evaluate our progress toward seeing this principle in action?
- Nehemiah 2:1-5
Vision drives everything. What was the Great Vision? Something that could never be realized working independently?
What does the story say about a vision bigger, far beyond the capacity of any individual or ministry? Is it true that we can do something together we could never do individually or even as separate ministries — no matter how strong or large we are?
- Nehemiah 2:16-3:26
Working together means Shared Blessing — Common Good AND Individual Good:
The Biblical passage suggests that together we can do something far beyond the capacity of any individual/ministry. But, that in the same collective effort each participating ministry or individual should be blessed.
- Nehemiah 2:16-3:26
Great Vision must have Specific, High-Value Intermediate Goals (Limited Achievable Objectives):
In order to accomplish the big vision, in this story, what specific, intermediate goals were set? How were the participants in the story able to monitor/tell their work together was actually moving forward – genuinely accomplishing something? Does our partnership or network have specific teams to accomplish specific intermediate tasks as part of the larger Great Vision?
- Nehemiah 3:1-32
Great Vision should include anyone who has a heart for the vision and is ready to work with others toward that common goal.
What was Nehemiah’s engagement strategy? How did he get full participation of every individual, every group with any interest in or who valued the common Great Vision? Very different groups were able to contribute equally to a Great Vision larger than any could accomplish alone. What were some of the results of this wide engagement strategy?
- Nehemiah 5:14-19
Work Together Requires Unselfish Leadership –Part Prophet, Part Servant..
Scripture says that Jesus took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:1-11) . Great Vision that accomplishes “impossible” tasks must have someone who is the servant facilitator. This servant facilitator reminds each participant of the vision, of their role, checks on progress, encouraging, connecting the participants, ensures communication among participants, and understands the great value of celebration. How did Jeremiah do this?
- Nehemiah 4:1-15, 5:1-13
Great Vision will always encounter challenges and problems.
What resistance did Jeremiah face – internally and externally? Sin exists in the world. Great Vision will encounter resistance and trouble. Does this mean the Great Vision is wrong? How are we to address difficulties, problems, resistance? What did Jeremiah do?
- Nehemiah 1:4-11, 4:1-6, 6:1-14
A Great Vision can only be realized through prayer and the presence of God’s Spirit and His blessing. Good intentions or effective methods are not sufficient.
Nehemiah worked day and night. Very different people of Jerusalem labored long and hard. Diligent effort was given by everyone. Yet, in the end, it was God who made the miracle possible. A common Great Vision made possible by ordinary people doing their part and God doing His part. What does this mean in your project?
- Nehemiah 4:14-23, 7:1-3, 8:1-18
Active, on-going communication between those working on the Great Vision and then Celebration when the Vision is realized is vital.
What specifically did Neremiah do to share information on progress? Who helped make that communication possible? Why was that communication about progress important? Why did they celebrate? What impact did it have?
A final thought. Jesus understood that He had all authority yet he took on the form of a servant (John 13:3-5). In a world where our cultures encourage leaders to think of titles, power, and prestige I find myself constantly challenged by the Apostle Paul’s reminder in Romans 12:1-21 that I am to allow God to completely renew my mind, from the inside out, to conform to His gracious character.