[Originally posted August 21, 2005]
The church has been designed to function as the temple of God – the center of worship and of testimony to the glory of God. Unfortunately there are times when the people of God find themselves devoid of power and subjected to “great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3) Faced with such embarrassment and burdened for the restoration of an effective testimony, the leadership needs to respond with the vision and energy of a Nehemiah.
But in these New Testament times, the first lesson learned must be an understanding of the distinction between the Old Testament pattern of hierarchical leadership (a Moses, a David, a Nehemiah) vs. the New Testament pattern of shared plurality of elder governing. The pastor who imagines himself to play the role of Nehemiah and tries to assume the leadership as the visionary for the church makes a huge mistake of presumption and misapplication.
With that caveat understood, we need to pattern our response to rebuilding and to restoration after that of Nehemiah. Here are some of the key lessons to apply:
– In depth fact finding to discover the root causes of the turning away of the favor of God and the extent of the rubble. The leadership faces the reality of the situation and does not gloss over the problems. (1:2-3; 2:11-16)
– Fervent humbling of oneself before God – responding in repentance and seeking God’s favor. This might require perseverance over some space of time. (1:4-11)
– Confessing specific sin – taking both individual and corporate responsibility.
– Appealing to the character of God – as almighty, faithful, loving, gracious, etc. (1:4-11)
– Expecting God to perform providential works of power to aid in the rebuilding process — even turning the heart of political leaders to show favor towards the work. (2:4-5)
– Rallying the support of the people by providing concrete examples of how the Lord has answered prayer already in the preparatory stages of this rebuilding effort. (2:18)
– Defining the task at hand and assigning it top priority. (2:17)
– Rebuking the criticism of opponents and naysayers (2:19-20)
– Completing specific assignments in a spirit of consecration based on giftedness and ability. (Chapter 3)
– Ignoring the mocking and not acting defensively but committing all vengeance to God. (Chapter 4)
– Encouraging the morale of the workers so that the united testimony = “the people had a mind to work.” (4:6)
– Combining praying with strategic steps to defend against attackers. (4:9)
– Combating the paralysis of fear with the energetic activity of faith in the awesome power of God. (4:14)
– Using the appropriate weapons and resources at hand. (4:16)
– Acting circumspectly and soberly with a healthy respect for the enemy. (4:17-18)
– Maintaining the power of a unified front so that the people are not stretched too thin. (4:19-20)
– Constantly balancing human responsibility with divine providential aid by reminding everyone that “Our God will fight for us.” (4:20)