View from the Pew – Nuts and Bolts

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Sermon Summary

Last week we gleaned the spiritual lesson of “counting the cost,” and that cost was explicitly about the cost of taking up your cross for Christ and how that means great difficulties for Christians (aka “leaders”). This week we head into chapter three of Nehemiah for another excellent lesson on real spiritual leadership born out of good organizational skills. We see the six-part process of an enthusiastic young man on a mission to rebuild a city. He had two and a half miles of wall to build that needed 25 feet of thickness and over 30 feet of height.

“Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an idea which takes the imagination by storm, and second, an intelligible plan for carrying that idea into practice.”

Arnold Toynbee

1. Dreams Imagine – Organization Build

First, Nehemiah had to start a fire under the apathetic Jews who had just laid around doing nothing to help. He told them about what God had done and said to him and how the king would help him get the wall rebuilt. They did not hesitate. They got right to work.

2. Manageable Measures

Nehemiah’s vision was to break the task of rebuilding the wall up into approximately forty different sections so that the job would not seem so overwhelming. It could all come together at roughly the same time. The constant sound of striking metal on stone and people grunting under heavy loads and calling out information must have caused such infectious energy among the people. It was their mess, their city, their God, their wall, their time. They felt real ownership and self-control of their portion of the plan/wall. This leads to real focused motivation.

3. Delegate

Nehemiah delegates the work out to willing Jewish citizens from all walks of life. We even see unlikely folks helping, like politicians, women, priests, perfumers, and jewelers. Even men from Jericho travel 18 miles to come and help.

4. Self-interest

In Nehemiah chapter 3, we notice many mentions of Jews in charge of building sections of the wall behind their own homes. Pastor Wilson wants us to see that even the most altruistic of endeavors have a measure of self-interest. Nehemiah must have been savvy enough to know that his specific assignments would naturally work out better this way.

5. Expect the No-Shows

Some Jews refused to help or support the work (Tekoite nobles) even when their lesser kinsmen were gladly pitching in. We see this in life all the time. Some people say they will help and don’t, and some people just straight-up tell you they won’t. It is always frustrating. In the case of these Tekoite workers, somehow, they were self-motivated to take on a second wall section. Maybe they were enjoying their snooty noblemen not being around. Perhaps they were trying to make up for their missing counterparts. Maybe they were just excited at the possibility of having their reproach removed and their relationship with God restored?

6. Recognition

Nehemiah made sure that we knew who helped by writing their names down to read some 2500 years later. It reminds me of the lineage of Christ in Matthew. Working for the kingdom of God matters. Nehemiah wanted to lavish this Biblical-real-estate-recognition on them, all the while leaving his name out. That’s what real leaders do. I don’t think Nehemiah was praising the people; I think he was bragging about God working in those people’s hearts and bodies. What a feat!

Getting the Application Right

While we can reasonably apply these six sections of thought to our everyday leadership, we need to follow Jesus’ example and see this isn’t a story meant to teach us about literal, ordinary life building. It is there most importantly to teach us about KINGDOM BUILDING.

“The Church of Jesus Christ is not, first, an organization – – I think it is better called an organism … a life force on the earth – – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t organized … it is … God is a God of order – – and He has ordered His church …”

Steve Wilson

First, He sent the apostles and the prophets to give us the word of God. Then the evangelist spreads the gospel. The people assemble. Churches get planted, and appointed elders lead the flock……that’s it, right? Well, let me nudge your conscience just a smidge….

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:11-12

In other words, we (regular pew warmers) go to the body, get fed, and then get to work serving the church so it can grow. It is our job to build up the body of Christ. that doesn’t mean a bigger building; it means more believers coming to Christ. The pastors are just there to equip us. Now, I know our pastors are doing a fine job of that. Ask yourself, are you doing all you can? Grab another believer, and talk it out, go to an elder or leader of a ministry. God needs you to clock-in, pick up your assignment, and get to work. The church can probably find you kingdom-work that falls in line with your God-given giftedness. That’s how I got my key-taping job summarizing these sermons. You’d be surprised how God multiplies your time and energy to get His work done.

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Melissa Strautman

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