This post is part one of a six part series titled, An Urban Ministry Exegesis of of Nehemiah. This blog series explores the biblical book of Nehemiah about how a leader starts and leads a successful project. Most of the application is tied to inner city ministry.
The book of Nehemiah is a potential model for inner city ministry because, if we study it exegetically, there are lessons we can observe and apply to bringing the gospel to inner cities. One author writes about the importance of bringing the gospel to the inner city in a positive way stating, “Annunciating the kingdom will mean that instead of accepting the inner city as it is and offering words of future consolation, Christians will work to reverse the misery, suffering, and injustice that too often grip it. Such kingdom-focused work includes establishing alternative institutions, advancing holistic initiatives, and advancing the cause of urban reform.” My pastor, Brian Miller, felt a burden as he began Enclave Community Church. He knows it is important to play a role in making sure that the problems of the poor are solved.
In his book, The Upside-Down Kingdom, author Donald Kraybill gives a great explanation of what exactly the word “poor” meant in Biblical times. Kraybill tells us that the “term poor in the biblical context has a at least three meanings. First, it refers to the materially poor-destitutes living in squalor with meager food, housing, and clothing. . . Second, in a broader sense, the poor in the Bible are the oppressed. . . The third connotation of poor comes out of an Old Testament tradition.” These definitions of “poor” can be applied to inner cities today too.
Similar to Pastor Brian’s heart for the community around Enclave Church, Nehemiah is a story of God allowing a leader to follow his heart to make a change in his community. Nehemiah sought to rebuild the torn down walls and burnt gates of the holy city of Jerusalem as well as to restore religious practices.
Nehemiah’s story relates to work that has been done by Enclave in my community in Turlock, California. The story of Nehemiah, which is mostly told as a memoir, is an exciting one because of the pace that the story opens up with and in which progress is made. However, in order to understand the significance of Nehemiah, we must first have a historical and contextual view of the times in which Nehemiah creates community change.
 Mark R. Gornik, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 29.