Archives For Leadership from Nehemiah

Nehemiah, a leader living in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C., received a vision from God about rebuilding the walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem, but encountered opposition when attempting to implement that vision.

Nehemiah’s Example of Persistence in the Direction of God’s Goals

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In his time the walls and gates of Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt because the people of the city needed security against their enemies as well as a method to keep the Jews as a separate and holy people from foreigners. Both of these were critical problems to the Jewish population, 1 and Nehemiah needed to be persistent to overcome them.

Nehemiah’s Example of Persistence in
the Direction of God’s Goals

Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Gary Smith, “Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip Comfort, vol. 5b, (Carole Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010), 9

In today’s blog post I share twelve leadership principles from the book of Nehemiah.

12 Leadership Principles from the Book of Nehemiah

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Nehemiah is viewed as one of the great leaders and managers of the Old Testament. He led a group of Jews living in Judah to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem in only 52 days! Here are twelve brief leadership principles from the book of Nehemiah. Continue Reading…

The book of Nehemiah is about the restoration of the physical and spiritual life of the nation of Judah in Jerusalem. In recent years many books have been written about leadership using the book of Nehemiah as a source to develop leadership principles. This post will explain the primary message of the book of Nehemiah and then use that primary message to evaluate leadership principles written by others.

5 Themes and 5 Leadership Principles from Nehemiah

Photo Credit: Marcus Hansson

The book of Nehemiah tells the story of restoration of the city of Jerusalem. When examining the book of Nehemiah as a single unit of material one will notice that it is a book which focuses on “lists.” Fifty-three percent (214 verses) of the material in Nehemiah are lists, 25 percent (146 verses) is historical narrative, and 11 percent (46 verses) are recorded prayers. 1 Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Stehpen Bramer, “Nehemiah, ” unpublished class notes for BE103 Old Testament History II and Poetry (Dallas Theological Seminary, Winter Term, 2013), 3. Quoted from Robert Bell, “The Theology of Nehemiah” in Biblical Viewpoint, 56.

I want to encourage you to create an inspiring mission for your city, nonprofit, church, or company. Why? Because in my experience I know that when you create an inspiring mission good things happen because people want to get involved and help.

My goal is for you to learn how to create an inspiring mission. As you may know I have experience running nonprofit programs, leading volunteers, and fundraising money to help make a difference in communities.

Nehemiah’s Model for Creating an Inspiring Mission

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In 2005 I started a nonprofit program that fed more than 5,000 people in five years. Additionally, I worked at the United Way of Stanislaus County for six years raising funds to support community and coordinating volunteer groups. Together I’ve spent eight years working to improve the communities I’ve worked in, mostly through the nonprofit industry.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing over the past two years is studying the biblical book of Nehemiah in light of the work being done to transform and improve communities. Through this study I have observed some things Nehemiah did that can be transferred to our current context and cities. I would like to share with you just one principle that you can do and when you do do it, it can transform your city.

Let’s look at the book of Nehemiah to read two verses and see what it can teach us about how to be leaders who transform the city we live in. But, before we look at those two verses, let me start with a story. Continue Reading…

This is the final post in 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. Here are the first five blog posts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding Nehemiah’s Context
  3. A Vision is Born
  4. Research is Done on the Vision
  5. The Vision is Slowly Shared

REFLECTIONS FOR INNER CITY LEADERS

The stories of Nehemiah and Enclave Community Church are similar. For over six years we have worked to “rebuild the walls” in our city of Turlock. As a church that originally started as a vision of Pastor Brian Miller—our godly leader—we have made some progress towards community change. But we are still learning and developing our ministry. I hope that Enclave has a similar process of living out a vision to care for the poor just as Nehemiah did.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
(for entire blog series)

Bibbs Sr., Alvin C.. A Heart for the Community. Edited by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009.

Broadman & Holman Publishers. Holman Book of Biblical Charts, Maps, and Reconstructions. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993.

Comfort, Ph.D., Phillip W. and Walter A. Alwell, Ph.D. eds. Tyndale Bible Dictionary: A comprehensive guide to the people, places, and important words of the Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001.

Fuder, John. A Heart for the Community. Edited by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009.

Gornik, Mark R.. To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002.

Kraybill, Donald B. The Upside-Down Kingdom. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978.

Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed. The Expositor’s Bible. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing: 1956.

Smith, Gary V. New Living Translation Study Bible. “The Book of Nehemiah.” Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.

Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “History of Turlock.” Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau. visitturlock.org/pages?id=27&ss=3 (accessed March 10, 2012).

Yamauchi, Edwin M. “The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah.” Bibliotheca Sacra (October-December 1980): 291-309.

This post is part five 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 VISION IS SLOWLY SHARED

We now find ourselves in the story of Nehemiah as he announces his vision in a unique way.

An Urban Ministry Exegesis of Nehemiah

Before examining what he says to the people living within and near Jerusalem, we must correctly understand the hearts of the people listening to him. Nehemiah encounters Jews in Jerusalem who are ready for change. They know that 141 years have passed since the Babylonians originally conquered Jerusalem, burned the city and its temple, and took 60,000-80,000 Jews into exile.[1] Turlock, where Enclave Church is located, was actually founded in 1871.[2] If we can imagine Turlock being in ruins and need of restoration that entire time, we will see what these Jews faced. These people were ready for someone to help them change Jerusalem and improve it.

As Nehemiah begins to share his vision, he first sparks in them the desire they already have; he touches on their pain. Nehemiah says to the Jews living in and near Jerusalem, “You know very well the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace.”[3]

As current or future urban ministry leaders there are three key words in that verse worth taking time to examine in their original context.

  1. The first word is “trouble.” Nehemiah talks to them about what hurts. He does not condemn them for their failure or point to their past sins because that does not matter much at this time.[4]
  2. Another word worth examining is “we”. Nehemiah is careful to say, “we are in” not “you are in”. Nehemiah comes to the people living within and near the city of Jerusalem as “one of them” who shares a spiritual connection with this special city. In our ministry at Enclave Community Church, we too attempt to relate ourselves to the poor and needy by seeing ourselves also as sinners. This helps us relate to them, and it prevents us from putting blame on the people of the community.
  3. The final word worth examining is the last word in the verse, “disgrace”. When talking about disgrace, Nehemiah knew what we might call strategy in mobilizing volunteers. Like Nehemiah, at Enclave many people have a desire to see our city and the area we worship in transformed. We just need volunteers to help us do that. “The first thing that needs to happen before a church attempts to mobilize volunteers is to be clear on the mission. Tell the church why it is important.”[5] Nehemiah was crystal clear on that mission when talking about disgrace. The Jews hated that disgrace, so Nehemiah tells them the disgrace will end when the walls and gates are rebuilt.

Now that Nehemiah has sparked that interest and touched on the people’s shared pain and disgrace, he is ready to mobilize the people and cast his vision.

Now we arrive at the climax of all of Nehemiah’s work. Thus far he has heard the news that led him weep, mourn, fast, and pray; he has courageously asked the king and queen for permission to travel to Jerusalem; and he has made the journey of hundreds of miles[6] to Jerusalem. He has seen the torn down walls and burnt gates with his own eyes, and he has shared the vision God has placed in his heart. How are the people going to respond? Are they going to accept him and his bold and courageous vision to rebuild the walls and gates? The Jewish people respond to Nehemiah saying, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!”[7]

But the story does not end there. If you have read Nehemiah you know that despite some internal and external opposition Nehemiah leads the people to complete the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in 52 days!

Mark R. Gornik who has extensive experience in changing inner cities comments on the remarkable story of the beginning of rebuilding Jerusalem this way, “Once this task of rebuilding the wall and the city had been clearly articulated, a challenging yet achievable project, it created its own energy, enabling people to do more than they thought they could. It would be the catalytic event of their new story.”[8] It was an amazing feat!

Question: How do you think vision should be slowly shared?


                [1] Comfort, Ph.D., Phillip W. and Walter A. Alwell, Ph.D., eds. Tyndale Bible Dictionary: A comprehensive guide to the people, places, and important words of the Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 943.

                [2] Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau, “History of Turlock,” Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau, visitturlock.org/pages?id=27&ss=3 (accessed March 10, 2012).

                [3] Nehemiah 2:17; emphasis added.

                [4] Mark R. Gornik, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 35-64.

                [5] Alvin C. Bibbs, Sr., A Heart for the Community, ed. John Fuder and Noel Castellanos (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 328.

                [6] Broadman & Holman Publishers, Holman Book of Biblical Charts, Maps, and Reconstructions (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 122.

                [7] Nehemiah 2:18

                [8] Mark R. Gornik, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 137.

This post is part four 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.

RESEARCH IS DONE ON THE VISION

Three days after arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah “slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem.”[1]

An Urban Ministry Exegesis of Nehemiah
There are three key things we can observe here as Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem that relate to the urban ministry context.

  1. Nehemiah waits before he works. The author and Nehemiah himself make it very clear that when Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem he waits three days before doing anything.
  2. Nehemiah does his research. Nehemiah takes time to go around to inspect the “broken walls and burned gates.”[2] John Fuder, who has 14 years of experience in urban ministries notices, “When Nehemiah gets the news about the state of despair of Jerusalem, he goes out and conducts research, thoroughly ‘inspecting the walls’.”[3] 
  3. Nehemiah intentionally does not tell others why he is there. We see this when Nehemiah writes, “The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders-the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration.”[4]

Nehemiah is there with the vision God has placed in his heart, and he has not told anyone about it.

We did something similar at our church as it was new to the downtown community of Turlock, California. Enclave Community Church was about two years old but had recently moved into a church building in downtown Turlock. I remember when Pastor Brian gathered the church together to do one thing: walk around the neighborhood to ask people what they thought the community needed and what the church could do about these needs. I did not realize it at the time, but similar to Nehemiah, we were “inspecting” our local community. God had put a vision in our pastor’s heart to reach the lost of the inner city of Turlock (people who were not being reached by other churches and were commonly left out of church). We were inspecting the community and listening to what we could do to help. This experience greatly helped me realize that we as a church are here to serve and care for our neighbors and that we serve those neighbors by first listening to their needs instead of defining their needs for them.

What is interesting to observe in Nehemiah’s story is not just that he listens, researches, and observes, but also how he carefully unveils his vision for the city of Jerusalem.

Question: How do you think research should be done on a vision?


                [1] Nehemiah 2:11-12

                [2] Nehemiah 2:13

                [3] John Fuder, A Heart for the Community, ed. John Fuder and Noel Castellanos (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 72.

                [4] Nehemiah 2:16

This post is part three 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.

A VISION IS BORN

Nehemiah offers a sincere and heartfelt prayer to God asking for God to show favor to him and to the Persian King who Nehemiah serves:

O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.[1]

Nehemiah knows things in Jerusalem are not the way they are supposed to be, and a vision is born in his heart to do something about it.

An Urban Ministry Exegesis of Nehemiah

One scholar describes Nehemiah as “a man of vision. He knew who God was and what He could do through His servants. Nehemiah was not, however, a visionary, but instead was a man who planned then acted.”[2] During this time period Jews such as Nehemiah knew the Scripture well. He references God’s promise that “if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them. . . . I will bring you back to the place I have chosen.”[3] That promise is important enough to Nehemiah and other Jews that it moves them to action.

Additionally, Nehemiah knew King Cyrus and King Artaxerxes had allowed some of the Jews to return back to their homeland. There was hope and a little bit of momentum for Nehemiah to maybe be able to do something about the situation his fellow Jewish countrymen were in Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s position as a cup bearer to the king plays a role in allowing his vision to be realized.

The importance of being cup bearer becomes evident when we learn that Nehemiah, as a cup bearer, “would have been well trained in court etiquette . . . . was probably handsome . . . . would know how to select wines for the king to drink . . . . was probably a companion to the king who was willing to listen to the king at all times . . . . would be a man of great influence because he had closest access to the king and could determine who could see the king [and] . . . . was someone who the king trusted greatly.”[4] With this important historical information in mind about Nehemiah’s relationship to the king as his cup bearer, we can now understand what happens when Nehemiah has his opportunity to share his vision with the king and queen.

When Nehemiah is serving the king his wine the king notices Nehemiah is sad. Nehemiah tells it this way, “Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, ‘Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.’ Then I was terrified.”[5] It is obvious that time has passed since Nehemiah’s prayer when he writes, “early in the following spring.”[6]

Also, Nehemiah regularly served the king his wine, but this time was different because Nehemiah appeared sad. Perhaps Nehemiah’s heart is worn down as more time passes with no progress on the repair to the walls torn down and the gates burnt. He feels God has put a vision on his heart to do something about those walls, but he is not able. Nehemiah replies to the king’s inquiry about the origin of this uncommon sadness by saying, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”[7]

Nehemiah has a chance to share his vision with the king when the king replies, “Well, how can I help you?”[8] Nehemiah reflects on the experience saying, “With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, ‘If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”[9] Then the king and queen both give Nehemiah permission, resources, and people to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.

Question: How do you think a vision is born in a leader's heart?


                [1] Nehemiah 1:5-11

                [2] Edwin M. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah,” Bibliotheca Sacra (October-December 1980): 304.

                [3] Nehemiah 1:9

                [4] Edwin M. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah,” Bibliotheca Sacra (October-December 1980): 296-297.

                [5] Nehemiah 2:1-2; emphasis added.

                [6] Nehemiah 2:1

                [7] Nehemiah 2:3

                [8] Nehemiah 2:4

                [9] Nehemiah 2:4-5

This post is part two 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.

UNDERSTANDING NEHEMIAH’S CONTEXT

By Nehemiah’s time, the Jews had spent several decades in exile. The Persian king, Cyrus, issued a decree in 538 B.C. that allowed over 50,000 Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild their temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. Several “waves” of Jewish men and women returned to the city of Jerusalem to restore it to its former life before being conquered. One of those waves was led by Ezra, a Jewish priest who was skilled in teaching God’s law.

An Urban Ministry Exegesis of Nehemiah

However, “Ezra did not solve all the problems in Jerusalem. The people still did not have a secure city with rebuilt walls and gates. Numerous enemies still opposed their presence in Jerusalem. They needed a strong civic leader who could help them preserve their independence, economic vitality, security, and sanctity of Jerusalem. God sent a new leader, Nehemiah, to address these issues.”[1] Eventually, the Jews succeeded in rebuilding the temple, but there was still much work left to be done, and the people knew that. In this context, we get to see the circumstances and process for how Nehemiah’s vision is born in Nehemiah’s life. Continue Reading…

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.

An Urban Ministry Exegesis of Nehemiah
A leader can make a positive change in the inner city with the hope of restoring poor people to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.


[2] Donald B. Kraybill, The Upside-Down Kingdom (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978), 32. 110.