Our church has more potential for growth, both spiritual and numeric, than perhaps any church that I know. Because of that we face tremendous challenges. The bottom line is our church is in need of capable men and women to emerge as leaders to help our church continue to grow into the church God wants her to be. Our church needs persons who will step out of the shadows to continue to lead our church into the right direction.
So to help us meet this challenge, this morning I want us to look at the little known book of Nehemiah. The entire book is about how an ordinary man named Nehemiah was able to accomplish something extraordinary—how Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem which had been torn down during the Babylonian Exile. How Nehemiah was able to accomplish in ten months what the people of Jerusalem had not been able to accomplish in 150 years. I believe that if we, the members of First Christian Church would model Nehemiah, we will be able to accomplish great things in the name of Christ and continue to grow to become the church God wants us to be. We might even be able to accomplish more in the next year than some churches have accomplished in 150 years
First of all I think it is important to realize that Nehemiah was just an ordinary man, son of Haca-liah and brother of Han-anni, the cupbearer of the King of Susa. The primary job of the King’s cupbearer was to sample the wine before it was served to the King. Sounds like a pretty good job, doesn’t it? But the reason for sampling the wine was to determine if anyone who wanted in the King dead had poisoned the wine. So Nehemiah had a glass, and if he didn’t keel over or drop dead, the rest of the bottle was passed to the King.
So it is more than fair to say that Nehemiah was an ordinary man. Nehemiah was disposable. Nehemiah’s job was to be poisoned. I believe the first step to becoming a leader, is to recognize that we are not disqualified by who we are, what we are, or where we are or the expertise or training we possess. Nehemiah is a story of a great layperson who became a great leader. And the Bible is full of such persons. Think about Moses, David, Isaiah, and Samuel in the Old Testament, and persons who ordinary fishermen who became disciples in the New Testament.
One day, when his brother came to visit Susa from Judah, Nehemiah asked about the Jews who had survived the Babylonian captivity and how about the condition of the city of Jerusalem itself. Nehemiah had a heart for God and God’s people. I believe this is the second step to becoming a great leader. Nehemiah was concerned. Nehemiah was engaged—engaged enough to ask how things were going in Jerusalem. Just think for a moment what our church would be like, if every member was simply engaged. Engaged enough to simply ask: “How are things going?” “Is there anything I can do to help?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the Nominating Committee received phone calls from people interested in the positions that needed to be filled instead of having to make phone calls to beg people to serve!
We then read that when Nehemiah had learned that the wall of Jerusalem was still broken down and its gates were destroyed by fire and the people of Jerusalem were in great trouble and shame, Nehemiah sat down and wept and mourned for days. Nehemiah became passionate about the needs of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s love for God and God’s people was so great that he was moved to the point of tears.
I believe this is the biggest hindrance in the church today. Men and women who are so filled with love, they possess great passion are very few in number in the church. The key here is love. In most churches that I know, it is not the passion which is lacking. There is no passion deficit in the church. Churches are full of passionate people. However, the passion that is mostly evident in the church is not passion born out of love, but passion often spawned by hate, malice and jealousy. People in churches are often passionate about tearing down instead and are seldom building up. Our problem is that churches are filled more with people that are more passionate about if the Newsletter is being mailed on time or whose name was left out of the bulletin on Sunday morning than they are about sharing the love of Christ with others.
We have enough negative passion in the church. What we need are people with some positive passion—Persons who are interested in building up instead of tearing down. People like Nehemiah whose passion is derived our of a great love for God and God’s people. These are the persons we need to serve as Elders, Deacons and Trustees. These are the persons we need teaching our Sunday School classes and serving on our committees.
Next, we read where Nehemiah began to fast and pray. Nehemiah understood that he could accomplish nothing without the help of God. Nehemiah understood that because he was an ordinary, sinful human being, he would need the grace and help of God it he was ever going to accomplish anything great in God’s name. Nehemiah repented of his selfishness. He asked for forgiveness for sitting back so long in the shadows, allowing the people with negative passion to keep something great from being built.
This brings us the final step in becoming a great leader. At the end of the first chapter, we read where Nehemiah makes himself completely available to God. “Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy.”
What First Christian Church needs more than anything if we are to continue to grow into the dynamic church God wants us to be is ordinary lay persons who are engaged, and concerned, so filled with passionate love, realizing their need for God’s grace and mercy, to step forward making themselves completely available to God. At this important time in the life of this church, we need positive people of passion to say to the Nominating Committee, I am ready to serve. We need positive people of passion to say, please nominate me to serve as a Elder, Deacon or a Trustee. We need positive people of passion to say I am tired of sitting on a pew in the shadows Sunday after Sunday being ordinary. And I want to stand up to help this church be extraordinary!
Because if you do not, I can guarantee you, there are plenty of negative people filled with passion fueled by hate and jealousy in every church who are more than ready to step forward, so they can keep the church from moving forward. There are people in all churches which will cause churches to never accomplish in 150 years what could have and should have been accomplished in 10 months with someone like Nehemiah, hopefully someone like you.