4 Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

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Good leaders attract followers, and they are able to take others where they would not go on their own and move them toward a common cause or vision. Does this just happen?

 

I have lived long enough to know that few books were written on Leadership prior to the 1990’s. Just in recent decades, leadership has vaulted to the forefront of organizational discussion, classroom research, faith group meetings and publishing house caucuses across the world. Leadership tended to define itself better in person than on a page, and usually with an “I’m the boss and you are not” attitude. And yet sound, more effective demonstrations of healthy leadership are as old as antiquity. We can find sound examples of outstanding leadership in readings written years ago!

 

Today, leadership guru’s have been revered. Men like Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, Terry Anderson, Bob Buford, Ceril Barber and Jim Collins. Books on the topic now abound in this leadership revolutionary age. One may wonder “why it has taken so long to be addressed? Maybe it is because good leadership is one of those qualities that you recognize when you see it, but it is difficult to describe. We tend to find the answers to plaguing questions only when we begin to look specifically for them.

 

A great place to read between the lines and find the nuggets of good leadership is in the biblical book of Nehemiah. Looking at the life of someone who led with excellence can help us draw a few conclusions. Nehemiah, the great Israelite leader, offers us scores of key lessons on leadership if we take the time to scrutinize his role as a leader. Let me share four general key lessons in leadership for anyone looking for guidance.

 

  1. Leadership Is Providential

God raised up Nehemiah to accomplish an important mission. God is the active agent leading and directing. This is evident in how He moves in the king’s heart and elevates people to do his bidding. This is seen in both the lives of Nehemiah and his contemporary, Ezra. The book of Nehemiah demonstrates the indisputable role of Providence in leadership. This is still true today.

As A.D. Clarke confirms in his biblical theology on leadership, “Leadership in the Bible is framed within the overarching context of divine sovereignty.” I am not talking about the common misleading verbiage “Leaders are born”. I am talking about God’s willingness to intervene and assist us when we ask for His help.

 

  1. Leadership is Spiritual Hard Work

Nehemiah exemplifies the interplay between prayer, planning, and implementing strategic hard work. These work in tandem. Andy Stanley sums this up well in his book, Visioneering: “This [Nehemiah] is a tale of hard work, prayer and (behind the scenes) divine intervention. Nothing out of the ordinary here.” There are no shortcuts in leadership, but God can make the learning curve much shorter.

 

Admittedly, there is a grind to leadership—a continual pressing forward in planning, preparing, navigating conflict, executing and finishing. The dramatic rise of leadership studies and the attention that many leaders attract may cause some to miss this simple fact: Leadership is challenging and is not without strong effort.

 

  1. Leaders Use Projects to Build People

I do not think Nehemiah used people to build a wall; I believe Nehemiah used the wall construction to build a people who were beaten, distraught and unmotivated.  The people were not his means to an end. Although Nehemiah faced a daunting project of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, this project was secondary to the plight of the people. Stephen Dempster writes, “Nehemiah is regarded as the wall builder in Jerusalem, and this is the theme that resonates in the book. But his story is not only about building the physical walls of Jerusalem for physical protection, it is also a story of building spiritual walls around the people with the Word of God and thus was primarily building up the people.”

 

We must never forget – God created us to be people focused, not project focused.

 

  1. Leaders Persevere

Finally, as Mark Dever notes, “A godly leader keeps leading.” Projects end. Visions are reached and tasks get accomplished. But a leader continues to lead. There are always new places to take others where they would not go on their own. Certainly, Nehemiah faced adversity and conflict in the midst of building the wall, a task that required fortitude to see it completed. Yet, when the wall was built, he continued to lead through political, social and spiritual means as a governor. New leadership challenges emerged, but the call was the same: Remain steadfast and faithful; Lead. Good and great leaders persevere through the changing seasons of leadership, remembering the call to long-term faithfulness.

 

The book of Nehemiah concludes with a prayer regarding the leader’s legacy: “Remember me, O my God, for good (Neh. 13:31). Nehemiah’s heart bled for a dependency on God in the pursuit of his faithfulness. Godly leaders recognize their time of leadership will certainly come to an end, but he sought God’s presence and help for as long as his leadership was exercised.  May we all have the same heart and bleed with that same passion.

Dean

 

 

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Dirtiest Job

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Several years ago there was a show on Discovery channel named Dirty Jobs that was hosted by a man named Mike Rowe. To be honest, I had to look up how many seasons they filmed because I couldn’t quite watch it due to a soft stomach. Believe it or not, the show was filmed for 9 seasons, and for many people it was a favorite. I could never imagine myself going to work in environments such as the deadly snake wrangler. How do you even interview for a job like that? There were also jobs like sludge recycler, sewer inspector, garbage collector, road-kill collector, and pig farmer, and those are just from Season 1 alone. I guess someone has to do these jobs and believe me, I’m just glad someone does since I happen to like bacon. Here is a list of the top ten dirty jobs according to the show:

 

Garbage Collector

Gastroenterologist

Dairy Farmhand (Shout out to Dean Hammond)

Sewage Cleaners

Oil Rig Personnel

Coal Miner

Embalmer

Hazardous Material Remover

Pest Control Removal Specialist (Shout out to Jeff Terwilliger)

High Rise Window Washer

 

As we think of the Cross, we must remember that Jesus truly took the lowest position for all so that we could experience eternal life. Jesus showed His disciples just how far he would stoop to serve them. In John 13:4-8 you see this incredible act of love and service to his disciples.

 

  1. ” So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.6. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7. Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”8. “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

 

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

 

If you have ever participated in a foot washing service you know how humbling it is. This act would have shocked the disciples because in Jesus’ day, this act was reserved for the lowest servant. It was a task that a Gentile slave may do for their master or a host or hostess might have washed the guest’s feet. With that understanding, we can see why Peter would say never! But Jesus was clear with him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

 

The Cross is the most humbling act and is hard for us to look to. That Jesus was willing to lower himself for me? That’s incredible love that I cannot understand. We must remember that without this humble servant, without the Cross, and without the empty tomb, we could have no part in Eternity. Praise God that he was willing to humble himself for you and me.

 

 

Philippians 2:6-7

  1. Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7. But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.…

 

May we learn to truly live in that example, to empty ourselves for the sake of others. It has been said that humility is not thinking meanly of oneself; it is simply not thinking of oneself at all. True humility grows out of our relationship with the Father. No one, in all of history has fulfilled that definition better then Jesus Christ.

Brian

Are You Here or Are you There?

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Andy Stanley coined the term “visioneering” to describe the act of creating and reaching a vision. Visioneering is an important part of leadership because “leadership is the act of taking others where they will not – or cannot – go on their own”. To lead others to where they have never been requires the necessity of knowing where to go and how to get there; i.e., visioneering.

It requires more than being an “idea man”. A million great ideas have never been given birth to, or die prematurely, because of one’s inability to know how to develop the path from getting here to there.

Below is a “readers digest” version of developing the ability to reach our goals:

 

Ask the question. Too often when we think about what we would like to see accomplished in the future our fear or negativity holds us back. To achieve it, we have to put proper focus on what we would like to achieve in the future. It begins with a simple question: Are you here or are you there? Your mind and interest must be there – pondering what the future could/should be like – rather than where you are at present; you need to start on the path and give significant attention to there in order to eventually reach the goal. By adopting your future mindset now, you can push all that self-doubt aside, and each calculated step along the way becomes the building blocks to accomplish your vision. This is the most powerful part of the entire exercise.

Write it down. Use a large whiteboard to write all the mini-goals that are the steps along the way to reach your ultimate goal.  No one just jumps from here to there – there are calculated steps along the way. Then set as your immediate goal the first step in the process, then the next step, and the next while keeping an eye on the ultimate vision. The more steps that are successfully achieved, the more energy will grow for you and the others taking the journey with you. Remember to celebrate the success of each step along the way!

 

Keep your eye on the ultimate goal. You and your team might have come up with fifteen or so steps that have been accomplished and everything seems beautiful and rewarding. Sometimes so much so that we might intentionally or unintentionally be content to drive our stakes in the ground and settle in part way along the journey. Don’t take your eye of the ultimate vision – it has been determined to be an honorable goal and worthy of your continued attention and progress.

Talk out the story. Again and again, highlight how far you have come; have fun with it and include everyone in the excitement of reaching the ultimate goal which is now closer than it has ever been! You know you have done a good job if everyone is excited, and a bit anxious about what is still in front of you. Talk the story; live the story!

 

Broadcast the impending achievement. As the final vision draws close on the horizon, unveil the vision to all who will benefit from it. Until now it has been the production of some, maybe many. But in reality, any great vision has a long reaching effect. It is now time to turn everyone’s eyes on the approaching victory. This last step helps to renew the energy of all who have become weary in the journey and brings excitement to reach the final achievement. Even more significantly, it brings credibility, trust, and excitement to the others whose eyes have just been opened to the approaching summit. There is nothing quite as exciting as a new sunrise promising an exciting new day!

 

There will be an overwhelming consensus that what seemed so out of reach just yesterday now is within our reach. All of the “I wish”, “I think”, and the “maybe” is swallowed up by the “Wow! We did it”. An analogy is the Dave Ramsey victory cry of each achiever screaming “I am debt free”!

 

The question that begins the journey is: “are you here or are you there”?

 

Joyfully in journey,

Dean Hammond

 

 

Apply What You Know

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On ESPN, there is a segment called “Did You Know?” It is a segment full of stats that you can either find interesting or you may think, “Why do they keep track of that?” Right now, we are going to have one of those segments.

Did you know… there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible? Did you know… the Bible is about 800,000 words long and if the average person reads 250-300 words per minute; it would take about 3,200 minutes or 54 hours to read the whole Bible. So… reading 15 hours per day = 4 days. Did you know… that if I heard a sermon from 1 chapter of the Bible per week, I would hear a sermon from each chapter of the Bible in 23 years?

Why am I giving you all these useless stats?

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to go to CIY with about a dozen Jr. High students.  The speaker at the conference, Robert Watson, made an easy connection with our students and me. He said, “If you want to grow, apply what you know.”

I got to thinking about how much of the Bible I do know. Then I got to thinking about all the different messages I have heard and all the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m only 26, and feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what God tells us in His Word. Now obviously, we’re not likely to hear a sermon on Genesis 10, because we could care less that Cush was the father of a great warrior named Nimrod. So, we aren’t going to hear a sermon from every single chapter in the Bible.

With that being said, most sermons talk about the love of God. Sermons on the love of God are the most popular because that is probably one of the most important, if not the most important message in the Bible.

I say all of this because if we go back to, “If you want to grow, apply what you know.” Every one of us who has been in church maybe only two weeks could tell someone else about God’s love for us. We will get into these habits of just trying to better ourselves and understand every little thing about the Bible. What if we took a different direction of APPLYING what we have found in God’s scripture and going out and making disciples? The relationships all around us of people who don’t know God and reaching out to them is just as important as sitting here at church on a Sunday morning hearing a sermon.

Some of us have heard thousands of sermons, and I’m not saying that we need to stop having sermons on Sundays. I am saying to take what we know from all the sermons, all the lessons, all of the wisdom we have from reading scripture and take it out into the world.

“If you want to grow, APPLY what you know.”

 

God Bless,

Heath Clark

Youth & Family Minister     

A hard RESET

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Have you ever wanted a “reset” in life? I remember growing up I was a pretty avid gamer. The graphics on Pitfall were amazing! What I remember is that if you got in a jam on the game or maybe if the game froze up, there was a simple thing that you did. You just hit the reset button and you got a fresh start. Game on!

When it comes to life, we all wish we could hit that reset button. I know that in my ministry throughout the years I have let a lot of people down. I am sure that through the years I have hurt my family by not being there when I should have been. There are many days that my spiritual life has been pretty weak at best and I have rushed into my day without asking for God’s guidance. There are times when I have said something and the moment I said it I wished I had never spoken. It would be easier to put the toothpaste back in the tube, but the real truth is we can’t even put the toothpaste lid back on let alone back in the tube.

Life can be pretty messy and we end up hurting people along the way. I’ll never forget my first day on the job working at Bethel IGA. I was the new guy so I was told to fill the milk, which was the rookie job. I had to load the crates up on a two-wheeler and take them out about six to eight crates high. Everyone was scrambling around to get their work done so we could get out of there at 10 o’clock.  Of course, I was moving quickly too with that awkward first day on the job trying to impress everyone urgency. Did I mention that I was a rookie already? Did I mention that it was the first day on the job and that I was trying to really impress the boss?  Did I mention that you are supposed to hold the crates of milk as you pull back on the two-wheeler so the crates don’t fall over? Well, no one mentioned it to me on that day either so the next question is, do you know how much square footage about 20 gallons of busted milk will cover? Go home today and bust just one gallon on your kitchen floor to see. Needless to say it was in that moment I desperately needed a reset button. I cringed in that moment and felt pretty stupid. Also, by the way, my big brother worked there too and in that moment he did not have the gift of encouragement.

It’s one of those experiences I can laugh about today. In life however there are really messy hurts and brokenness that we don’t forget. There are moments when we let someone down and created a real mess for their lives. Even if you have done that, you may not be able to change what you did but can I tell you about the greatest reset button of ALL time? Jesus Christ on the cross said “IT is finished”, and with that for those who put their trust in him, RESET!!!

Psalm 103:11-12

“For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

RESET!!!

Revelation 21:5 (ESV)

“And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

RESET!!!

May we learn to live and trust in those words,  RESET!

Brian White

 

 

INCREASING ONE’S LEADERSHIP EFFECTIVINESS

Several years ago I purchased and read John Maxwell’s book, The Five Levels of Leadership. The essence of that book is worth sharing with anyone who desires to increase the quality of his/her leadership whether in the home, in the church, at work, or in the community. It is not the title of leadership that makes one an effective leader; it is the strength of relationships that enables one to lead effectively.

True leadership isn’t a matter of having been given a certain job or title. In fact, being chosen for a position is only the first of the five levels every effective leader achieves. To become more than “the boss” who people follow only because they are required to, you have to master the ability to invest in people and inspire them to move beyond status quo. A leader is one who takes others where they would not go on their own. If they would, they would not need a leader.

To grow further in your role, you must achieve results and build a team of others who produce. You need to help people to develop their skills to become leaders in their own right. And if you have the skill and dedication, you can reach the pinnacle of leadership – where experience will allow you to extend your influence beyond your immediate reach and time for the benefit of others.

The 5 Levels of Leadership are:

                  FIVE LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP

  1. Position – People follow because they have to.
  2. Permission – People follow because they want to.
  3. Production – People have respect and follow because of what you have done for the organization.
  4. People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally.
  5. Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.

 

It is character, authenticity, trustworthiness, passion for others, and absence of pride that fashions a person to become one who is respected and safe to follow anywhere.

 

Dean Hammond

What Steps Will You Take?

imagesHave you ever wondered about the feeling of being in outer space? As a child I’m sure a lot of us looked up at the sky at night and wondered what was going on up there with all the flashing stars, and the moon and the clouds, and trying comprehend it all. Or have you wondered about the feeling of Neil Armstrong when he took the first step on the moon, or John Glenn to be the first to orbit the whole earth. Imagine the preparation of math and science and not really having much of a trial run on missions for something that had never been done before. Imagine those men going farther away from home that any man had ever gone. And the chance of losing their lives for the sake of advancing the knowledge of what we know of the universe today.

Both of those men whether you knew it or not lived by Christian standards. Both of them were from Ohio and both of them knew what courage was. I want to share an encouraging story of Neil Armstrong that we can all learn from as we strive to know what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

Neil Armstrong was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.

“These are the steps that lead to the temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.”

Armstrong then asked Ben-Dov if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.

“So Jesus stepped right here,” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.

To which Armstrong, the devout Christian, replied, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.”

We can only imagine and wonder what it felt like for Neil to step on the moon, and the feeling he had of going where no one had ever gone before. Neil though was more excited about steps that were already taken.

What kind of incredible steps do you think God has for you? Some of us are just taking that step into our faith of telling others about God! I can attest to not being as bold as I should in my own life. It is my prayer to be so much more courageous and bold to share with others.

Neil Armstrong made history with his steps as, more importantly, did Jesus. You may not be as popular as these men, but your courage to spread the Gospel will be rewarded in heaven; for the work that you have done for God’s kingdom!

 

I leave you with this quote from Erwin McManus: “Would you be willing to give your life to save the world if no one ever knew your name? If anonymity was the price you would have to pay for significance, would it be too great a price? To live a life of courage is not a guarantee of prestige or adulation. It only matters if you live and die fulfilling the mission you were born for.”

 

Heath

 

 

Heath Clark          

Youth & Family Minister