We all know the story. Nehemiah was a long way from home, yet thoroughly aware of the need to do something dramatic in Jerusalem, the home of his people. The situation was dire. Enemies all around, the city in ruins, and the people utterly demoralized. Change was needed, and in a hurry.
How did Nehemiah make this change happen? We often hear sermons about the ways Nehemiah rallied the people and assigned family groups, got people to work on portions of the wall where they had the most invested, addressed his enemies with tact, but showed no fear…all of these are great leadership principles and not to be overlooked.
But let’s back up a chapter or two. In Nehemiah 1, we see the key to Nehemiah as a leader and change agent. He based his authority and call to change on a God-given vision for the future:
- First, Nehemiah discovered the facts about Jerusalem.
- Then, he acknowledged the burden he felt and recognized the source of it as God.
- Finally, he spent time with God talking and listening to him as the vision formed…before he took action.
This preparation took time and is antithetical to the rush with which we sometimes lead. But it was absolutely necessary for his success in leading this discouraged people through a humongous change.
In chapter 2, Nehemiah shows us the impact of proper spiritual preparation before enacting the “activity” of leading:
“The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans…But now I said to them, ‘You know very well what 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!’ Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, ‘Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!’ So they began the good work…’The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall.’
Wait upon the Lord. Then move forward with him leading the change! When it is his vision and his cause, he will speak the vision through you to his people, he will stand with you and his people when enemies arise, he will walk you through discouragement, and he will guard you against failure.