for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done . . . I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought this calamity upon us and upon this city?
So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. Nehemiah 13:6–7,17–18,30, NIV
Nehemiah’s first vision was to re-build the city of Jerusalem. His next vision was to purify the people. While in captivity and immersed in another culture, they had compromised the purity of their Jewish faith. Nehemiah’s intent was to restore their allegiance to the one true God—the God of their forefathers who would use them to bring forth the Savior. In some ways, rebuilding the city must have seemed easy compared to changing the attitudes, habits, and daily practices of the people.
As you celebrate the victory of achieving your first vision, remember that the process of transformation is ongoing. The mission effort you have begun is very fragile. It must be nourished and protected in order to take root. Regression can happen before you know it. A single accomplishment will be an empty victory if we return to old patterns of hoarding our giftedness inside the “Church Club”. Being missional requires an ongoing intent, focus, and plan to get outside into our community. It will take years for missional thinking to be fully ingrained in an organization that has been self-centered.
Your ability to manage change is always dependent on the quality of your relationships. I am amused to read in Nehemiah how he resorted to strong-arm tactics of pulling hair out and beating up those who disobeyed the laws of Jewish purification (Nehemiah 13:25). A leader must certainly be willing to discipline those who disobey God’s laws. But a leader can never withdraw from the bank account more than he has invested in his people relationally. Nehemiah had said previously: “The earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people . . . Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that” (Neh. 5:15, NIV). We must constantly check our “relational balance statement” to ensure that we are depositing more care, attention, encouragement, and love in our follower’s lives than we ask for in return. That is servant-leadership by Christ’s example.
Once you have successfully accomplished your first ongoing mission project in your community, begin to envision your next work. Go to God and ask him to breathe another vision into your brokenness. Go back to your pastor and begin the circle all over again. Keep on dreaming and leading full circle. Never stop as long as God’s mission of redemption is yet to be fulfilled! — Mark Powers
P.S. Enrollment in WorshipWise October Session OPENS OCTOBER 1 but CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT, OCTOBER 14. Check out our 4-week courses for $99 each at http://www.worshipwise.com.