This summer our student ministry is in the process of rebranding and rebuilding. Sometimes you rebuild because things have been blown apart or have come crashing down… and sometimes you rebuild because you want to upgrade what you have. The latter is our case. We decided that it was time to dream about new direction, new vision, & new ideas and that led us to bring in the demolition team to clear the area so we can begin to rebuild and renovate. About 8 years ago, during a study I was doing on the OT book of Nehemiah, I charted how Nehemiah chose to go about rebuilding the city of Jerusalem’s walls. I discovered in the text 10 STEPS that Nehemiah took in his rebuilding process that I believe can be useful for anyone who wants to begin a rebuilding process. I’ll highlight 3 today:
STEP 1: INQUIRY
One of the first things that Nehemiah did was to inquire what had happened to the city that his family was from. He asked some survivors of the exile, and their report was not good: everything was destroyed.
The first step in any rebuilding process is an honest evaluation of what is really going on. If we can’t take an honest look at our current situation, we will never rebuild well. A lot of times leaders lie to themselves and say “Everything looks fine… there is no need to do anything” but they are only deceiving themselves. This is why it is so important, as a leader, to not have “yes men” surrounding you. You need people who can see what you can’t, and will be willing to tell you the brutal, honest truth. It does us no good, as leaders, to not know. So inquire about what is really going on, and demand 100% honesty.
STEP 2: BURDEN
The text says that Nehemiah immediately “sat down and wept and fasted for days.” It destroyed Nehemiah to hear about his home being in complete ruins.
When you hear from those you inquire about what is really going on, does it affect you? Does it bother you? Even if things are “OK?” It does for me. I sure don’t like to hear that things are not as good as I think they are or think that they should be. It is this BURDEN that causes me and other leaders to want to take bold action.
Without a BURDEN, there is no BUILDING.
STEP 3: PRAYER
Nehemiah prayed a simple, yet deeply profound prayer: “God we (nation and his own family) screwed this up by going after other gods… and you said that there would be consequences. BUT you also said that if we returned to you, you would return us. You promised. We are ready to return to you and rebuild this FOR YOUR NAME, so please grant me success as I make preparations and go through the hoops to get this going.” (my paraphrase, of course.)
I think Nehemiah’s prayer highlights 2 things for rebuilding:
- Am I rebuilding what GOD wants… or what I want?
- Am I praying that God would grant us success in our plans?
I believe that if we pray about what GOD wants rebuilt, that is a prayer that He answers big time! I cannot put the cart before the horse. Pray first.
A little over a month ago I took our student ministry staff and volunteers through a 40 day prayer campaign called “GREATER” where we were praying Eph. 3:20 and John 1:50 and asking “What GREATER things does God want us to see happen in our ministry?” On about day 4 there was a very strong urge to start planning… but I had 36 days left to go in the prayer journey. I decided to do something that I would normally not do… I IGNORED that urge. I didn’t even write my thoughts down… even though they were flooding in. And guess what happened… at the end of the 40 days, God affirmed some of those early thoughts… and he changed a lot of other ones.
I can’t begin PLANNING before I begin PRAYING.
Next week I will highlight the next three steps Nehemiah took in rebuilding that we can learn from.