Nehemiah is a book in the Bible about leadership and conflict as Nehemiah guides the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall they desperately need for protection. In chapter three the wall is divided into sections and groups are carefully and prayerfully selected to be responsible for the rebuilding. Everyone works together as a team toward a common objective. But not everything is quite that easy. There are numerous obstacles to overcome and strong personalities to manage.
Leadership and teamwork provide direction and stability even when surrounded by chaos and confusion. Good leadership creates an oasis of calm even when surrounded by a raging storm.
Years ago, I started a leadership group for pastors. The purpose was to give them a place to feel encouraged and share ideas. Ron, one of the pastors who participated felt led to write about his experience: “Before joining the group, I was frustrated and angry. I felt helpless to change anything. I had gotten to the place where I wanted to get a calendar and mark off the Sundays until I could retire.”
Ron was an excellent pastor who served his churches well. Yet, as he would admit, something was missing. “In our group, I became immediately aware of my limitations and weaknesses that negatively affected my ministry and my relationship with the church. But, at the same time, I also became aware of my strengths. I discovered the hardest person to lead was myself.”
There were lessons learned, but there was something more valuable. Ron became part of a group providing encouragement. This safe environment gave him the freedom and nurturing he needed to think about what a leader for Christ should and could be.
Nehemiah gained the trust of his people. This permitted him to build a team that could make the task of building a wall around Jerusalem possible. People shared the responsibility to accomplish the goal. No one person, not even Nehemiah could accomplish this huge task alone. Nehemiah began with a few, then he expanded the team to include virtually everyone. The people committed themselves to the “common good.”
But even God’s people grew tired. They felt the task was taking too much time and was too difficult. There were internal disputes. But Nehemiah found ways to alleviate their concerns and provide encouragement to continue.
Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in Atlanta writes: First we must understand our Mission. Then as leaders we provide a Vision to guide our future as we seek to fulfill the mission. The church should be the vision in action.
Ron wrote: “I have a long way to go, but I am not quitting on myself or my church. I dream more than ever before, and I have a NEW passion for ministry. I don’t do things because I am supposed to anymore, but I do things because they are the ‘Right’ things to do. I know this because I pray more now than ever, and I listen to others more than ever. One last thing! I don’t think about retirement so much anymore.”
Nehemiah teaches the importance of working together as a team. Ron reminds us that pastors and leaders of all kinds need encouragement. We too need to dream, feel encouraged and see the works of God all around us. We are imperfect, flawed and mistake prone. We get angry, jealous and full of needless pride. But we have a God who stands ready to forgive us and restore us and help us get back on our feet so that we can serve. We have a God who works miracles through our meager efforts, if we will just trust Him.