As you read through Nehemiah, you do not see much organizational or even spiritual drift. God planted a vision in him, and the intentionality by which he come, connected, and contributed to that vision kept him on course. A lack of intentionality and enthusiasm toward accomplishing God’s vision for His people will subtly shift the hearts of the people, and bring on the not-so-subtle drift of the organization.
ARBC, from the pastors to the leaders to the team members to the members of the church must be decidedly intention with Christ and His purpose. God raises up leaders with a special call, who bid others to come, connect, and contribute. What ways and means does God use to change our hearts to His vision?
First, we must have our eyes open to reality of the situation.
Go to Nehemiah 1:1-2:
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem.
What happened with Nehemiah? God providentially brought Hanani his brother across his path. The key phrase is, “Now it happened.” Nehemiah could simply have been conveying an actual event. Yet, he could also be saying that this happened by chance. We shall see that nothing about this was by chance, and as Nehemiah went on, he recognized how God’s good hand was upon him.
Nehemiah had two issues of concern: the Jews who escaped, and Jerusalem itself. He has a passion for His people and he has a passion for the land God promised to His people centuries ago. It was no secret among that generation of Jews that they lived in Babylon/Persia because of God’s judgment. Deuteronomy 28 lays it out clearly. Obedience brings blessings in family and land. Disobedience brings curses to family and land.
He had his head firmly grounded in reality. He knew their predicament. Are churches willing to examine theirs? Is ARBC willing to examine ours?
Second, we must have our eyes open to the quandary of the congregation.
And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
The wall of Jerusalem, as it was with all other cities, protected the cities from enemies and allowed those on the inside to flourish in peace. All through their history, they had shown how Yahweh had protected His people—and they let all others know that God is the God and their God.
But where was their God now? Do you see how the walls being down was not simply a structural issue or a political issue? This presented to the world that this God was (1) not able to protect after all (wrong), or (2) this God brought this blight on them in judgment (rightly so).
Nehemiah’s vision blossomed in helping to see the beauty and strength of the living God. And that must be the aim of our church. Churches and Christ are connected, but the church has been so inept in moving forward in a Christ-centered, gospel-driven vision, that they begin to disconnect Christ from His church. So churches begin to see this quandary, resolve to partner with Christ as His bride so she will be spotless to Him and to a watching world.
Thirdly, we must have our eyes open to the sovereignty of our God.
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).
The bigger our God, the bigger our prayers should be. Keep in mind, God’s greatness and majesty is never based on our views of Him. Our views of Him are deduced from His Word.
Ed Welch wrote a wonderful book entitled, “When People are Big and God is Small,” and set the course when he said:
Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God.). The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more.
Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:16). He will build His church His way. He will add whom He adds, He will remove those whom He will.
And He uses us. Yes, He ordains the ends, but He also ordains the means in using His church and the gifts therein to accomplish His will.
May God change our hearts to His vision.
Ed Welch, When People are Big and God is Small (Phillipsburg, PA: P & R Publishing, 1997), 19.