Building Together

Dr. Rob Green April 29, 2018 Nehemiah 3:1-32
Outline

4 truths that godly leaders use to properly build together to accomplish God’s plan

I. Involve Every Skill Set and Every Individual in Accomplishing God’s Plan

A. Regardless of the normal function of each person

B. Empowering each to contribute their part

1 Corinthians 12:12-16, 20-21 - For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. …But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

II. Divide the Task into Manageable Pieces

A. Be careful not to be caught by four obstacles

1. Underestimation

2. Procrastination

3. Boredom

4. Lack of focus

B. This follows the Lord’s example

Ephesians 4:7-16 - But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

III. Allocate Resources as Wisely as Possible

A. Take into account the value of the task to the individual

B. Ask others to participate

IV. Honor Those Who Serve Well

Take-Aways

1. Remember that in Nehemiah and in the NT passages regarding the church, we were not designed to be lone rangers, but instead to recognize that we are better together.

2. When you lead, whether here, at work, or in your home…remember that the goal of your leadership is the accomplishment of God’s will. The wall was only a big deal because it was part of the will of God. Do not be distracted by other, less meaningful goals.

3. When you lead, remember to recognize the together portion of leadership…get others involved rather than trying to do it all yourself; give the others a manageable portion, pick the portion that makes the most sense for them, and honor them for a job well done.

4. If you are being led…remember that your work is for the Lord…to accomplish God’s will. Thus, if your leader is not perfect you can participate anyway.

5. If you are being led…remember that sometimes you have to do what must be done and not what you want to do.

6. Regardless of whether you are leader or follower in a given instance, rejoice that you can accomplish the will of God together.

Our annual theme is Being Careful How We Build. That theme is not only due to the fact that the NCC is under construction. Instead, building has to do with all that is involved for the cause of Christ.

Thus, one aspect of our building this year is corporate … we are seeking to build the NCC and the associated ministries. But another aspect is personal because we are all in need of Spiritual growth.

  • The first series emphasized building on the gospel. We considered the biblical concepts found in the book Center Church. We wanted to be sure that as a church we are committed to this philosophy of community based outreach centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a city to be won.
  • The second series emphasized the building of the church that the Lord is doing. The Lord is in process of building his church and our eternal home.
  • That brings us to our current series.
  • If we treat them as little mini Bibles all to themselves then it would be hard to understand why it is here.
  • However, when we think about the context this passage comes alive. That is why context is so important. That is why reading large portions of your Bible is so important. That is why we need to grow in our ability to interpret the Bible.
    • Without skills like this … Nehemiah 3 is one of the reasons that people are tempted to stop reading their Bible.
    • With these skills … Nehemiah has a lot more to say to you and me than we first thought.
  • Pastor Aucoin gave us a very helpful timeline. He reminded us that the exile to Babylon lasted 70 years and then a group of people retuned to Israel. But people were living there. The nation was in shambles. Thus, the progress was slow.
    • From roughly 540 BC (the exiles are released) to 440 BC (the time of Nehemiah) not much has happened. There is no discernable nation. There is very little formal worship of God. There is constant pressure from their enemies for Jerusalem to remain destroyed and the people to remain unorganized.
  • God raises up Nehemiah to help the nation be a nation. He uses Ezra and Nehemiah to establish God as their King and the Bible as the rule of law.
  • Think of ways that you can be involved in helping to accomplish the church initiatives.
  • Ask the Lord to help you understand what he wants you to do in the next year personally and in your family.
  • It is also a book that helps us think about our lives and the ways God wants us to accomplish his will.
  • He is not on a crusade of his own. The condition of the nation is known to many people other than Nehemiah. But his walk with God and his love for God’s people creates in him a heart that says, “I must do something!”
  • But then you ask yourself, why did God choose to tell me this? He could have left it out.
  • After all John tells us that he did not even record all the things about Jesus.
  • So if we were going to have extra space in our Bible’s why not include some cool stories about Jesus instead of this?
    • Because God wanted us to see something here.
  • It seems to me that Nehemiah has mobilized every person regardless of their normal skill set and function.
  • The issue is not so much what they normally do, but what can they do.
  • Each person had to take individual responsibility for his or her section of the wall.
  • Every part of the body is important even if one person does not think they are (vv. 15-16). In this case, they are wrong. If they act on their belief that they do not matter it hurts the rest of us.
    • Sometimes when you see the people upfront. What does Pastor Viars need? What does Pastor Aucoin need? Friends, here is the reality. They need what you bring to the ministry just like you need what they bring.
    • When we adopt the mindset that we do not matter, you hurt every brother and sister.
  • Every part of the body needs each other (vv. 20-21). Even those who think they have their act together still need the rest of us.
  • Teachers … they have the task of opening God’s Word in a faithful way to equip and train God’s people in ministry.
  • Administrative staff … someone has to handle notebooks and nametags and who goes into what room.
  • Greeters … a smiling face makes a big difference first thing in the morning.
  • Lunch and break servants …
  • Resource center personnel …
  • Housing people …
  • Driving the Latins all over the place …
  • This might be a great way for the entire family to take a vested interest in outreach. A little one might be able to help mulch or pull a few weeks, a bigger one can help trim the bushes and edge the beds, someone can mow, another can spread fertilizer and weed killer. Another can go to Bennett’s and pick out some flowers.
  • At the end of the project you have a nice yard ready for your guests.
  • This project would not be completed by having a pep-rally and telling everyone to fix it.
  • Sometimes we fail to lead well because we have underestimated the time, energy, and resources that the task will require.
  • I have heard Pastor Viars say many times that the smartest guy in a meeting is not always the one who gets his way, it is the one that worked the hardest before the meeting and has a plan.
  • They wait until the very last moment and think that a late night can rescue them.
  • The same is true with anything that we are seeking to accomplish for the glory of God.
  • They had a planning committee, groups to pick the theme, others to provide the needs of the well-known person, but nobody remembered to advertise the event. So no one came.
  • Parents … raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord
  • Husbands … love your wives like Christ loved the church
  • The Lord gave grace to each person according to the measure he wanted. So God gave some more grace than others. That is one reason God does not hold you accountable for the grace he gives someone else. He expects you to steward the grace you have been given.
  • Then the Lord gave individuals to equip the rest of us
    • So that each person would do their individual part
  • Eliashib and his brothers … you have the sheep gate
  • The sons of Hassenaah … you have the fish gate
  • Hanun … you and the inhabitants of Zanoah … you have the Valley gate
  • Housing coordinators  … Jeremiah and Amee Redden and Bill and Char Rogers are organizational magicians. Jeremiah is an ER nurse by vocation and I bet he knows the streets of Lafayette about as well as the law enforcement guys.
  • Edris and her team ensure that everyone gets to the right place at the right time
  • Jocelyn Wallace coordinates the servants for the resource center …  a huge task.
  • Margaret Wickert and Cheryl Batchelor handle the lunches and breaks.
  • We have metaphorical walls call BCTC, Passion Play, Living Nativity, the Faith East community center, the Faith West community center, the NCC. It is awesome to be included in it.
    • So that the church would build itself up in love
  • If we are dividing the tasks of getting the outside of our home ready, then we are doing it because we want to bring the Lord glory for all that we do.
  • If a man was working on another section of the wall and an attack came near his home, his temptation would be to try and rescue his family. Such an action would result in creating another weak spot.
  • Not only would his family be at risk, but so would the entire city.

As Pastor Viars was giving leadership to the preaching schedule one of the areas that he thought would be helpful was to consider the role of Becoming a Godly leader. Thus, we are studying the book of Nehemiah.

Please turn with me to Nehemiah 3. That is on page ________ of the front section of the Bible in the chair in front of you. This is the word of the Lord [Read Nehemiah 3].

At first glance you might be tempted to think what I did do to get assigned to preach one of the most boring chapters in the entire Bible. Even Chuck Swindoll, who wrote a book on Nehemiah, skipped the entire chapter. Furthermore, what could this chapter say about being a godly leader?

Let me encourage you that a chapter like this is a helpful passage to preach because you and I have to be equipped to handle passages like this.

Nehemiah is not in the Bible to tell us about a wall. Ezra and Nehemiah are there to explain to us how God selected a couple of leaders in order to lead the nation of Israel to reestablish the covenant with God.

They were selected for specific tasks in order to help the nation be a nation with God as its head and his word as its law.

Thus Nehemiah has much to say about how we go about accomplishing what God has called us to do.

So let’s return to the beginning of the year. Every year each member of the staff created initiatives for their areas of ministry. They are things that they believe, God willing, they should accomplish before the year is over. Then we post those for all of you. We encourage you to

We are not called to establish a nation in right standing with God. We are called to be a church who lifts high the name of Jesus.

Acts 4:12 says And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

Then personally you might have a list of 5-6 initiatives that you believe God wants you to accomplish.

Nehemiah is a book that not only encourages us that God is keeping his promise to rebuild the nation and to do what Jeremiah 29:11 prophesied … that after 70 God would bring about his plans for a future and a hope.

We have learned so far in Nehemiah that it is Nehemiah’s relationship with God and his love for God’s people that makes him sensitive to God’s leading.

Secondly, he asks God for the privilege of doing something. When the offer is on the table he has his list ready.

Thirdly, we saw how Nehemiah inspected the condition in order to formulate a plan in his mind.

Today, the title of the message is Building Together. we are going to consider chapter 3 through the lens of 4 truths that Godly Leaders use to properly build together to accomplish God’s plan.

I. Involve every skill set and every individual in accomplishing God’s plan

Thirty two verses of names is a bit rough. Some of these names are very difficult to pronounce.

At the end of the 32 verses you realize that there were a lot of different people involved in this project. They were involved …

A.     Regardless of the normal function of each person

We find priests (v. 1) … They are supposed to teach the people, to lead them spiritually, and to offer care and guidance. For now the work that needed to be done was building the wall.

We find goldsmiths (v. 8) … Rebuilding a wall is not exactly in their job description either, but that is exactly what they do.

We find perfumers (v. 8) … Rebuilding a wall and making perfume seem to be rather different fields of work. Then again maybe wall building was good for the perfume business. 

We find city officials (v. 9) … This makes perfect sense because it is very difficult to be a city official when your city in complete shambles. Their offices were not nearly as important as the wall surrounding them.

We find some of the ladies (v. 12) … This was not the normal work that ladies would do in ancient Israel, but there was an important job to do. The normal duties needed to wait until a more important task was accomplished.

We find the Levites (v. 17) … The Levites have responsibilities in the religious areas of national life. But the books of Nehemiah and Ezra make clear that the rebuilding of the city was part of the spiritual work to restore a right community before the Lord.

We find the temple servants (v. 26) … You could imagine that this group was more concerned about the furnishings in the temple, but they are involved as well.

We find the gate keepers (v. 29) … One can understand their vested interest in the project. It is much easier to keep gates that function rather than control a huge hole in the wall.

We find the merchants (v. 32) …

When I look at a list like this I wonder who lives in Jerusalem who is not included.

Not only do we find essentially everyone involved but we also see Nehemiah

B.      Empowering each to contribute their part

In chapter 2 Nehemiah organized the project in his mind. Once the organization was set he then involved each person and gave them a specific responsibility.

When you look at this illustration this is another example of how God’s people were asked to come together in order to accomplish something that God wanted accomplished.

This is a good time to fast forward a bit to the NT. Not surprisingly, what God wanted from his people in the days of Nehemiah (everyone involved in doing God’s will) is exactly what the Lord wants for us.

When you turn to the NT we find it in 1 Cor 12

1 Cor 12:12-16, 20-21: For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. … 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

The old adage that 100% of the work gets done by 10% of the people is not the picture that the Lord gives us in his Word.

Instead, 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us

That is one of the reason why leaders get everyone involved in ministry and then empower them to do a portion of what God wants accomplished.

I think it might be helpful to push this idea a little further. I want us to consider the BCTC from last February and the various tasks people had to perform.

This is Nehemiah 3 and 1 Corinthians 12 in action.

Let’s take a personal example in our homes. Let’s say that one area you would like to change for God’s glory is you want to upgrade the quality of your yard to be a good testimony to your neighbors … and maybe even to invite them to a cookout and enjoy that yard.

A second principle of godly leadership from Nehemiah 3 is to

II. Divide the task into manageable pieces

In addition to the description of so many different people there is another observation that jumps off the page. Nehemiah divides the wall into some 40 different sections. The gates served as the major geographical markers, but as Nehemiah works his way around the city we see smaller divisions between those gates.

When you connect chapter 2 to chapter 3 where Nehemiah spent time inspecting the walls and evaluating what to do about the wall, it seems clear that Nehemiah divided the task into manageable pieces.

There was more leadership needed. Nehemiah had settled in his mind that the wall needed to be broken down into its component parts. As we consider how we might learn from this James Boice who was the James MacDonald or Matt Chandler of the 1970s wrote a commentary where he outlined 4 potential traps of accomplishing great things for the Lord.

A.     Be careful not to be caught by 4 obstacles

  • Underestimation
  • Procrastination
  • Boredom
  • Lack of focus

Here the danger is that we believe the task will be easy. So rather than put the focus to it that it needs and deserves, our assumption is that it will only take a few hours.

When we allow the tyranny of the urgent to take us away from the important, we end up in a situation where we are scrambling because the deadline is quickly approaching. Students do this in school.

Maybe if we learned how to properly manage our time we would be much better at accomplishing all that God wants us to do.

This is where some tasks are much more fun than other tasks. It is easy to get caught up in the fun tasks and forget about the boring ones. James Boice tells a story where a group at a university was very excited to host a well-known person.

One lesson that I have had to learn (and am still learning) is to focus on all that God wants me to do instead of get wrapped up in a couple of time killers. Some things seem to take an especially long time and do not overly help with accomplishing the will of God.

In fact, when there is a lack of focus and priority then it may be that we do not accomplish the things that the Lord really wants us to get done.

It may be that we might accomplish a few things that God really does not care much about and we will miss the things that would be bring him the most glory.

Clearly these 4 points do not arise from the text directly. Instead they are application dangers that could stand in the way of properly dividing the task into manageable pieces. But before I leave this point, I think there is yet again a NT parallel.

B.      This follows the Lord’s example

Earlier we mentioned that the Lord is building his church. We might ask the question whether the Lord is dividing the task.

Ephesians 4:7-16 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

This is a crucial passage in the NT about how the church is supposed to function.

He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor teachers. These groups did not do exactly the same things. God in his sovereignty picked certain individuals who were going to carry out certain tasks.

You were given a task. You were designed by God and equipped by his gifts in order to fulfill a function in the body of Christ.

Well that was Nehemiah’s time regarding the wall that the Lord wanted built.

Let’s go back to the BCTC for a moment…

If the BCTC were a wall I could write a chapter just like Nehemiah 3. That would be true for living nativity, passion play, and a myriad of other ministries. It is even includes the NCC.

That is how it was always designed to work. When I start thinking in the larger categories of the book of Nehemiah then I can see chapter 3 working out all over the place.

The goal is not to pat ourselves on the back or to think about the kind of glory that we can receive. The goal is that the church is built in love.

When we think about the application of this text to our own home we recognize that the division of labor is not for the purpose of doing things we don’t want to do, nor is it for our own glory, but we are coming together because we believe that God wants our family to accomplish something for his glory.

Not only have we seen the importance of everyone being involved and dividing the task into manageable parts, but we also see in Nehemiah 3 that leaders …

III. Allocate resources as wisely as possible

A third feature of this passage is the location where each person works. Because you have been reading through Nehemiah you know that opposition is going to pick up. In chapter 4 we find all sorts of threats. So, how do you keep people from being overcome by fear?

One of the ways comes by doing what Nehemiah does. Godly leaders …

A.     Take into account the value of the task to the individual

Many of the people working on the wall worked very close to their own home. From vv. 21-30 we find “the end of his house” (v. 21), “in front of his house” (v. 23, 28, 29, 30), and “beside his house” (v. 23).

This makes perfect sense. It was extremely efficient. I have a car that is 22 years old and it has 85,000 original miles. How is that possible? Well… for the last 17 years of our life we have lived within 2 miles of our employment. It has saved time, it has saved gas, and it has kept our cars as low mileage vehicles.

But efficiency is not all, especially since we know that prior to Nehemiah and during Nehemiah’s time there were plenty of opponents of the work. So by keeping people nearest their homes, it also allowed them to be most focused.

That is one of the reasons that we encourage you to serve in so many different areas. You will not know your passions, your giftedness, and your loves until you start serving in different capacities. That is the way it will be for each member of your family.

Passion, love, giftedness, etc. are all great. However, sometimes there is simply a need. We also see in the text that Nehemiah and godly leaders.

B.      Ask others to participate

The Bible does not tell us how Nehemiah convinced those from outside Jerusalem to help, but he clearly does. While many of the builders are working in front of their own homes there is also a group of people from other towns and the surrounding villages who join in the effort.

They have a vested interest because they know that this wall and the temple of Ezra are tools for the nation to accomplish what God wanted done … for them to be a nation with his Word as their law. So they join in to help.

Sometimes you will not be protecting your house. You will be thinking in the larger structures of what God wants done.

The final observation I would like to make about this passage is that godly leaders

IV. Honor those who serve well

It seems quite possible that if we added a verse to Nehemiah 2 (v. 21) that says, “Then the inhabitants of the city and the surrounding area devoted themselves to this good work and were assigned portions so that all the gates and the walls between the gates were being rebuilt.” Then we could pick up with Nehemiah 4:1 and keep on rolling.

[read it and show them]

But that is not what God did. God chose to give us the names of 100 plus persons who participated in the rebuilding of the wall.  For the last 2500 years we have read their name and the good work that God did through them.

There are several NT chapters dedicated to the same idea. A list of names of people who helped with the work.

We should not clamor to have our names in lights. God can do that. But as leaders we sometimes have to remind ourselves that we should give honor to whom honor is due.

I think it would be wise for me to end with a few specific take-aways especially since I believe that in some situations we are leaders and in other situations we are being led.

  1. Remember that in Nehemiah and in the NT passages regarding the church we were not designed by lone rangers, but instead to recognize that we are better together.
  2. When you lead whether here, at work, or in your home … remember that the goal of your leadership is the accomplishment of God’s will. The wall was only a big deal because it was part of the will of God. Do not be distracted by other, less meaningful goals.
  3. When you lead remember to recognize the together portion of leadership … get others involved rather than trying to do it all yourself, give the others a manageable portion, pick the portion that makes the most sense for them, and honor them for a job well done.
  4. If you are being led … remember that your work is for the Lord … to accomplish God’s will. Thus, if your leader is not perfect you can participate anyway.
  5. If you are being led … remember that sometimes you have to do what must be done and not what you want to do. Hopefully there will be a balance in there, but we all must do what must be done from time to time.
  6. Regardless of whether you are leader or follower in a given instance rejoice that you could accomplish the will of God together.

May God help us be like Nehemiah and be passionate about his will for his glory.

Dr. Rob Green

Roles

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Bio

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.