We read last week: “So the wall was completed… in fifty-two days.” Nehemiah 6:15. When I read that I have two emotions: one that I want to breathe a sigh of relief for the guy and say, “Congratulations Nehemiah, you made it! You finished! You did what you came to do! Way to go!” Two, I naturally say, “Now what?”
After completing your project what would you do? Sit back, relax, enjoy your victory, coast along? How we handle achievement tells us a lot about ourselves, our character and our values. When you finish a project, when you’ve reached your goal it becomes a dangerous time in your life. When you’ve accomplished one goal and you don’t have another goal to follow it there is danger. You’re in real trouble. Success tends to ruin a lot of people. We become satisfied, complacent, we let down our guard and get comfortable in our lazy boy. As a result we loose all the momentum. I’ve seen this happen with a lot of churches. Lets say they finished a building. The moment the building is erected, the people breathe a sigh of relief “We’ve arrived! We’re in the promised land!” They let up the intensity that they had and think they are finished.
“After the wall had been rebuilt…” (vs. 1) Now what?
When I Achieve One Goal, Set Another
You can loose what you’ve gained if you don’t watch out! We could all probably name somebody who achieved some tremendous success early in life. You’d think they would be set for the rest of their life, have one achievement after another, but they became complacent, settled down, and never went any further. If you don’t set another goal you could loose what you’ve already gained.
Have you ever worked real hard to loose weight? Only to be comfortable and not set another goal? What happens? You gain back all the weight back and maybe at a faster rate! You’ve wasted all that effort. Right? Just because you’ve achieved a certain goal is no guarantee you’re going to have that same level of achievement next week. You must set other goals.
We often make spiritual gains in our life in different areas only to loose those gains in a relatively short period of time because we were neglectful or forgetful. when I talk to people who have backslidden spiritually from the Lord I find that it’s not a matter of suddenly going from loving the Lord, to hating the Lord. They’ve went from loving the Lord to just forgetting the Lord, neglecting the Lord, the Bible and church. It’s not a matter of love turning to hate, it’s a matter of love turning to neglect.
How many people have made a lot of money and then lost it in a short period of time? Neglect, complacency.
Nehemiah is a very wise person. We’re going to see how he ensured what he accomplished would last.
Chapter 7 is the dividing line in this Old Testament book. We need to see that there are two phases in Nehemiah’s life. Number one is building the wall, number two is building the future, building lives. Chapters 1-6 is the building of the wall which we looked at. Chapters 7-13 is the building of the people and the future. These are two distinct phases. When the wall is complete Nehemiah has to shift hats, shift his focus, change his roll.
What we’re going to look at today is one of the main reasons businesses go bankrupt, why churches die, why organizations fail.
As I read leadership books and learn from my mentors I have found that like Nehemiah, when a project is complete a transition must take place. I must transition and grow with the organization. A church or the business can get strangled by the very one who started it if they fail to transition. I know this is something that I must do but its not easy.
In chapter 7 Nehemiah demonstrates this important shift. If you want to build what lasts then the shift must be made. If we are to continue to grow as a church we must continue to make this shift.
To Continue to Build…
· We Must Have People Involved
“After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers and singers and Levites were appointed.” v. 1
Notice the people involved here. Gatekeepers — these were guards, watchmen, the police of the city. They were to protect and keep the peace. Singers — these were in the band. Worship was important to Israel. Levites — these were assistants to the priests.
People got involved according to their interests, talents and abilities. Notice also that leaders were appointed. We must have godly leaders.
2 “I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.”
Nehemiah makes his brother, Hanani, a civil leader, in charge of Jerusalem. Today, we’d call this guy the mayor. Then he makes Hananiah, the commander of the citadel, which is a military leader. He is like the chief of police. So he’s got gatekeepers singers, Levites, a mayor and a chief of police and Nehemiah himself was the governor of the province. Nehemiah is demonstrating one of the important tasks of leadership as any organization grows and that is the task of involving others or delegation. This is getting beyond his control so he’s giving up responsibility, spreading it around.
The point here is that he knew no organization can ever grow long term if it’s built on one person. A church, business, government cannot grow long term if it’s going to be built on one person. This is the shift that must be made: from one person doing it all to having others involved.
This is understandable to me since I started our church twenty years ago. When we first started I did almost everything, between Niki and I, we did it all. I printed the bulletins, I set up the chairs, I took down the chairs, I planned the service, I did the message, I took the offering to a bookkeeper. I put out signs and banners, mailed mailers, I wrote letters to everyone, I answered the phone. I did it all that. But my goal all along has been to grow the church and share the ministry. Most pastors are ministry hogs. They do it all and keep doing it all! That’s not the biblical model. Jesus had 12 disciples and gave them the ministry. The point is, the church should raise up other leadership and other people, other staff, other workers and share the ministry. Basically after five years, the only thing I was holding on to that other people were not doing were the messages. Then in 2005 I began to share that too, first with Brian Shanklin, now with 3 other guys! If I were the only hired holy man in this church then we’d not be effective or grow without involvement of others. There is a limit to one person’s ability, time, effort, energy, talent, knowledge.
I care so much about our leaders because they get it. They want to make a difference for Christ. We often talk about being an effective church. We often talk about growing. We often talk about reaching our community.
And first key to building your dreams is to get others involved, like we have done with our leaders. Maybe you want to be involved here at Upwards Church. We welcome that!
Something else that is important…
· We Must Keep On Organizing Our Efforts
We record just about everything we can: attendance, offering, small groups, guests, decisions for Christ, baptisms, and even more. We have all our Connection cards in a database, Bonnie and Tessa keeps records of all that and more. Why?
So we can keep on organizing for effectiveness. In a growing organization you need to keep track of the people. The second thing that Nehemiah did in this chapter is take a census. Not only does he find out how many there are but he finds out who they are. There are three complete lists of people. They don’t mean a lot to you or me but they meant a lot to Nehemiah. People were important to Nehemiah.
4 Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. 5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return.
He had an accounting of the people. An important part of management is to keep good records. One of the characteristics of a good church, a good organization, is they know who’s in it. A church with two locations and with new people all the time, it’s pretty difficult to keep on top of it all. Fortunately we have Bonnie, Tessa and a several databases!
We have every Connection card ever filled out in a database. If you’ve filled out a Membership card, it has more information that helps us organize even more.
Also we have re-organized the best way for people to grow spiritually. What is best is this based on our purpose: Love God (Great Commandment) worship service weekly, Love People, get in a Connect Group to build meaningful relationships, be known and be prayed for. Then, Share Jesus (Great Commission) get involved in a ministry team, or mission team or community outreach. That is a healthier way to grow spiritually. So if you are wondering what your next step is after attending church on Sundays? It’s a Connect Group! See the pictures on the wall with the days and times, mens, womens, youth, couples.
We’re also getting organized in how we present the scriptures. We’re going through the entire bible in 5 years. We want to cover each book, and try to cover all the major characters and all the major doctrines of the bible over a five year period! This will give us traction, direction and a clear plan for entire church. For too many years, I was guilty of choosing topics I wanted or the congregation wanted and we leave some books and topics untouched. When is the last time you heard a message from Haggi or Zephaniah? You will in the next five years! What if you get to heaven and Hagii walks up to you and says, “how did you like my book?”
Each Connect Group and ministry team will talk about that week’s subject in group. Just give us 5 years & see if you don’t grow closer to Christ & your family as we go through the bible together.
There’s a third emphasis that Nehemiah focused on. It’s something that some people don’t like to talk about but it’s an emphasis of a growing business or a growing church.
· We Must Give Financially to God’s Work
Isn’t interesting that the God who does so many miracles for his people doesn’t just build the temple and furnish it miraculously? No he gets his people to give in order to build, furnish and maintain the temple. The third thing Nehemiah did was raise the money needed for restoring the Temple.
Some of the heads of the families contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 drachmas of gold, 50 bowls and 530 garments for priests. 71 Some of the heads of the families gave to the treasury for the work 20,000 drachmas of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. 72 The total given by the rest of the people was 20,000 drachmas of gold, 2,000 minas of silver and 67 garments for priests. Nehemiah 7:70-72
Notice the order of the giving. First the leaders set the example. I can tell you here that our key leaders and staff are faithful givers and set this example. Second, the heads of families gave their gifts. Third, everybody else gave. If you were to add this all up it’s more than five million dollars in our terms of money. It takes money to do God’s work! We are a member supported church, which means we don’t get money from the church of England or a denomination, from Dell or Disney we get money from our members. Look around and that is who does the giving.
There are 7 ways you can give today.
- You can give by cash or check – Using the Giving Envelope found in your program place cash or a check in an offering box. Offering boxes are located through the double doors as you exit the auditorium and throughout the building.
- To give by Debit Card, Mastercard or VISA, or you can complete the credit card section of the offering envelope and place in an offering box.
- Or you can use a credit or debit card at the Kiosk just outside the auditorium.
- You can also complete the giving section of the offering envelope, insert your check, cash or credit card information & mail it. No postage is necessary.
- Another way to give is Bill Pay. Log into your own banking website, add Upwards Church as a payee and your bank will send your offering to Upwards Church as a check directly from your bank account.
- To give Online, go to Upwards Church website and click “Giving”. Choose the type of giving and complete the form with your credit card information.
- Plus my favorite and fastest way to give is through the Tithely giving app. Just go the Google or Apple app stores, type in Tithely, find Upwards Church and follow the instructions.
Thank you for your faithful giving. Every dollar helps to change lives!
We have talked about Building God’s Way, did you know that God wants to build your life? It’s to have purpose, significance and meaning. It comes through knowing Christ and serving him. Today you can say, “I know God you have plans for my life, I will give my life to Christ.” Today you can say, “I am ready to be involved. Today you can say, “I need to help financially. It takes money to build God’s kingdom, I will do my part.” Thank you Lord for this church, for the lives that are changing, for the vision you have given us. Help us be all we can for your sake, in Jesus Name.
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