Monday, October 29, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 5: Handling Conflict

(Nehemiah 5:1-19) God’s people had been busy rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem but work on had ground to a halt. The people were exhausted and on the brink of ruin. They were no longer concerned about the vision. What good was a wall if you had nothing to eat?

Nehemiah listened to the people’s complaints. There was a famine, and the people were hungry. Landowners had to mortgaged their property to buy food and lenders were squeezing profits out of their brother’s misery. Many had their homes foreclosed and family members were used as collateral. If a man could not repay a loan, his wife and children could be sold as slaves.

Nehemiah was angry over the injustice, oppression, and disunity in the body. While it was not against God’s law to loan money to one another, they were not to act like predatory lenders and take advantage of a tough situation (Deuteronomy 23:19-20.) However, Nehemiah’s anger was controlled and constructive. He paused, took a deep breath and thought about it for a while before confronting the issue.

Then, Nehemiah publicly confronted the people whose greed had created the strife. Correcting any problem begins by facing it head-on. As Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud.”

Nehemiah put the vision on hold in order to address an issue of right and wrong. He kept the stakes high by reminding the people that their abuse of the people had the same negative impact on their witness as the broken-down walls. He called them to obedience and required all property returned, debts forgiven, and slaves freed.

Nehemiah teaches us that conflict can come even during revival but we must be the church before we can build the church. There is a connection between the effectiveness of our mission and how we treat each other. We must learn to care for one another before we can hope to reach our community for Christ.

Relational problems are inevitable and can’t be ignored. Even though it’s painful and it may seem easier to avoid or deny relational problems, we must face conflict head-on. Otherwise, it will grow deep roots and bear bitter fruit.

Rather than trying to be right, our goal must restoring the relationship. We’re not to defeat our brothers and sisters but to build them up, resolve the issue and get back to kingdom work.

God’s work is at risk when we have conflict. Some among God's people who are out for themselves. They want their needs met even if it is at the cost of someone else. Some want power, some want recognition, some want money. 

Like Nehemiah, the wise leader will think before speaking. Sometimes disunity comes from things that are said in the heat of the moment. Nehemiah considered his situation carefully and regained unity among the people. The result was that God's work resumed. 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1  


Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll

Monday, October 22, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 4: Opposition and Discouragement

(Nehemiah 4:1-23) Dealing with criticism is one of the greatest challenges a leader will face. Nehemiah didn’t face opposition because he was doing something wrong. He faced opposition because he was doing what was right. He was serving God by leading a revival in Jerusalem.

It hurts when people misjudge your motives and doubt your sincerity. It is hard to keep going when under attack by the constant clatter of their critics. Some critics feel threatened by the success of a new leader others have a different agenda. Sometimes that agenda is self-serving.

The first wave of criticism came by way of insult and ridicule. “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” (Nehemiah 4:2)

“What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:3)

Insult and ridicule are easy cheap shots aimed to demoralize the leader and people by striking at the of the insecurity that we all have.

When the mocking failed, threats of violence ensued. Nehemiah had to post a guard and the people had to prepare for battle. Although the battle never came, the stress was wearing down the wall-builders. God's servants can lose heart when opposition arises. Even if the opposition is clearly wrong, some will simply quit.

The people of Jerusalem were initially excited. They began the work with great anticipation and joy but something happened when the wall was built to half its height. Fatigue led to frustration and then to discouragement. The work now seemed harder and more dangerous.

Nehemiah's response is instructive to church leaders today. First, he stayed focused on the mission and turned the rest over to God. Focusing on the insults will distract us from our mission. Turn them over to God and keep moving! When Abraham Lincoln, was told that he should make a statement to attempt to minimize the damage of the criticism made against him he replied, “I will not give an answer to these fools. My enemies will not believe my answer and my friends do not need it.”

Secondly, Nehemiah reorganized the work. He put guards at all the vulnerable spots and prepared for battle. The mission did not change but the environment did. Like Nehemiah, the church must adapt, too. We must keep our eyes on our mission and purpose and find ways to accomplish them in our current circumstances. Paradoxically, if the church is to remain the same (in mission) it must change (in method).

The success of the wall was dependent upon God who inspired its beginning. Nehemiah battled enemies and discouragement by keeping focus on God and His mission. He said, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

The right response to opposition is to press forward with the mission of God. Opposition must not stop the work of the church. Despite opposition from within & without, we have confidence in God’s promise that: “...greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)

Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 3: Setting the Stage for Revival

(Nehemiah 2:11-2:20) As we observe Nehemiah set the stage for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, we discover principles for setting the stage for church revival. He evaluated the situation, recruited workers and faced down his critics.


Nehemiah left as soon as his documentation was in order. He arrives at Jerusalem with the King's permission to rebuild the walls and authorization to take timber from the King's forest. He is also escorted by the King's troops. It seems that the need for building permits was not created by our society.

He paused for three days to evaluate the work. He toured the city and noted the condition of the walls. He looked for resources, potential leaders and measured the morale of the city. A leader who seeks to guide a church through renewal must do the same. Moving a church from decline to growth is a difficult task that is filled with peril. What are the causes for decline? Those issues that can be addressed must be prioritized. Who are the gatekeepers? How much will it cost and how will it be financed?


Nehemiah recruited help by appealing directly to the people. He knew that the current leadership could not fix the problem. Too often, it's the leaders who say it can't be done. God needs a Nehemiah type to come in, find resources and cheer the church on fulfill God's mission. There are countless churches all over America that are told they can't. Maybe denominational consultants can't. Maybe church leaders and pastors can't. BUT GOD CAN!

Nehemiah was open and honest about the condition of the walls and gates; the work would be hard. Then he said, "Let us rebuild."
I heard a preacher say, “Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel.”

He presented the spiritual perspective. The ruins of Jerusalem represented their spiritual disgrace. The collapsed walls gave the pagans the idea that the God of Israel has abandoned his people. A building project is more than just brick and mortar. There are spiritual opportunities and challenges. Nehemiah assured them that God’s hand was in it. It’s God’s mission and He will give the victory.

They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work”


God's people can expect persecution when we do his work. Jesus promised us we would, “...they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20 NIV)

He also said we would be blessed for ours is the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NIV)

Nehemiah's arrival under the King's authority diminished the power of some local big shots. They mocked and ridiculed and said that Nehemiah was breaking the law. Verbal onslaughts have always been part of the enemy’s demoralizing tactics.

When a church starts coming together to do God's work after a long period of apathy, Satan puts it into high gear. Slanders, whispers of discontent, stubborn opposition and vicious attacks will come from people who were once quiet and sweet. God's people can become discouraged by such action but now is the time to persevere. Satan's howls are indications that the church is coming back to life.

Nehemiah doesn’t answer their lies or engage in a conversation with them. Nor does he ignore them. He declares, “The God of heaven will give us success.”

He doesn’t let their criticism stop the work that God wanted done. He says, “We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

Those who ridicule and mock and threaten miss out on God’s plan. Now that is leadership at its best, keeping a biblical perspective toward the opposition.

When we follow God, we should expect spiritual opposition and even be thankful for it. It’s a sign that we’ve angered the enemy and encroached on some territory that He thinks is his. If there’s no conflict or opposition, then we’re probably not disturbing the enemy enough.

the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4

Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll