Monday, November 05, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 7: Living in Victory

(Nehemiah 7:1-4) After completing repairs of Jerusalem's wall, Nehemiah takes steps to consolidate and secure their victory and ensure continued growth. Churches will often plan a major effort such as high attendance day, VBS or a revival campaign. The careful planning, congregational involvement and contagious excitement result in a successful outcome. However, while basking in the glow of victory, there a tendency to relax. A “mission accomplished” attitude takes over which will limit the spiritual harvest.

Nehemiah knew that spiritual victories are short-lived and that God's enemies were still lurking outside the walls, so he appointed gatekeepers. Church leaders act as spiritual gatekeepers. Their role is not to keep certain people out but, rather, to keep people in by guarding the back door.

A large number of people who come in the front door of the church through successful outreach efforts walk out the back door through neglect. People who do not feel connected to their new church will drop out within six months. Spiritual gatekeepers can increase the ratio of newcomers who stay by creating relationship opportunities through personal follow-up, small group enrollment and fellowship opportunities.

Nehemiah also appointed singers and Levites (religious workers) to restore worship in Jerusalem. This reminds us that spiritual warfare is fought with spiritual weapons. Prayer, worship and praise are power weapons that strengthen us individually and as a church.

More leaders would be needed to keep the forward momentum. Nehemiah appointed two qualified leaders for Jerusalem so that the revival could continue and expand. It is often said that “everything rises or falls on leadership,” making leadership a limiting factor in Kingdom growth.

More workers and leaders are needed because there is still work to do. Nehemiah saw the finished walls but also noted: “the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. (Nehemiah 7:4)”

Like Nehemiah, church leaders need to identify, recruit, empower and mentor new leaders. Paul wrote, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)”

What is the potential in your church? Are there empty pews and unused classrooms? If your church is in the process of revival, keep it going by looking to the potential and creating opportunities for people to lead and serve.

Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll

Friday, November 02, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 6: Avoiding Distractions

(Nehemiah 6:1-19) The wall is finished. Nehemiah won but, even in victory, you cannot let your guard down. As you celebrate be watchful. Distractions can limit your spiritual gains and possibly reverse them. The Bible warns: “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Sometimes distractions come disguised as harmless options or even good things. Now that the wall is finished the enemies want to be friends. They were trying to trick Nehemiah into leaving Jerusalem, where he had armed support, to come to a conference where he could be ambushed. Sensing this, Nehemiah declines, saying, “I am carrying on a great project, and I cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”

Nehemiah keeps his focus and remembers his priorities; teaching us that not every opportunity is heaven sent. Even good things have the potential to distract us from the best things.

Another distraction for Nehemiah was the rumor that he wanted to be king of Jerusalem. They were saying that the wall was not meant to honor God but, rather, for Nehemiah's own benefit. People tend to believe the worse about others, especially their leaders, and lies have a way of getting a life of their own. Remember that Satan is the father of lies.

Nehemiah simply denies the rumor. He doesn’t try to disprove the accusation but merely states, “That is a lie. There is no truth in it.”

That’s the best way to respond to a charge like this; a flat denial. We must be disciplined about arguments. Saying less is more. Those who are making a difference for the Lord will always be criticized. It is tempting to spend a lot of time and emotional energy arguing our case but our supporters don't need to hear it and our accusers won't believe it. We must learn the patience to take the attacks in stride and give God the time do His work.

Nehemiah prayed to God for strength and went back to work. Although hurt and discouraged by these accusations, he was able to continue by focusing on God instead of feelings.

Many factors can distract us from keeping the main thing the main thing. Nehemiah completed his mission because his priorities were right, his discernment was keen, and his response was courageous. These three factors are vital for an urban minister who wants to fulfill his calling.

Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll