Friday, September 28, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 2: Three Leadership Qualities Needed for Revival

(Nehemiah 2:1-10) Nehemiah demonstrated three qualities that a leader needs in order to revitalize and renew the ministry of a church. The first of these is Patience.

Nehemiah waited four months before an opportunity arose to present his plans for rebuilding Jerusalem to the King. When a leader has a vision, there is the immediate desire to proclaim it to the world. If this is done too quickly, the results can be disastrous. Timing is vital to the success of a new idea.

Nehemiah's patience was rewarded when the King asked him what was wrong. One-on-one conversations with the King were rare and often unexpected. Nehemiah then demonstrated the second leadership quality needed for revival: Preparation.

During the four months of waiting Nehemiah prayed and prepared. He had an answer for all the King's questions. He knew how long it would take, what documents were required and where to acquire the needed construction material. Church leaders must likewise be prepared when presenting plans to the church. Critics will blow holes in a plan that is poorly presented, placing the leader in a defensive posture that will carry over to the next big idea.

Like Nehemiah, leaders need to be ready when an opportunity arises. One of the marks of an effective church is how quickly it can take advantage of a ministry opportunity. Had Nehemiah not been ready, it might have been another four months before he was summoned by the King again.

The third leadership quality needed for revival is the most essential. Nehemiah relied on God's Providence. God is always working behind the scenes. He places us right where He wants us. God landed Nehemiah a job that gave him an inside track to the King.

A big job requires big faith. Nehemiah knew the King's heart had to be changed. He had previously issued an order against rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Proverbs teaches, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (Proverbs 21:1). The King granted all of Nehemiah’s requests.

Nehemiah gave God all the glory. He gave testimony to the goodness of God, “…and because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests” (Nehemiah 2:8).

Only God could have brought about such a dramatic change in the King’s mind and the Jerusalem's destiny. Nehemiah was meticulous in his planning but it would not have been enough were it not for the Lord’s perfect timing, constant guidance, and overruling provision.

God has put in you in this place at this time. What you do and where you are right now is no accident. What vision has God given you? Will you follow the biblical example of Nehemiah?

The wise man looks ahead.
Proverbs 14:8

Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll

Monday, September 24, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 1: Prayer and Patience are Needed for Revival

Sometimes church consultants will look at a particular church and declare it too far gone to be renewed. The building is too run down and the people too tired and demoralized. They usually recommend that a church like this celebrate its past and shut the doors.

Its easy to get used to worshiping in a rundown building. Deterioration can happen so slowly that its hardly noticed by regular attendees. However, the cumulative effect is what visitors see. A church that needs paint and yard work can give the impression of spiritual decline.

Jerusalem had become run down like a neglected inner-city church. Once the center of worship for God's people, now it was a slum. The Israelites had been allowed to return from their exile but after many years the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins. The physical condition of the city reflected the spiritual condition of its inhabitants. They had become content and learned to live among the rubble.

Nehemiah was heartbroken when he heard the news and decided to do something about it. He was an exiled Israelite who worked directly for the King of Persia. He had a burden to rebuild Jerusalem and was in a position to make it happen.

Vision begins with a dissatisfaction over the way things are. One person can get the ball rolling and soon others will join in. Even a simple act of painting the church or cleaning out a classroom can lift the spirits of the members. They will start to think about the future and talk about their church.

Godly change begins with prayer. Nehemiah prayed and waited patiently for months before an opportunity presented itself. The great revivals in history have all begun with the prayers of God's people.

Our hearts ought to break at the sight of a rundown church the way Nehemiah's was broken over the ruins of Jerusalem. We need people with a Nehemiah spirit to pray and work toward revival in our churches.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.
The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. 
For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 1:3-4

Recommended Reading: Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Remember the Future

“Some churches have been managing decline for so long that they have lost sight of the future,” says Gerald Kuecher in Remember the Future: Financial Leadership and Asset Management for Congregations.
Fear motivates church leaders to make short-sighted decisions that focus on the the crisis of the moment. However, the skills that allow a church to survive are not the ones that lead to growth. Fear creates a negative dynamic of complaining and stinginess that drives people away from the church.

Long before a church reaches the point of no return, where the building has deteriorated and the congregation has dwindled to an unsustainable level, leaders started making decisions that sold out the future. The sacrifices of past generations were mismanaged by the present group, leaving nothing for the future. We are reminded of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) where a servant is called wicked for hiding money he was given to invest.

Churches that own property, however modest, have inherited a legacy from a past generation who believed in the future. Keucher reminds current church leaders that their church has a future and they ought to leave the next generation of leaders a stronger situation than the one they received. Planning should, therefore, look to the farthest horizon and building maintenance ought not be deferred.

Churches that believe they have a future and share a compelling vision will attract new members. Both new and current members will be motivated to financially support a church that has a future. Even past members may want to help preserve the building for which they hold such fond memories. Moreover, they will want to leave a legacy for future generations.

Fearful churches feel alone and forgotten but there are resources for those who will believe in and work towards the future. We must never forget that our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Perhaps Nehemiah was mindful of this when he requested permission and resources from the King of Persia to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
 Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Staying on course

During an orienteering exercise in the Army, I was given a map and a compass and a destination. It was simple enough but I ran into an obstacle. Between myself and my destination was a murky, swollen creek of unknown depth. I decided to find a way around it so I made course corrections and reached my destination later than I anticipated but dry and free of leeches.

There are some leadership lessons here:

1. You need to know to your destination. A church needs a clear vision; an understanding and agreement about a preferred future. The clearer the vision the greater the congregational motivation to achieve it.

2. There is more than one way to get there. I could have chosen the dirty (perhaps dangerous) route through the swampy water. Instead, I took the time to weigh the alternatives and chose a longer but cleaner route. If church leaders get in a rush they can make a mess of things resulting in hurt feelings and lost members.

3. Course corrections are required. I've read that NASA made over 1000 course corrections to reach the moon. Even when the vision is clear adjustments are required. There may obstacles or opportunities but knowing the destination allows for good decisions.

In 2002 Baptist Temple went through a vision casting process that involved the whole church. The result was a well written document that outlined goals that were practical, measurable and achievable. It was this document that convinced to accept the call to serve as pastor of the church 3 years ago. Much of what has been achieved in the past few years at Baptist Temple are a result of this document. A few course corrections were needed.

Although the process was called VISION 2012, the document is as vital today as it was 10 years ago. What is needed are course corrections.

All of Baptist Temple is invited to a Long-Range planning workshop to think about what we need to continue implementing the action plan that was painstakingly outlined 10 years ago. We will meet on Friday, October 12 and Saturday morning, October 13.

In the meantime be sure to read the 2002 vision statement.