Posts Tagged ‘Nehemiah’

Renewing Leaders

Posted: January 27, 2019 by Ty in Brunch & Bible
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The stories of Nehemiah and Ezra  are about returns from exile. Communities growing and changing, rebuilding themselves. Deciding what is the important pieces of their historical story, and what needs to be left to the shadows. How many people and organizations are in this flux currently? Mainline or evangelical churches?

There are some keys lessons within these stories to be teased out. The first is a belief in what one is called to do. Nehemiah could have continued on as the cup bearer to the oppressor king, but he took a risk on something different. An act of rebuilding and renewal. I know many look to this as how devout he was, and this is probably true to hear the still quiet voice and respond, but there is still the internal struggle of change, the grieving for what is lost as one steps into the unknown.

At the rebuilding of the city wall, we get two lessons in leadership. One is being in the midst of the work with the front liners. Literally these workers were building with one hand, and had a sword in the other. Nehemiah as a leader understood the stressors that the workers were going through, the risks they were taking because he was not hidden from them. He was in the midst.

Then he would take midnight rides. Those times a leader must pull away from the day to day operations on the lines, to get to a higher plain (a balcony view some call it) to take in the whole scope of the work, the project. It can be a quiet coffee shop away from work in today’s world to remove distractions, unplugging from phone, e-mail, social media for a span of time- a day retreat, a few hours, to remove the constant white noise buzz of busyness, and rest in the silence. In the silence to hear the guidance, to renew one’s mind, heart and eyes to look anew upon what is being done.

This clarity leads to better understanding, on how to manager transition, transformation, rebuilding and renewal, while bringing as many as possible along for the ride. If there are losses, it can create a space where those are healthy transitions.

In Ezra we see the high priest, rebuilding the sacred imagery by rebuilding the temple. In ancient wars, as we see echoes of today by extremists, winning was not just beating the other army but proving one’s deity (ideology) superior to theirs by laying waste to that which they held sacred. It is in the rebuilding history guides us to the “discovery” of the lost fifth roll of the Torah- Deuteronomy. It is within this re-telling of the Law, that rules are tightened up and there is a move to transform the community. Though it still uses the same understandings, meta-narratives, and trappings that provide comfort.

It is easy when on the journey of change to want to be an iconoclast, I also enjoy blowing things up. Letting the pieces blow away in the breeze and start anew. Sometimes though, it is honouring what has come before, building the next level upon the already existing foundation. It was through this journey of renewal that the sanitized history of Israel would be produced- 1&2 Chronicles, which re-writes the stories of 1& 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, but takes out all the drama, treachery, rape, bloodshed, and well, non-holy things that the people and kings had done to end up broken and in exile. The new history was a way to highlight that when things were done as they should be, when the new-old system was working properly, things were good. It was an encouragement text. It was also a prime example of how history can change due to one’s own point of view.

As one enters into leadership, it may not be as a Paul or a Peter striking something brand new, it could very well be tasked with a vocation like Nehemiah or Ezra in rebuilding and renewing. Which do you feel called into?

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The story of Nehemiah, found in the Hebrew Bible, after the work of Ezra (the one who re-established the priestly role in Jerusalem post-Babylonian Exile) is a story of reconstruction, and illustrations of leadership. It is a short 13 chapters and it would be unfair to say that the principles I am to write about are found only in certain chapters, they go throughout the short book.

See Nehemiah had established a life for himself in Babylon, he was cup bearer to a king. Yet he was still open to the work of the Holy within his life, and got a call from God (first leadership principle: be open to hearing, not just talking, to God) and it was this call that weighed on him so the king inquired and supported his decision to lead the return to Jerusalem and rebuilidng of the wall (Principle 2: Confirmation and support of call by others).

Principle 3 is illustrated in most project management texts today, but Nehemiah did it by horseback. First he rode through the shattered city (micro level of the project), then he move up higher to be able to see the whole city in ruins (Macro level) to inform his plan. So being able to see an issue/project on all levels, or being able to remove yourself from a situation to the higher plain.

But I have skipped ahead for there are two imporant principles within #2 to be teased out.

2.1 Spiritual companionship with The Holy Mystery. Or some would say prayer, but that is living in a constant reflective relationship with the Holy.

2.2 Removing barriers to forward movement (as seen when the king provided letters of passage). What are the challenges you will face? Who in your network can aid in their removal?

Principle 4 is delegation. That is Nehemiah broke the project down into zones and assigned each zone to a mixed group of individuals who could accomplish that priority. That is delegation and with that in the system those individuals not only given the responsibility to complete a task, but empowered with the proper authority to do it.

Principle 5 is pragmaticism. We may want to come up with flowery theological answers, but sometimes you just need to work in shifts so half can be armed and half can work. When there was stumbling blocks, the simplest solution was the easiest one to follow to remove it to lay the ground work for success.

Principle 6 speaks to fairness, or as the prophets say justice (some translations righteousness) that is doing what is right, as we see in ensuring all are cared for. (chapters 5-7)

Principle 7 is seen brightly in chapter 6, but it illustrates that a good leader needs to have their thumb on the information pulse of a community (or for today media and new media) and be able to respond in truth, and transparency.

Principle 8 is living the Core. Nehemiah had Ezra in brin the people the Law, a renewal of the core of loving God and celebrating this.

These are 8 principles my inductive reading of Nehemiah revealed to me. What have you seen?


Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer

 

            Oswald Sanders’ (2007) Spiritual Leadership Principles of Excellence for Every Believer is an easy read, that is to say not easy concepts, but rather targeted around a grade five or six reading level, much like the daily paper. It is a resource that can be used for private study, devotional times, or better yet a small group discussion tool or within a mentoring relationship. This short review will look at whether or not this tool should be used though in those situations, not whether or not they are. To that end, what shall be reviewed are end chapter questions; main topics; and within each area commentary upon stylistics. The final thoughts from this writer are simple, like with any text on leadership it is neither the first nor last word and should be used within a context of learning and discipling.

Questions

            As we move through each chapter, at the end they have questions for personal reflection, as well current editors have added a study guide. But are these useful? By the 2007 edition, editors have also deemed the reader in need of updated language so as not to get trapped in confusion by the context of a preacher/teacher in 1967 (rather paternalistic actually, when if someone is embarking on leadership they should have the skills or have someone with them with the skills to research simple contextual answers).

            The questions themselves are rather pedestrian, and on personal reflective journaling without having the self-efficacy to bring them into your own context will be simply glanced over and simply answered.  The same can be said within a mentoring or small group study; one has to be willing to open him or her up within the depth of relationship for actual reflection fear of recrimination or abuse before more than superficial answers will be granted. It is unfortunate that these questions detract from the content of the work.

Main Topics

            Sanders is easily read, yes I am commenting from the revised edition in 2007, but forty years earlier if the rhythm of the talks was preserved, Sanders himself could be coined as another C.S. Lewis, for he does strike at the heart of the issue by using Biblical archetypes as they were intended in teasing out spiritual truths. Whether it was looking to Paul, Peter or Nehemiah he pulls out the best and worst in their leadership to build hope for the student leader. The challenge also being showing yes there are earthly examples, but a overt and covert resonance in his words is that the leader to be looked to is Christ, that is Jesus of Nazareth’s life and teachings.

            For within these we see that we are to reproduce leaders, and not to worry about replacing for the central leader of any movement of G-O-O-D is Christ (within). This centre cannot be replaced for it is eternal, what happens is transitions, and what is needed in leadership is handling transitions well so as to ensure that leadership grows under strong leadership, the true focus is kept, and through these choices as with Nehemiah—the wall is built, that is the goal is achieved.

Conclusion

            In spite of the updated language to “contemporary” that actually detracts from the message; and the “fluff” reflection questions, the text itself is a useful tool to aid a growing leader in learning some skills or theories. For the seasoned leader, it is a good reminder that in conversation with peers, mentors, and mentees if used appropriately for building ones leadership skills and self-reflection.