August 7, 2016 – manuscript


Nehemiah 4:14-20

In chapter 2, we learned about two guys, Sanballat and Tobiah, who were giving the Jewish community are hard time for attempting to rebuild what had been broken for many decades.  The Israelites had accepted a task that would require a vision outside of themselves partnering with their hardest efforts to complete.

In chapter 3, we learned about the individuals and families who worked diligently to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  We learned how the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem led the way by consecrating and preserving the worship environment.  We also learned about a group of people who refused to participate in the process.  Most of the chapter is a list of the contributors and what section they worked on.

In chapter 4, Sanballat and Tobiah return to the construction site.  We’re told they are “jeering at the Jews”.  One who jeers is a person who mocks and ridicules others.  This type of behavior is very sinful and never gives God maximum glory.  This type of person doesn’t make a great friend.  Sanballat and Tobiah embrace the stereotype to the fullest.  Tobiah said the wall is so inadequate that a fox could break it down.  This fox would have to be dinosaur-sized because the wall was 8 feet thick.

I love Nehemiah’s response in verse 4-6; he gave the situation to God and kept right on working.  Verse 6 reads, “So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”

Small accomplishments build momentum

Over the last ten days, Bridget and I replaced a 40-year old retaining wall made of railroad ties.  It was rotten, ugly and falling apart.  It needed to go.  The easy part of the project was tearing down the old wall.  We had some drainage issues in our backyard, so we had a guy come with a bobcat to re-slope the yard and he picked up the old wall and moved it pretty easily.  The hard part came on Monday morning when it was time to for a level foundation that extended twenty-one feet.  The spiritual gift of craftsmanship does not exist in me; it was easy to get frustrated and second guess our decision to tackle the project ourselves.  We survived Monday and Tuesday came.  Layers of the wall began going up and we could see progress.  Our progress became social media worthy.  Success brought momentum and the project became more manageable as we went on.  Small accomplishments became major victories because they defeated any discouragement and continued building momentum.

The same principle was true for Israel.  Discouragement was upon them and they needed to continue to rebuild.  As completing the lower circle was within reach, the more excitement grew about the task that was before them.

This morning, I want to give you three steps to building momentum.  As we go through Nehemiah and Vertical Church, I will give some input on church practices to implement that will rebuild the healthy, vibrant, growing church that many of you have loved for years.  Our focus will be on the process.

Do not operate in fear or skepticism.

The beginning stage of rebuilding is ripe to second guess the process.  Verse 12 says “at that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, ‘you must return to us.’”  Those outside of Jerusalem didn’t understand why they were rebuilding.  It sounds like those around them thought they were wasting their time and energy on a rebuild.  They could have had an easier life if they went with their neighboring Jews.  It probably would have been easier to go to another church where you already know people, but God didn’t release you to leave.  As the remnant, you have a divine responsibility.  You have a part to fill, a role to play, a task to complete that nobody else can accomplish in the rebuilding of First Baptist Church.

Some have the gift of teaching children that is sitting idle inside you.  Some have the gift of teaching adults that has been put on hold.  Some have the gift of intercession that needs to be spread like seeds in a field.  Some of you have the gifts of encouragement or hospitality that have not yet reached their fullest potential.  Some of you have the ability to equip others to take over where veterans left off but haven’t yet put it to practice.

I want to encourage with a line from an old movie. “If you build it, they will come”.  A symptom that indicates a church might be operating out of fear or skepticism, is this line, “We can’t build it, because they don’t come.”  About eight years ago, I noticed several teens who were biblically illiterate.  My solution had two levels.  First, I kept stretching those teens to become Bible readers.  I made that group of teens uncomfortable, but years later they began to thank me.  Second, I introduced our children’s ministry to a program called AWANA.  It’s started with twenty kids.  Last school year, about 120 kids from around the community would come every Wednesday night to play games and memorize Scripture.  The dream is reachable when a church operates within a purpose.

Give each other your support.

16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

When the Israelites decided they would not be defeated, a transformation occurred.  From that day on, nobody looked backward.  The focus was sharp and intentional.  Half of the people did hard labor while the other half was armed for battle at any moment.  The spiritual leaders were on alert and gave direction.  The rebuilding of the wall became a well-oiled machine because each person gave his/her support to everybody else.  Here are some suggestions to give your support to one another.

First, give some time to the church landscaping.  If several families came together for an hour a month, First Baptist Church would have the best landscaping in Warren.  If you think landscaping is not a big issue, I would like to re-align your thoughts.  If you’re in the market for a new house, your first impression is curb appeal.  People draw conclusions about the inside of the house based on the curb appeal as they approach the property.  The landscaping of a church building communicates the level of excitement on the inside of the building.

Second, give time to developing the best children’s ministry in Warren.  A highly valuable resources to explore is the Orange Tour.  Giving each other support with children’s ministry and youth ministry means that children and youth become the most important generation in the church.  This generation should be abundantly poured into by every other generation.  Children and youth ministries should become such a priority there is a waiting list for people to join the ministry teams.  Yes, a team.  No one person or couple should ever feel like they are doing ministry alone.  That’s not supportive ministry; that’s silo ministry.  God is not honored and is not given maximum glory with silo ministries.

Third, pay close attention to what you’re good at.  If every member of First Baptist Church gave their best effort to what they’re good at, then First Baptist Church would never lack support and would lead the community in giving God maximum glory.

Learn to value prayer

19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.”

The Israelites were busy giving one another support while they were busy attending to their area of responsibility.  As a result, verse 19 tells us they were spread out and separated.  Nehemiah’s instructions to Israel was to go to the place where the trumpet sounds.  The trumpet signified an attack or engaging in a battle.  The word rally means harvest.  Every Israelites was to gather in that place.  Nehemiah’s next words were “our God will fight for us.”

It is not enough to be an individual who prays.  The text describes the whole assembly coming together to allow God to fight for them.  Corporate prayer is essential to building momentum.  While there are some who value prayer individually, God is most honored and receives maximum glory when congregations spend time prayer together.

I was at a conference several years ago where I heard this line.  If you can do ministry in your own power, you have not yet reached God’s highest calling for your life.  A church that operates in its own ability, will not give God maximum glory.  A church that operates in its own ability will never reach what God designed the church to become.  A church that does not pray will never experience long-term fruit and momentum.

Was is your part in creating small accomplishments?