If your church is not changing, it’s not growing. I heard someone once say, “Don’t be afraid of change. You might lose something good, but you’ll gain something better.” However, bringing change in a church is often difficult. One of the greatest leaders of all time, Nehemiah, effected change in the setting that surrounded the building of the wall around Jerusalem. He modeled for leaders three essentials necessary to bring change.
In Nehemiah 5, after Nehemiah faced opposition from without (criticism from his adversaries) and opposition from within (discouraged people), he faced a new crisis. Wealthy Jews were exploiting the poor by charging excessive interest rates. As a result, the poor faced hunger, crippling debt, and even slavery because some had to sell their children into slavery to pay off the debts.
In the midst of that crisis Nehemiah engaged three essentials that resulted in the guilty party changing. The rich repented of their abuse and paid back the money they had taken from the poor.
He engaged these three parts of himself to bring that change.
His heart: he engaged his passion.
In verse 6 he writes, When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. In other words, this issue gripped his heart. It stirred his passion and emotions that motivated him to action.
His head: he carefully thought.
Rather than reacting to the situation and letting his emotion override good judgment, verse 7 says, I pondered them in my mind…. In other words, he paused long enough to get a clear picture of things before he acted. James reminds of this.
James 1.19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
His hands: he did something.
Finally, he took action by taking these four steps.
- Define reality by clearly defining the change you want to bring (the rich were exploiting the poor and that needed to stop).
- Bring the right people to the table (vss 7-12). He had to engage the right people to solve the problem. So, he confronted the guilty party and informed the rest of the people what he had discovered.
- Secure commitment (v 12). He held the guilty accountable by asking them to take an oath that they would give back what they had taken.
- Set a good example (vss 14-16). Nehemiah didn’t simply expect others to change. He, too, took responsibility by setting a good example. He sacrificed by refusing the king’s food allotment usually given to governors like himself. He committed to never exploiting the people as former leaders had. He committed to being a different kind of leader.
Nehemiah wisely managed change by using his heart, his head, and his hands to effect that change.
What has helped you create change in your church or ministry?