Monthly Archives: July 2014

Nehemiah: Character Needed to Facilitate Change

Character, we cannot get away from bringing up the issue of character in almost every practice we do.  Although we can learn skills and do them outwardly while there is something dormant or even rotting inwardly, we can only do our best when there is congruence.  Nehemiah is clearly a congruent man.

Leadership researchers Kouzes and Posner concluded after studying thousands of leaders from all over the world that the most desired quality of a leader is credibility.  “Credibility is mostly about consistence between words and deeds.  People listen to the words and look at the deeds. Then they measure the congruence.  A judgment of ‘credible’ is handed down when the two are consonant” (Credibility. How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It. p. 47).  In a later writing they affirm that the most important personal quality people look for and admire in a leader is personal credibility.  “This finding has been so consistent for over twenty years that we’ve come to call it ‘The First Law of Leadership’” (Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. p. 120).

Credibility is key for successful leadership.  People will follow leaders of solid character who clearly know where they are going and why they should be going there.  Nehemiah exemplified a credibility that enabled him to effectively lead change.

He was willing to get personally involved.
He patiently waited on the best timing.
He persevered/endured through challenges.
He showed respect for his superiors.
He made requests with tact and graciousness.
He identified himself with the common people.
He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles.
He was calloused to detrimental criticism.
He had the courage to do what was right, a concern for justice.
He was compassionate toward those in need.
He was unselfish.
He was honest in his assessments.
He had a strong personal sense of stewardship.
Along with these noticeable character qualities we see in Nehemiah, we see the results of the tests he navigated that refined his character and platformed him for growing credibility and contribution.  Consider these obvious ones.

1. Test of approaching the King. (2:1-3)

2. Test of getting to Jerusalem. (2:7-8; Ezra 8:21-23)

3. Test of motivating and mobilizing people. (2:17-20)

4. Test of external opposition. (4:1-23; 6:1-14)

5. Test of internal opposition. (5:1-13; 13:1-31)

A.W. Tozer has been quoted as saying, “God rarely uses a man mightily until He has hurt a man deeply.”  Hurt comes in a variety of ways.  But, God does not waste the hurt and pain.  He allows the negative processes and the challenges to strengthen character which in turn enables greater effectiveness for ministry.

So, what is your current credibility quotient?  How much congruence is there between what others see of you and what is unseen?  Don’t skip over this question too quickly.  If something is rotting within it is only a matter of time until it surfaces.  A full anointing of Hoy Spirit power resides with congruent men and women.  For the sake of the advance of the Gospel and the glory of God, let us reaffirm our commitment to the Lord to be and to become.

Next Blog: Skills needed to Facilitate Change




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Nehemiah: The Dynamic Change Agent

Nehemiah obviously had great natural talent and acquired skill.  He rose to a prominent role in the cabinet of the King of Babylon, Artaxerxes, around 445 B.C., and served well.  He was also a very sensitive man concerning his calling and stewardship in life.  When the plight of his fellow countrymen in Jerusalem became known, he empathized with them.  After personal reflection he concluded that he was in the best position to bring about change and was willing to leave a comfortable situation to serve in a difficult one.

First, let us think with the end in mind.  The final evaluation of a change situation, whether in ministry or home, is 1) whether desired change has occurred, 2) was the change process efficient with minimal unnecessary costs, and 3) was the change introduced sustained?  Clearly, Nehemiah facilitated a change process that people marvel at today.  Completing a project of the magnitude of rebuilding the walls around a city the size of Jerusalem in 52 days was nothing short of miraculous.  He seemed to do so very efficiently and with minimal waste.  So, there are many positive lessons to learn from this life of a dynamic change agent.

1.  The first act toward introducing change was to reflect and pray about the problem.  About four months went by during which Nehemiah was preparing his best solution to the problem.  He became emotionally involved in the need of the people by better understanding their difficulty.

2.  When the time was right, he courageously suggested his solution to the King that included his request to serve as the person to bring about the change.  When the response was favorable, Nehemiah was prepared to lay out his plan with all the details of what would be needed to bring about the rebuilding of the wall.  He was received well in part because his plan was sound.

3.  After final approval was given and supplies were gathered, Nehemiah led a small group of people over 1000 miles to Jerusalem.  Upon arriving at Jerusalem, he took three days to do research and reflect once again on how best to introduce the change process.  New information was integrated into his existing plan.

4.  When Nehemiah communicated his purpose for coming to Jerusalem and his plan for rebuilding the wall, he did so by recounting all the clear evidence up to that time that would build confidence in the probable success of the plan.  He was optimistic and realistic.

5.  After persuading the people that this was the right thing to do, he mobilized people in teams according to their natural interest.  People worked on the wall near their residence where they had vested interest in the quality of the final product.

6.  When opposition arose from enemies or internal squabbles he provided a model of courage, tenacity, and decisiveness.  He did not let small setbacks derail the project but kept himself and the people focused.  He initiated solutions to solve legitimate problems.

7.  Nehemiah was out working alongside of the people in building the wall.  People saw his personal commitment to bringing about change.  He invested his personal financial resources to show his solidarity and purity of motive.

8.  When complications occurred along the way, Nehemiah took the time needed to reflect on the best course of action.  A wrong move could have resulted in setbacks.  Perseverance is often the key to seeing change eventually occur.

9.  In Nehemiah’s case, outside assistance was needed to overcome obstacles.  Through divine intervention in response to prayer, he saw opposition silenced.

10.  It is one thing to complete the initial project and another to see lasting change occur.  Important to lasting change is for select people to have solid convictions as to the ongoing benefits who can in turn provide leadership.  Periodic intervention may be needed to deal with routine setbacks.  More on this matter in a later blog.

What change process is on your heart and mind?  Which of these principles from the life of Nehemiah can assist you in seeing deep change occur?

Next Blog: Character needed to Facilitate Change







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Change Dynamics

One of the more important topics for leaders to understand and in which to gain competency is how to facilitate change.  Before taking several blogs to look at a great biblical model who did just that—facilitated an amazing change process—let’s consider the topic more generally.

In the classic reference for Leading Change, John Kotter clearly and convincingly shows eight essential components for systemic change to happen (  Kotter focuses on change within an organization or some context.  Jim Collins in Good to Great vividly illustrates the change process with that of a flywheel (  Watch this stimulating 2 minute video.  Enough energy must be applied over time if the flywheel is to have enough momentum to continue on its own, or with a periodic push.

Equally important yet distinct is the internal change a leader needs to understand and experience to serve as an effective change agent.  Deep Change by Robert Quinn is a book written to help leaders discover the internal dynamics of change.  A late dear friend of mine provides a concise review of this resource ( “To make deep personal change is to develop a new paradigm, a new self, one that is more effectively aligned with today’s realities. In doing so, we learn the paradoxical lesson that we can change the world only by changing ourselves.”  (p. 9)

A leader is a change agent.  Period.  Either change is happening in a positive way that enables a person and those being influenced to move toward a preferred future or else there is an eroding due to poor leadership of inactivity or unfocused activity.  It is naïve to believe that we can stay the same and get to a better place.

Although this is easily seen in ministry and business contexts, it is equally apparent in social networks of family and friends.  How many parents have been caught off guard when children become involved in ways of thinking or behaving that are contrary to the established family norms due to outside influences?  Maybe there were times in the past when outside influences were minimal but not today.  Parent/leaders must be personally changing to keep up with the changes in society (that are not ethically or morally wrong) or they might very well experience deep pain with those they love dearly.

Change for some temperaments is like daily bread while for others it is the cod liver oil hated by many of my generation.  Whether we like change or not we must lean into the change needed to get us and those we serve to a better place.  Who ever said being an adult or a leader would be easy?

So, if change is an essential competency for every leader, what must we know, become, and do?  In the forthcoming blogs we will look at a model par excellent who led a change process that we can only stand back and marvel at.

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