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