Change is a necessity but rarely is it readily accepted. Innovation, flexibility, and growth all require changes to take place at personal and organizational levels. How does this happen? Specifically, how does this happen in churches? Might I suggest this pathway: 1) a burden, 2) faith, 3) strategy and implementation, and 4) endurance.
Nehemiah and Ezra are two post-exilic texts that focus on the required changes for Israel’s remnant to regain their place. Ezra details the religious changes that needed to happen. Nehemiah focuses on social, political, and religious changes as the protective wall around Jerusalem is rebuilt. For the next couple of posts, I will be focusing on how the suggested pathway comes from Nehemiah’s example. Having a genuine burden for change is up first.
We must feel the weight of a burden.
In the first chapter of Nehemiah, the protagonist of the book (Nehemiah) is given terrible news about the condition of Jerusalem. In 1:4, after hearing the news, Nehemiah mourns several days and begins to pray and fast before God. The remainder of the chapter records his prayer to God, and we are very quick to note that he is asking God to help with a load of care he now feels in his heart.
This burden affected his usual disposition (2:1-2), and it grew even more as he saw the devastation for himself (2:12-18). We must have a burden over something before we are convicted of doing something about it. John Wesley wrote in his sermon, “On Visiting the Sick…”
“One great reason why the rich, in general, have so little sympathy for the poor, is, because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is, that, according to the common observation, one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know: they keep out of the way of knowing it; and then plead their voluntary ignorances an excuse for their hardness of heart. “Indeed, Sir,” said person of large substance, “I am a very compassionate man. But, to tell you the truth, I do not know anybody in the world that is in want.” How did this come to pass? Why, he took good care to keep out of their way; and if he fell upon any of them unawares “he passed over on the other side.” (Click here to read the rest)
When we are close to the problem, our heart will feel the weight of it. If change is to happen, we must feel close to it and allow it to be close to us. We must have a vision of the reality around us if we are going to do anything about it. Let our pray be, “Lord, open our eyes to see the hurt in those around us. Give us a burden to share in their pain and the motivation to do something in Your Name.”