Fall 2017 Faith Bible Institute Schedule

All courses are free of charge!

Click the register button for more information and to register.

  • Equip Workshop – Saturday, September 23 @ 9:30am-1:30pm, Wheelersburg, Ohio – Different Speakers Register

  • Women of the Bible – Mondays, October 2, 9 & 16 @ 7:00pm-8:30pm each night, Wheelersburg, Ohio – Wilma Erwin Register

  • Revelation – Friday & Saturday, October 20 @ 7pm-8:30pm & 21st @ 9:30am-12pm, 7th Street Christian Baptist – Jeremy Kamer Register

  • Church Ledership – Friday & Saturday, November 17 @ 7pm-8:30pm & 18th @ 9:30am-12pm, Hilltop Christian Baptist – Jeremy Kamer Register

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Ch. 7)

After the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt, Nehemiah continued working to organize the people.  A vast majority of the chapter concerns a census of citizens based on a genealogy of those who first came out of exile (7:6-69).  However, a quick lesson that we learn for leadership is that families matter.  Now that the restoration of the walls and gates were completed, Nehemiah began to plan for the people’s restoration.  This meant taking care of them for populating the city and defending the future.   Chapter seven helps us understand planning for succession and growth.

Planning for Future Leaders

Delegation and leadership development is important for current leadership to consider.  One person can’t accomplish everything by his or herself.  Leaders need to delegate and therefore, empower other to lead as well.  This also makes it necessary to do leadership development.  While there needs to be training to build an individual’s skills, there also needs to a well-balanced attempt at developing a strong character for leadership.  Recently, I have been personally challenged to become more involved in leadership development in my local church.  The following is a list of some workshops I have put together for the leaders where I am the pastor.

  • Month 1: Spiritual Leadership – Exploring the F.A.S.T acronym of spiritual leadership development.
  • Month 2: Task & Skill Development – Taking your role in the local church to the next level.
  • Month 3: Effective Board Governance as Leadership – What is the purpose of a board?
  • Month 4: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – Learning to do more than one thing well.
  • Month 5: Simple Church – How to implement Church organizational best practices.
  • Month 6: Altar Work – Immediate spiritual care
  • Month 7: The Laws of Teamwork – Learn the 17 laws of working together.
  • Month 8: The Five Levels of Leadership – Learn to lead through relationships.

Planning for Succession
Nehemiah leads the charge in finding a successor to take over the defense and management of the walls and gates.  Though we would not be as keen to give positions to family, like Nehemiah did, we do see that Nehemiah’s places the qualification at the end of the second verse, “For he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.”  Voluntarily leaving an organization is never easy.  Whether it is for retirement or following the leading of God to a new place.  However, leaders understand that they will not always be here, whatever the cause.  In reality, we should be generative in our work, preparing for new leadership to eventually take our place.  Remember, a good vision typically outlives the visionary.  Our actions today should enable those who lead tomorrow.

 

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Ch. 6)

A person with integrity is seen as moral upright, whole, and undivided in ability.  Integrity in one sense deals with truth telling.  It is then displayed by people when they attempt to be consistent and cohesive in thinking and behavior.  Service is also proposed as an integral component to a leader’s integrity.  The consistency and dependability of a leader’s personality over time and through various situations adds to the notion of integrity.  Others gauge integrity through three elements: ambition, competence, and moral compass.  Stated in Proverbs 11:3, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.”  This passage speaks to the fixed principles that a person has that will provide direction that is understandable and already known to the individual.  However, the lack of an integrity results in destruction.

Nehemiah chapter six begins with the personal integrity of Nehemiah being tempted. Then the people of Israel have their integrity attacked. Finally, it shows the results of being diligent and keeping their integrity.

Personal Integrity

Up to this point, Nehemiah demonstrated many admirable qualities.  He has also shown his integrity previously.  However, one thing we note from this part of the story is that the enemy of our soul will never give up and will continue to fight till the very end.  The wall was finished, but the doors had not been set up to complete the gates (6:1).  Nehemiah’s enemies would attempt to derail his attention by setting up a meeting and eventually try to hurt him.  Nehemiah responded that he must not leave the great work that was before him.  They tried this four more times and four more times Nehemiah told them no.

What are the pieces that came together in keeping Nehemiah’s integrity?  First, he could tell the difference between that which was a great work and what was going to bring “mischief” on him (vs. 2-3, also 10-14).  Psalm 119:66 says, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.”  Having a good head on your shoulders to think through the consequences of your actions is a great help to keeping your integrity.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit and open to its leading is also great at keeping you aware of what is right for you and what is bad.

Another key aspect of integrity is the desire and ability to continue working diligently on something.  Even for myself, this is a delicate area.  It is easy to be distracted and having a short attention span is a challenge.  Yet, it is possible to keep on task and develop the ability to keep focused.  Added is that God’s presence in our life can strengthen our resolve as faithfulness to His Word and will is a key focus of Scripture.

  • Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
  • James 1:12, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
  • Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”.

Organizational Integrity

Since the enemies of Nehemiah could not destroy his integrity, they would attack the integrity of Israel.  Slander and false information were their tactics (vs. 6:5-8), and it did seem to affect everyone (vs. 9).  In our present reality, we know that we cannot control what people say about us, whether true or false.  What we can do is control our reaction.

For our organizations, especially Christian organizations, we know that God’s name will continually be put down by those in the world.  Still, churches and Christian groups can keep their integrity by remaining faithful to God and the vision He has given us.  When Nehemiah and the people became of afraid of what the outsiders were saying, they came to God and pleaded, Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9).  One of the most important tasks a leader has in an organization is to keep it focused on reaching its vision.  Alignment to the vision is a reliable indicator of an organization’s integrity.  How can the Christian leader accomplish this?  By their own faithfulness to God.

Finishing the Goal

Even though the book of Nehemiah is not finished, we find that the walls and gates are completed in this chapter.  It took 52 days for Nehemiah and the people to complete their rebuilding project.  We would expect this at the end of the book since this seems to be the big change they were working for.  However, we learn two important things from this.

First, we learn that we will eventually see the fruit of our labor.  At least in part.  Usually, a good vision outlives a person and other need to carry it on.  However, the Lord can bless us with seeing some of the good that will come from our work.  Nehemiah was able to see the walls finished and that must have been very rewarding personally and at the same time encouraging to all the people’s faith.

The second learning outcome for us is that for a change to take root and continue flourishing is that there need to be some reinforcing structures set in place.  Once we see change, we may be satisfied and stop our efforts. However, this will only lead to a return to previous ways or toward a different path with its own negative results.  We will read more from Nehemiah about how they reinforced the positive changes that were made.  At this point, we rest in knowing that the work is never truly finished.  It just takes on new directions.

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Ch. 5)

In the previous chapter, we saw how Nehemiah and God’s work was challenged by outside forces.  What happens, however, when the work of God is restrained by problems inside the organization?  Chapter five gives us a glimpse of this issue from the viewpoint of interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts.  What are those?  These words describe the relationships between other people and with our self.  As James wrote, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members” (James 4:1)?  If external challenges aren’t hard enough, we still have to deal with our own internal issues.

Interpersonal Conflict

Nehemiah 5:1-13 details a particular problem that took place between people.  Nehemiah boiled the issue down to usury, which is charging prices or interest at incredibly high rates.  When someone needed money, they would borrow a loan from some of the wealthier Jews or in a way, mortgage their house.  The lender would then charge the borrower through corrupt payments.  The borrower was being oppressed, and Nehemiah knew this was wrong when it was told to him.

A conflict between people can happen in some ways.  I always remind myself and others that any interactions have the potential for conflict.  And, some people just like to instigate trouble.  Scripture warns us about busybodies and troublemakers.  Romans 16:17 sums up the thought succinctly, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

Intrapersonal Conflict

One thing that we learn from Nehemiah and the James 4:1 passage, is that conflict between individuals occurs between of the personal conflict in people’s heart and mind.  Nehemiah 5:8-19, highlights these personal issues in the people.  They were greedy enough to sell out their friends and family (vs. 8 and 15) and had no fear of God (vs. 9).  This caused strife among the Jews and a laughing stock to outsiders.

Greed is certainly a vice in the heart of many people today.  But, it is one among many.  I think the biggest problem among the people is found in verse nine, they were not walking in the fear of the Lord.  Scripture reminds us time and time again that we are to have a healthy fear of the Lord.  We should show respect to God through our thoughts, speech, and behavior.  If we lived as Christ lived and treated others as He would have us to, there would be a lot less strife between the people of God.

People Smart

Thankfully, the people were quick to rectify their conflicts in Nehemiah’s situation (vs. 11-13).   If you’re more introverted like me, however, you really have to concentrate on developing your people skills.  Even more outgoing individuals have to shape the way they interact with others unless they become overbearing.  I would suggest the following three areas to become people smart.

  1. Understanding: realize that not everyone is the same.  There are many similarities and basic needs we all have, but there are different personalities.  It’s a good idea to learn how to relate to someone with a different worldview or personality.
  2. Communication: learn to express yourself in a clear and succinct manner.
  3. Flexible: situations and people’s moods can change quickly.  Learning to keep a level head and an open mind can keep you out of tough spots.

Spiritually Grounded

The last area I want to focus and certainly, in my opinion, the most important, is we need to be spiritually grounded.  If that’s not clear enough in the context of these previous writings, we need to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Part of the problem Nehemiah faced was people who had lost their fear of God.  They treated him as a lucky charm if even that.  Ezra the priest even had his issues with the people just a few years before Nehemiah came to work.  All of chapter five brings us to remember how important our walk is before the Lord (vs. 9, 12, 13, 15, & 19).

Spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, are among the most notable practices.  Still, observance of these disciplines does not mean anything if they do not result in the transformation of the soul.  There is no doubt these recently exiled Jews were still practicing their spiritual disciplines.  Yet, they were distant from God in their heart and their treatment of others showed this lack of spiritual depth.  It seems that Nehemiah is taking the time and space to show his future readers the importance of our relationship with God.  We are those readers and need this reminder every day.

 

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Ch. 4)

A Scripture says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1), and there is no doubt about it.  G.K. Chesterton said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies probably because they are generally the same people.”  In the case of Nehemiah, all four sides of Jerusalem were enemies.  It is their neighbors who tried to discourage them.  However, we notice that the Israelites were just like us.

Sources of Discouragement

Satan is the adversary of our soul, but much of the time, his attacks come through the behavior and words of other people.  Nehemiah and his crew had to work through many of these issues.   This chapter highlights these contentious issues as they come to a head in the building of the walls.

In verses 1-3, we see one of the first behaviors that cause discouragement.  The enemies first went after Nehemiah and the other Jews with ridicule.  Lying and accusing is the language of the devil.  They tried to belittle their qualities, deride their ambitions, mocked their optimism, attacked their enthusiasm, and undermined their confidence.  First, the enemy was vocal.

First, the opposition was vocal, and then they desired to actually fight them to hinder the work (vs. 7-8).  Sometimes, we become discouraged when the enemy attacks us by force. The devil will attack us through our health, oppress our spirit, and by corrupting our mind.  However, he knows that if he doesn’t sweep us away through direct attacks, that the constant onslaught will lead us to be burned out (vs. 10-12).  Fatigue and frustration can give way to fear.

Responding

God does not leave the believer helpless.  He empowers us with the Spirit and renews us day by day.  Nehemiah and crew received a God-given grace of determination (vs. 6, 15, 21).  Scripture points out that the people had a mind to work.  Not to condemn those in leadership or complain and criticize about the arduous task at hand.  Calvin Coolidge said, “Press on. Nothing can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not.  Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not.  Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not.  The world is full of derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are the overwhelming power!”

He also does not leave us with out tools.  Primarily, the people made use of one particular tool, the power of prayer (vs. 4-5, 9).  The thing about Nehemiah’s prayer is that he realized he must work where he can but to allow God to work where only God can work.  He prayed about the enemy because they weren’t only against the people but against the work of God.  He prayed for the people and the work.

Finally, Nehemiah encouraged the people with a good word of encouragement, direction, and organized for positive reinforcement (vs. 13-23)  He called them to remember the Lord and to fight for your loved ones, children, friends, and home.  He then equipped and positioned them to advance the work regardless of the threat.

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Ch. 3)

Projects are sometimes complicated and slow.  However, the organization of a group can prove to be a useful companion in accomplishing tasks.  Chapter three shares in a detailed log how the people were divided into groups (primarily by families) and the particular area that they rebuilt and repaired.  It is the first of four lists of names found in the book (3, 7, 10, and 11-12).  Skipping over these lists is tempting.  However, in our approach toward leadership and change, we find two critical lessons from this chapter: appreciation and strategic change.

Appreciation

I usually consider it dangerous to recognizing people during a church service as either guest or for appreciation because often someone is left out unintentionally.  Still, people like to feel appreciated.  The reward for faithfulness is great for strengthening people’s loyalty, the direction they are going, and for their personal encouragement.  This can take place with sending a letter, an uplifting word, public recognition, a gift or something else befitting the work and person receiving the appreciation.  For these people, Nehemiah is giving them an enduring legacy in God’s Word.

Strategic Change

We have already talked about burden, vision, and mission but we now change direction toward putting things to work.  For leaders to create movement from the present reality toward the future vision, the intentional creation of a strategic plan for change is needed.  And, there are plenty of good, solid theories about how change takes place.  However, when it comes to Churches, they have a unique and spiritual design.  This happens because of the focus of the church is on worshipping God and making disciples.  The goals of the church are different than that of other non-profit or profit organizations.

How should Churches proceed?  Well, the first step forward has been created in the previous two chapters.  Prayer, carrying a burden, speaking with other leaders and creating a shared vision, understanding the resources available, and the size of the task have all been important pieces of change.  First, let’s look at Scripture and its encouragement to planning as a wise endeavor if we seek to keep God first.

  • “Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel.” (Psalm 20:4)
  • “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15)
  • “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.” (Proverbs 14:8)
  • “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” (Proverbs 14:15)
  • “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
  • “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5)
  • “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28)
  • “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:15-18)
  • “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:14-15)

So, what is a strategic plan?  Basically, it is a tool for keeping an organization focused on whatever is considers to be its vision and mission.  For churches, this is making disciples. Helping individuals and families follow Jesus is our great commission.  It is easy to become distracted, and the main thing is no longer the main thing.  It helps a group become aligned in their particular gift sets, personalities, and the resources accessible to them.  It is the road map between the present reality of the organization to the preferred future.

Developing a Strategy

What does the strategic plan include?  Well, that will be different depending on the congregation.  It’s not that the goals are different (each church should be trying to fulfill the great commission) and it is certainly not that God is different anywhere else.  He is always the same.  What is different is the people, who have each been created with their own gifting.  The resources available to that group is also different.  However, each congregation has equal access to the Holy Spirit, and none should be paralyzed by the thought of the impossible.

The strategy begins with an understanding of where the organization is currently.  SWOT is a useful tool to analyze with, and surveys can help leaders gauge where the organization stands.  Some of my personal favorite surveys have focused on church health.  Church health surveys, in my opinion, are more geared toward the dynamics of ministry rather than church growth perspectives.  The ABC’s of church growth (Attendance, buildings, and cash flow) have their place in helping a church understand what it available to it but can mislead leaders and volunteers to lose their way.  A church health focus helps a church stay centered on impacting lives for eternity.

From this point, leaders can then create the actions steps as they feel the Spirit leading.  With the end in mind, the leaders will typically plan for where they envision and desire for the organization to be in ten years.  At this point, return to thinking about one year out.  What action steps will you need to be taking in one year to aim towards the ten-year goal?  You can either go year by year or even look at every couple of months.  However, I will look at just another year for example.  You can put new goals for that year, but there is another perspective that needs to thought of in each subsequent year.  That is the progression of the previous year’s actions.  If your organization keeps practicing the previous benchmarks behaviors, what will be the results?  It is important to keep evaluating and realigning along the way.  We will see this in the next chapter of Nehemiah.

 

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Mission & Vision)

One thing that I notice about leaders of organizations is that there is a significant amount of confusion between vision and mission.  Especially when it comes to the small church.  These guiding principles are essential for keeping the members aligned to God’s will for a congregation’s ministry and areas of focus.  The short way of understanding the distinctiveness of vision is a robust, long-term view of what an organization wants to take place in the future.  The same approach to mission is a shorter and narrower perspective of what the organization is presently doing to achieve the larger vision.

In light of Nehemiah, we can see a clear vision and mission resting upon him.  What follows is a demonstration of what vision and mission would look like in light of Nehemiah’s behavior and actions.  These are my musings of what was happening in Nehemiah’s mind.  Possibly, or maybe not.  The present reality of Jerusalem was dire, and the Jewish population was devastated.  Nehemiah was given four facts about his people and Jerusalem (Neh. 1:3).  The people were in great affliction, meaning oppressed by poverty and other people groups.  They were also in great reproach.  To be under reproach is to be disapproved by others, to receive derogatory remarks, and to be mistreated because of a perceived low status.  The city gates were continually burned like trash heaps, and the protective walls were broken down.

So, what was Nehemiah’s long-term vision?  No doubt, when he looked forward in time, Nehemiah saw from a far distance, a city built on a hill that could not be hidden.  Merchants and travelers walking with excitement toward Jerusalem.  He didn’t see smoke rising from a destroyed city, but perhaps he could see smoke rising from a restored temple as sacrifices were offered.  As he walks closer to Jerusalem in the vision, he can see the walls standing firm and providing protection to all the inhabitants inside.  The gates were bustling with life when open and formidable obstacles invaders could not pass through when closed.  As he walks through the city as he pictured it in the future, businesses are thriving.  Families are healthy and happy.  The order is maintained.  The people are devout in their faith.  The leadership is strong.  The buzz in the kingdom is that Jerusalem and God’s people are respected among the other nations.

Sounds like a beautiful vision, but there needs to be a bridge built between the present reality and the preferred future.  This is where the mission comes in for Nehemiah.  If the vision is where he envisions Jerusalem to end up, the mission is what is happening in the present that positions them toward achieving the vision.   It’s simple but it is more than a few words, or it becomes a motto.  Nehemiah 2:17 finishes with a great mission statement, “Let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.”  It is succinct and clear.  We don’t have any questions about where their focus, resources, and energy are going.  The people react to this clear mission with excitement by creating a good short motto, “Let us rise up and build” (2:18).

I pray and hope that this little journey through mission and vision help you to understand the benefits for your organization.  We see the results that Nehemiah achieved as a faithful steward of God’s vision and the resources God put in his hands.  Perhaps this will be a tool for you to move forward where you serve.