Adventures in Leadership
Have you ever got into a conversation that went something like this?
- What this church needs is………….
- If I was in charge, I would……………
- I can’t believe our government officials………..
- Our schools are in terrible shape……………
- Somebody should be doing something
You don’t have to look very far to find the
- The spectators who always know better than the players
- Self-proclaimed prophets who intimidate you with their “predictions”
It’s easy to analyze, scrutinize, criticize or just talk about problems in the world
- What’s needed are people who will not just discuss a situation, but who will do something about it.
Nehemiah was one of these people
The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
586 BC Jerusalem was destroyed and the exiles went to Babylon
48 years later
538 BC First exiles return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the temple
22 years after
516 BC The temple is completed
71 years after that
445 BC Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem, the walls and gates are still in un- repaired
The people were defenseless and vulnerable – in great trouble and disgrace
- For 71 years people lived with disgrace, trouble, vulnerable
- Nobody did a thing about it
Think about the people where you are
- What is their situation?
- How many people are defenseless, vulnerable, in trouble, distressed?
- How long have things been that way?
- How many people are griping, criticizing, discussing the problem?
- Is anybody doing anything about it?
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.
The story of Nehemiah
- He saw a problem
- He was distressed about the problem
- Instead of complaining and wishing somebody would do something
- He took responsibility and he took action
- He started with prayer
1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king…..
Nehemiah worked as cupbearer to the King of Persia
- What a life
- What a job
- How often do you think the King drank wine?
- Why give that up?
1b I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Nehemiah took responsibility
- He took the initiative and he identified with the plight of his people
- He faced opposition
- But he was willing to take the risk
- I sensed a call to ministry in 1978
- At the time I was studying to be an accountant – I had my career planned
- I quit my studies, found a job and then enrolled on Bible College
- After Bible College my wife and I both had comfortable jobs in Johannesburg
- We felt God leading us to pioneer and plant a church in the town of Tzaneen in what is now Limpopo Province
- We started travelling to Tzaneed over weekends and started church services
- Eventually we had about 50-60 people coming to the services
- In March 1983 we reigned from our Jobs and moved to Tzaneen to be full time pastors of the church.
- We were excited to start with 50-60 people, but when we had our first service as full time pastors – there were 4 people in church
- Life was hard in those first years of ministry
- There were many days when all we ate was bread and gravy or marmite sandwiches with avocado’s which were given to us.
The Church began to grow
- Also, relationships between me and a number of the black pastors from surrounding villages, began to grow.
- This was during the height of struggle against apartheid – cross cultural relationships were not common then and were criticized by many
- One day, during a visit with one of those pastors, he spoke words which radically impacted my mind set. He said, It’s great when you come and preach in my church, because my people always learn, It’s great when you invite me to your seminars and conferences because I always receive so much. But what we really need is for a white man like you, and a black man like me, to just sit and drink tea.” In other words – just be normal people who do normal things.
- As a result of that I began visiting the pastors in homes, and sometimes spent a week staying in there villages.
In September 1990 we moved to Mmabatho/Mafikeng to pastor a church there.
- Even though it was the capital of the Bophuthatswana homeland at the time, it was a country town, surrounded by tribal land, and many villages
- I discovered the vision of the missionary who founded the church, was for a church that ministered to white, expatriate South Africans who were working in Bophuthatswana.
- There were about 60 white people, and one black family in the church.
Driving passions for me
- The church should be relevant & significant outside of 4 walls
- Be a church that impacts & influences the whole city, not just expatriates
The church grew from 60 people in 1990 – to 500 people by 1996
- In 1990 – there was 1 black family
- In 2007 – there were 2000 people in the church, 2 families were white
- God had transformed an expatriate church into a multicultural church that was influencing the city relevant to all people groups.
I realized that some of the things I had learned in African pastors homes in the 1980’s, were preparation for what God wanted to do in the 2000’s.
- It was risky – I was known as the white pastor with the black church
- Younger black pastors from surrounding villages began to seek me out
- That became a platform for what Michelle & I are doing today
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
Sometimes you can’t talk about what God is doing
- You just know that He is doing something that you should be involved with
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success…….
Orchard Africa started by feeding 30 kids on a rubbish dump in 1991
- It was an outreach program of the church I was pastoring
- Soon the 30 kids became 100 kids
- We realized that feeding the kids was a good idea but the dump was a bad place to do it
- We found the village where most of he kids were from and moved the feeding program to that village
- Once we were in the village every day became aware of all the other major issues that the villagers and the kids were facing
- We planted a church and started services under a tree
- We made sure that everyone in the village understood, that the feeding program and other justice programs we started, were the ministry of the church
- We began to minister to the real, practical needs – out of the church
By the late 90’s the work became too big and demanding for church to sustain
- We registered a non-profit organization and the church board asked my wife Michelle to head up the non profit, and to raise funds
- While I pastored Michelle grew Orchard Africa
- After a few years we started the same work in a 2nd village
- A few years later we started in a 3rd village
- Village pastors started seeking us out for pastoral mentoring – the wanted to know how they could do what we were doing
- We trained 6 pastors and raised the funds for them to duplicate what we were doing
- I released the leadership of the church 2007 so I could give my full effort and attention to being a pastor to the pastors
- 3 of those original 6 are still going today, and have grown way beyond what was started
In 2008 Michelle began to dream of multiplying the impact of Orchard: Africa
- She had a vision of an Orchard of churches all over Africa where the church truly becomes the salt and light to disadvantaged communities
- From 6 villages in 2007, Orchard Africa has now partnered with more than 30 churches in African villages
- We have trained approximately 570 pastors
- Through their churches,
- We have served over 9 million meals
- We have provided care for over 70,000 orphaned and vulnerable children
- We have provided social services to 7,800 families
- We have provided AIDS Awareness and Prevention to 259,700 youth
We are not finished yet!!
We are experiencing the adventure of a life-time
Somebody has to do something – why not the church/why not you
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.
Nehemiah took the initiative and he took risks
- He made sacrifices
- He organized
- He supervised
- He encouraged
- He faced opposition
- He confronted injustice
- And he kept going until the job was done
2 Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. 5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.
EG : Use your imagination to look 30 years after the walls were built
Imagine Shallum, who repaired the wall with his daughters, and now he is walking around the wall with his grand children
What story do you imagine him telling?
Now imagine one of the nobles of Tekoa, who refused to work, walking around the wall with his grand children
What story will he tell?
Whose grandchild would rather be?
Which grandfather are you going to be?
God is looking for leaders who will pray, persevere, sacrifice and take risks
- Why should that leader not be you?
- What story do you want to tell your grand children 30 years from now?
Allow God to take you on the adventure of a life-time
Be the somebody who does something!!