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Leadership By Example

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Arise And Build!  All Things Are Possible With God’s Help

Leadership By Example

Nehemiah 5:14-19

  Leading By Serving

       In her book, The Mark of a Man, Elisabeth Elliot gave an excellent illustration of leading by serving.  She told of a relative who was the dean of a Christian college in the Midwest.  One night some boys in a dorm had been rowdy, smearing the walls with shaving cream, peanut butter, and jelly.  When the dean heard about it, he wondered what action he should take.  He could force the young men to clean it up, or he could order the janitor to do it.  Instead, he proceeded to clean up the mess himself.  Soon doors began to open, and before long the guilty ones were helping him wash the walls.  Because he was willing to take the role of a servant, he solved the problem and taught the boys a valuable lesson at the same time.


       As I have read through the Bible time and time again, I have noticed that strong leadership is always crucial to any successful project or organization.  When I think of strong leadership, I think of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Peter, Paul and the supreme leader, Jesus Christ.  A very important characteristic of these great leaders is that they exemplified what they taught and believed.  For instance, Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Paul was an example of what he taught.  Likewise, Jesus, our supreme example, was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.  Consequently, we need this kind of leader today; i.e. one who will be a pattern and an example of the things that He teaches.  Now, a leader doesn’t have to be perfect, but s/he needs to be faithful and have integrity.

Well, there was a great leader, who led by example, that we have been studying.  His name was Nehemiah.  We can see him lead the Jews in Jerusalem by his sterling example.

(Notice with me please Nehemiah 5:14-19.

In this passage of Scripture, we will be able to see the example that Nehemiah set for the Israelite people by considering:)

I.     His Sacrifice (vv. 14, 17, 18).

(His sacrifice was with respect to:)

A.    The Food Allowance.

Nehemiah was an extraordinary leader.  For his entire first term as governor of Judah, which was 12 years, Nehemiah did not take any salary or allowance from the people, as was the custom.  Neither did he allow his relatives to take any food allowance.  Nehemiah was willing to sacrifice for the good of his people.

       Similarly, the apostle Paul refused to take any pay for his preaching, but continued to make tents as his living so that no one could fault his ministry.  In 2 Corinthians, Paul talked about himself and defended himself.  I think I had better follow the example of Nehemiah and Paul and remind you that 30 plus years ago

·        For the first two years of this ministry I worked and received no salary.

·        For the next year I still worked and got 10% of every offering over $20.00.

Now, there were not many offerings that were much over $20.00.  But if we raised $100.00 on a Sunday, I got $10.00.

·        In January of 1978, I came on full time and made about $12,000.00 a year including hospitalization, benefits, etc.

·        Twelve years later, I still had not made more than $20,000.00 a year, including benefits.

·        During that time I turned down more raises than I took.

Why?  I love the Lord!  I love you!  I love the ministry!  I was and am still willing to sacrifice for the people involved in this ministry.  Any good leader is willing to sacrifice for his people.  All great leaders are willing to sacrifice for their people.

(Let’s go on to pick up some more valuable information in verse 17.)

Nehemiah gives us some details that enable us to see his sacrifice better.  He didn’t do without his rightful salary because he only had a few servants.  He had 150 people to feed besides those who came to him from other nations.  So, his reason was not because of a lack of obligations.  He many obligations!!!

       I did not sacrifice because I had no needs.  I had a wife and two children who had the same needs as anybody else.  Plus the ministry itself necessitates certain kinds of expenses that I would not have had normally.  (Ex.  Before I was in the ministry and in the early years of this ministry, I really had no need or desire for nice clothes.  I am a high D.  I was fine with whatever, as long as I was accomplishing what God wanted me to accomplish.  But I soon began to see that appearance makes a big difference to many people.

(Let’s go on to verse 18.)

Nehemiah gives us some idea of how much food he is sacrificing.  He was sacrificing a whole ox, six choice sheep and a couple of chickens every day.  And every ten days he would treat them to something extra:  all kinds of wine in abundance.

O What Love!

       Years ago the ship known as The Express of Ireland sank, and many passengers were drowned.  Among those who perished were 129 Salvation Army officers.  When their bodies were recovered later, not one had on a life preserver!  Survivors told how these servants of God had reacted with calmness and courage when informed that the vessel was sinking.  There were not enough life preservers to go around, so they bravely removed theirs and gave them to people they felt were not prepared to meet the Lord.  Some witnesses told of hearing those gallant crusaders say, “We know the Savior, so we are ready to die!”  Prayerfully, the courageous soldiers of the cross remained on deck until the waters engulfed them and they were welcomed into God’s eternal Haven.  No wonder General Booth’s slogan, OTHERS, took on special significance when he sent that one-word telegram to every Salvation Army citadel in the world.

       True Christians must make sacrifices for others.  Anyone who is integrated into this ministry is making some kind of sacrifice.  Anyone who is in leadership, in this ministry, should be making a big sacrifice.  It’s all about the Kingdom!!!

We ask all members to make an equal sacrifice of 10% and an equal sacrifice of at least one ministry.

We are now asking $10.00 a month extra to retire the debt on the Plaza, which is to provide ministry to the community.

(Not only was Nehemiah sacrificial with respect to his people, but if you look carefully at the verses you will be able to see:)

II.    His Sensitivity (vv. 15, 18).

In verses 15 and 18 we can see the sensitivity of Nehemiah.  This is the characteristic of a great man and a great leader.  Nehemiah was sensitive to what the people were going through.  Nehemiah cared about the people.  There are many leaders who are dominant, but not many who can be dominant with sensitivity!

       I care about you as people.  I care about what you are going through and the stress and pressure that you are under.  This ministry is not just about giving money and building church buildings.  This ministry is not about ministering without regard or respect to your families and obligations.

·        I have established almost from the beginning that 2nd, 4th and 5th Sunday nights would be nights of rest for you to spend with your families.  Now we are off on most Sunday evenings.

·        I have asked, almost from the beginning, that you have only one ministry.

This is to keep you from destroying your family by always being at the church.

·        I have asked that we keep meetings and extra services to a minimum because of the tremendous schedules that most of us keep.

·        We basically ask that you come to Sunday services, Wednesday Services and one other ministry meeting a week.

·        In the area of money, we do not read people’s names or badger people about giving, not only because it is not biblical or ethical, but because it is not being sensitive to different financial situations.

(Furthermore, we can see that Nehemiah was especially sensitive to two experiences in their lives:)

A.    To their oppression.

It was not Nehemiah’s intention to bad mouth anyone, but to draw a comparison.  It’s hard to measure something unless you have something to compare it to.  It’s hard to tell good cake, if you have only eaten one kind.  Nehemiah says, “Look at the governors before me!  Not only did they take forty shekels of silver, but bread and wine too.  And beyond this their servants domineered or oppressed you.”  Nehemiah says, “I didn’t do this, because of my fear and reverence for God.”

       The Apostle Peter exhorts pastors in

1 Peter 5:2-3 (NASB-U), “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; [3] nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

Compare me to the pastors that have had or know of.  I have been in the church for most of my 52 years and I have seen pastors domineer and oppress their flocks.  I know that I haven’t done that.

Apostolic authority is one thing, but lording it over the flock is another thing!!!  We are to be examples, not lords!!!

(Nehemiah was also sensitive:)

B.    To their servitude.

Nehemiah goes on to explain that he didn’t even ask for the governor’s food allowance.  Why?  Because the servitude was heavy on the people.  Nehemiah was sensitive to what the people had to give and do.

       I try to be sensitive to the load that is on you.  When I first preached these messages, Sister Grant, Pastor Butts, and I took no raises for several years, because we were trying to build a church and the load was heavy on our few members.

Even though we are a long way from those days, I still feel the same way.  I have seen churches tax their people until they were almost financially and spiritually dead.  They were told to give tithes, offerings, buy dinners, give special pledges to annual women’s day, men’s day, children’s day, district dues, state dues, national dues, pastor’s anniversary, choir anniversary, special speakers, etc.  Church you are blessed!!!  I have not laid such burdens upon you.  I fear God too much!

(We have seen Nehemiah’s sacrifice and His sensitivity.  Now let’s look at:)

III.   His Strain (vs. 16).

Nehemiah applied himself to the work on the wall.  He put forth physical effort.  He strained like everybody else to physically repair the wall.  He did not organize the work and then sit down.  He worked as he had told everyone else to.

       We need leaders who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and go to work.  At the beginning of this ministry, I was the janitor, secretary, accountant, organist, choir director, and pastor.

·        I mopped the floors

·        I cleaned the toilets.

·        I emptied the trash cans.

·        I typed the bulletins.

·        I played for the service.

·        I played for the choir.

·        I directed the choir.

·        I preached.

·        I counted the money.

·        I deposited it in the bank.

·        I locked the door after service and opened it up for service.

·        I went into the neighborhoods and passed out flyers.

·        When we fasted, I fasted.

·        When we gave money, my family was the first to give.

Even with the small salary that I already mentioned!

We need leaders who know how to organize, but who also lead the way by example.  Nothing discourages workers quicker than a leader who won’t ever pitch in and work.

       Nehemiah sacrificed by not buying any land.  It was his prerogative to buy land, but he didn’t.

       I have postponed personal plans to give to this church.  We lived in a $3,000.00, self-remodeled, house for years to make our load on the church as light as possible.  Leaders, if we are going to see souls saved, we are going to have to postpone some of those personal plans.  Members, if we are going to build these buildings, we are going to have to put off some of some personal purchases.  In turn others will follow us.

Attractive Lights

       In order to convince the people of Philadelphia of the advantages of street lighting, Benjamin Franklin decided to show his neighbors how compelling a single light could be.  He bought an attractive lantern, polished the glass, and placed it on a long bracket that extended from the front of his house.  Each evening as darkness descended, he ignited the wick.  His neighbors soon noticed the warm glow in front of his residence.  Even those living farther down the street and in the next block were attracted by Franklin’s light.  Passers-by found that the light helped them to avoid tripping over protruding stones in the roadway.  Soon others placed lanterns in front of their homes, and eventually the city recognized the need for having well-lighted streets.

If we want to be an effective leaders, we must learn to lead by example.

(We have reviewed Nehemiah’s sacrifice, his sensitivity and his strain, but what was his stimulus for this kind of leadership?)

IV.   His Stimulus (vv. 15, 19).

(What is the stimulus for Nehemiah’s action?  Some probably think that his stimulus or motive was the goal of rebuilding the walls, but that was not the underlying motive.  I see two stimuli in the text for Nehemiah’s action:)

A.    His reverence for the Lord (vs. 15).

Unger says, “The fear of God is of several kinds:

1.     Superstitious, which is the fruit of ignorance;

2.     Servile, which leads to abstinence from many sins through apprehension of punishment; and

3.     Filial (denoting the relationship of child to parent), which has its spring in love, and prompts to care not to offend God and to endeavor in all things to please Him.  This fear would subsist in a pious soul were there no punishment of sin.  It

a)    dreads God’s displeasure,

b)    desires his favor,

c)     reveres his holiness,

d)    submits cheerfully to his will,

e)     is grateful for his benefits,

f)     sincerely worships him, and

g)    conscientiously obeys his commandments.”

       Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., talking about the fear of the Lord, says in his book, Ecclesiastes Total Life, “This fear is not an attitude of terror.  It is instead a commitment of total being to trust and believe the living God.  The one who fears God dreads nothing more than God’s disfavor.  Such a worshiper wants nothing more than to know the living God intimately and submit to His will.  The fear of the Lord, which was an OT. synonym for faith, is the motive or stimulus of the actions of Nehemiah.

(We can also see that one of Nehemiah’s motives or stimuli was:)

B.    His reward from the Lord (vs. 19).

Nehemiah asked God to remember him for all that he had done for the people.  Nehemiah did not have to worry.  God had a record, on high, of all that he had done for the people.

       I believe that God is going to reward me for all that I have done for the people of The House of the Lord.

       I believe is also going to reward you for what you do for the people of The House of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NASB-U), “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Hebrews 6:10 (NASB-U), “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”

We used to sing the song, “What do you want the Lord to say?  What do you want the Lord to say?  Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord!”

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship

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