The 1st president Bush found “the vision thing” to be challenging, but not Nehemiah. One of the great leadership books of the Bible is Nehemiah. Chuck Swindoll wrote, “Hand Me Another Brick” and Andy Stanley, “Visioneering” as books that looked at the leadership work Nehemiah brings.
Andy Stanley taught me the idea of leaky vision. As a leader you have to keep lifting up vision because vision leaks. In a burst of building perseverance, Nehemiah rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days. Here are some of the keys I discovered in reading through Nehemiah.
1. Prayer and the Word. Nehemiah’s brother visits him from Jerusalem, and Nehemiah hears the condition of the exiles who have returned is not good. Nehemiah’s response is prayer, not just a moment of prayer but months of prayer. He seeks God’s guidance, God’s direction. His prayer time from chapter 1 leads to an incredible action plan in chapter 2. Through out this prayer Nehemiah quotes the story of the Bible. He confesses sin, his own as well as the nation’s. He lifts up the prayers of others as well as His own. Throughout his book, Nehemiah will pray, often quick arrow 1 sentence prayers. Vision leaks are plugged when we link prayer and the power of God’s Word.
2. Develop resources. Nehemiah not only comes up with a plan, but a plan filled with action. When Artaxerxes asks, Nehemiah is ready with what is needed. He rides into Jerusalem not to announce that he is there to save the day, but to become aware and lead others to be aware of the action that is needed. He doesn’t blame, he builds consensus of what we need to do. Vision leaks are plugged when we develop the resources God provides.
3. Perseverance when opposition attacks. Through out the building process and beyond, Nehemiah faces opposition. Enemies threaten attack, and verbally continue to do so. Nehemiah presses on. He equips his builders for battle, and has a plan to signal a response to attack. When Sanballat and his crew seek to harm Nehemiah and trick him, he responds, “I’m working on an important project and can’t get away. Why should the work stop while leave to meet with you.” Some times people want to meet to find common ground, some times they just want to take away the ground that has been taken. Vision leaks are plugged when we persevere amid opposition.
4. Perseverance when allies disappoint. A group of nobles are lazy builders. Those who should be leaders use their influence to show their own laziness. Another group proves to be more intent on building their own greed then the Jerusalem community. Nehemiah continues to persevere, dealing with issues of Israelites sold into slavery and proper business observance of the Sabbath. Nehemiah lifts up all who build the wall (an impressive strategy in Nehemiah 3) affirming not only those who build, but also listing those who don’t. Vision leaks are plugged when we persevere even when allies disappoint.
A God-given vision is a great gift that God gives to leaders. Such a gift, however, is not the promise of an easy path, just a great one. The vision God gives Paul will lead to shipwreck, beatings, imprisonment, and the result is the non-Jewish world comes to know Jesus.
When opposition comes to the vision God gives, look for where those leaks are and seek to plug those leaks. What plugs have you found valuable for plugging leaky vision?