Biblical Leadership Series Part VII: A Leader Builds Sustainability

As I finish this series of leadership posts based from the book of Nehemiah, I want us to review the definition of leadership from George Barna’s book, A Fish Out of Water, p. 7:

“Leadership is the process of motivating, mobilizing, resourcing, and directing people to passionately and strategically pursue a vision from God that a group jointly embraces.”

We can clearly see these elements of leadership from Nehemiah’s life. He motivated people in chapter 2 when he urged his kinsmen to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so they would no longer be a reproach. He mobilized the people by casting a clear vision of what needed to be done and he had secured the appropriate resources with the help of King Artaxerxes (which included securing letters of permission to get timber for the job from the King’s forest). He directed people passionately as they faced opposition in building the wall. He urged them to fight with one hand for their brothers, sons, daughters, wives, and houses while building the wall with their other hand. 

What an awesome accomplishment to finish the great wall in just 52 days. But as we have seen, the wall was not the only thing that needed repair in Jerusalem. Sin had crept in and Nehemiah urged the reading of God’s word and called for repentance so that our great and awesome God would be honored in the city. The Levites and priests had all been identified and charged to lead the spiritual well being of the city again. What a great day chapter 12 describes to us as Nehemiah directs two great choirs around the walls and they took their stand in the house of God! The Bible tells us the sound of this great worship service reached the ears of those who were far away. The vision had been accomplished and now it was time for Nehemiah to return to King Artaxerxes as he had promised. 

Prior to Nehemiah’s departure, arrangements had been made for the full time servants of the temple to be taken care of financially. This included the Levitical priests, the gatekeepers, and the singers. People were to bring their tithes into the storehouse for these needs to be provided. However, things started falling apart when Nehemiah left. Eliashib was priest at this time and he allowed Tobiah, the Ammonite, to live in one of the temple store rooms because they were related to each other by marriage. This was the very room that was to hold the provisions for the temple servants. On this particular day in chapter 13, the Jews read the scripture that told them no Ammonite should ever be allowed to enter the temple due to some bad history between the Jews and Ammonites (Deut. 23:3-5). 

When Nehemiah came back for a visit (with permission of the king), he was absolutely livid about his arch-enemy, Tobiah, being allowed to live in the temple. He also discovered that the temple servants were not being paid their portions and had scattered back to their own “field”. Immediately, Nehemiah kicked Tobiah out on his ear and began a cleansing process in the temple. He gathered all of the temple servants back and appointed “reliable” men to be in charge of the whole process. 

So what is the leadership principle we can pull from this last chapter of Nehemiah? Leaders have to plan for sustainability in their absence. Leaders must equip their followers to continue the work on their own.  Nehemiah could not be in Susa and in Jerusalem at the same time. Apparently, he had not equipped people to carry on the temple work in his first absence because, when the cat was away, the mice did play! Nehemiah did a lot of other “cleansing” in chapter 13 besides what I have discussed in this post. 

This passage in Nehemiah reminds me of Ephesians 4:11-12. Paul tells the Ephesians that various gifts were given to people for the “equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…” Leaders must facilitate the equipping of others so that the work of Christ does not stop with our generation. Yes, God does gift us to do a work for Him. But whatever gifts he bestows upon us, He charges us to multiply those gifts for His kingdom. 

If you are currently in a spiritual leadership position, what are you doing to help equip and sharpen those you lead? What would happen to that ministry if you had to leave unexpectedly? Sometimes we secretly like the thought that everything would just “fall apart” without us. Honestly, that is just the flesh in us. If we are doing the work of service for the building up the body of Christ, we will make sure to equip those around us so the work does not stop!


  1. Thank you! I really needed to hear this today! Alone we are nothing! We need our Lord and Savior’s hand AND we need each other.

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