Summary: If we want to do God’s work in God’s way, we won’t have any parade leaders. We will only have real, committed leaders who are burdened by God, are committed to the Great Commission and are not distracted by discouragement or opposition. We will only have
Leadership is a tricky thing, isn’t it? Leadership is one of those things that is hard to define and quantify. Sometimes good leadership isn’t recognized when it is present, but it sure is easy to see when it’s not there. One thing about leadership—we all want it. The problem is, we want it to come from somewhere else. We look to someone else to provide leadership in areas that maybe the Lord has called us to lead. Here’s the problem with that. When we look for that kind of leadership, we open ourselves up to what I call “parade leaders.” Parade leaders are the ones who like to be out in front for the show. James McGregor Burns talked about “parade leaders” when he wrote, “Many acts heralded or bemoaned as instances of leadership—acts of oratory, manipulation, sheer self-advancement, brute coercion—are not such. Much of what commonly passes as leadership—conspicuous position-taking without followers or follow-through, posturing on various public stages, manipulation without general purpose, authoritarianism—is no more leadership than the behavior of small boys marching in front of a parade, who continue to strut along Main Street after the procession has turned down a side street toward the fairgrounds.” But the sad thing is, we like parade leaders. We like leaders who are self-promoting. We like leaders who will puff themselves up in front of the parade and coerce and manipulate people. And why is that? Because when we’re around those kinds of leaders, it’s all on them. It’s all on them and we don’t have to do the leading that God has called us to do. It’s a whole lot easier to follow somebody else’s parade than step out in leadership for the burden that God has called us to do. But that’s not what we’re called to do. That might be the way things work in the corporate world—but that’s not how the church is supposed to work. Because God’s design for leadership doesn’t involve parade leaders. God’s design for leadership starts with His mission. Then He burdens leaders amongst His people with different tasks that will help to accomplish that mission. Then He sends prophets and preachers to teach and exhort and encourage the church and the leaders in the church in accomplishing that mission. God burdened Zerubbabel and Jeshua with rebuilding the temple. When they started to slack off, He sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to preach to them and remind them of their mission. Then later on, God did the same thing with Nehemiah. He burdened Nehemiah to rebuild the wall. Then we’ll see later on in chapter 8 that Ezra was there to preach to them and remind them of their mission. The point is that God’s design for leadership begins and ends with His mission. His mission—not somebody’s personal parade. The Lord is laying burdens on hearts in this church. Some are stepping out in leadership to accomplish those burdens. We have no parade leaders here and if we want to do God’s work in God’s way, we won’t have any parade leaders. We will only have real, committed leaders. Leaders who are burdened by God. Leaders who are committed to the mission of the Great Commission. Leaders who are not distracted by discouragement or opposition. Leaders who are fully committed. But we speak of commitment a lot without really understanding what it means. In this passage, Nehemiah gives us a wonderful example of what a committed leader looks like. When we look at the verses before us, we can see that there are four commitments of a godly leader.
The first commitment of a godly leader is a commitment of time. We live in an impatient world, don’t we? Everything has to be done in a hurry. We even get impatient waiting for microwave popcorn to get done. And a part of our impatience is that we want everything finished and complete, but we don’t want the process that goes along with it. We don’t want to have to put up with all the things that it takes to build something, we just want to enjoy the finished product. That’s why you see such tremendous turnover in the world around us. Years ago, a young man would start working for a company and then stay with that company till he retired. Not today. People change jobs all the time. But not only do people change jobs, companies change management all the time. A company will bring in a CEO for a few months or maybe a year. And then he’s gone and they bring in a new one. You see the same thing in the church. The last time I checked the statistics, the average length of time pastors stay with churches is less than 2 years. Why is that? I think it’s all tied to our demand for instant gratification. We want it all and we want it now. Nehemiah made a commitment of time to the burden God had given him. If he was in it for instant gratification, he would have been gone the first time opposition came against him. But he wasn’t. Verse 14 tells us that he was there for 12 years. This can get kind of confusing if you don’t understand how he was writing this. Remember that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally written as two parts to the same book. And as one book, they were probably both written by Ezra. What we know of as the book of Nehemiah is written in the first person because Ezra (most likely) compiled it mostly from Nehemiah’s personal diary. If we understand that, then the timing mentioned in this passage makes sense. Because where we are in the chronology doesn’t match up with the 12 year timeframe he talks about in verse 14. In our chronology, we’re only about a year into this 12 year period. In other words, the things that have happened up through verse 13 happened within the first year or so of Nehemiah’s governorship. Years later, as Ezra was compiling the book, Nehemiah went back and recounted this event in retrospect. Early on, Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the wall. And during that time, he faced some tremendous opposition and discouragement. But he had committed to stick with it. He was in it for the long haul. It would have been easy to give up when the going got tough. It would have been even easier to quit when the wall got finished. But he didn’t. Nehemiah was a committed leader. And as a committed leader, he committed his time to see the burden God had given him completed. Not just the building of the wall, but the leading of the people after it was completed. When the Lord gives you a burden, see it through. Commit your time to seeing it through for the long-haul. The best kind of gratification isn’t instant. The best kind is as a result of faithfulness and commitment. A committed leader makes a commitment of time. He also makes a commitment of sacrifice.