Summary: There are six marks of leadership seen in Nehemiah chapters 1-6. Leaders can study these leadership qualities in Nehemiah and grow in their influence.
On the front of one church bulletin always reads, “Ministers: The entire congregation Pastor: Rev David L. Buttry.”
Rick Warren in his Purpose Driven Church advocates “No ministry, no membership.”
Every believer is a minister or servant of God who should be serving God and exerting influence on others through his/her local church. Leadership is one person influencing positively another person. Christian leadership is one believer spiritually impacting others for God’s glory.
Nehemiah is an Old Testament model of this kind of leadership. “This is a practical book (Nehemiah) about leadership” (Charles R. Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick, xi).
Cyril J. Barber agreed, “In our study of the book (Nehemiah) we will enlarge upon three important topics: the basic characteristics of dynamic leadership; the importance of spiritual principles; and the necessity of sound administrative polices” (Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership, page 14).
Before we start examining Nehemiah’s specific leadership let’s address leadership in general.
1. Are Leaders Born Leaders?
I would say some leaders are born. Martin Lloyd Jones believed that God equipped a preacher to speak at birth as a natural ability and if you did not have the natural ability to think deeply and communicate clearly then God would not call you to preach (Preaching & Preachers, pages 110-111).
We all know capable but unsaved men and women who are leaders. Some of these were born with the raw ability to be out front. The Presidents of the USA and Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom for several decades have been close allies: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and also Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. More recently President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Blair forged a very tight friendship and camaraderie in their allied fight against Terrorism. These Presidents and Prime Ministers were great leaders but not all were believers. We might even say they were born to leave their mark on their generation.
2. Are Leaders Made?
I would also say that other leaders are made.Vince Lombardi, the great NFL football coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Leaders are made, they are not born; and they are made just like anything else has ever been made in this country—by hard effort” (James Montgomery Boice. Nehemiah: Learning to Lead. Old Tappen: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1990, page 16).
One of the emphases of John Maxwell’s literature on leadership is the encouragement that you can grow as a leader. On a scale of 1 to 10, if you are a three or four you can develop into a five or six if you concentrate for one month on each of his 21 irrefutable laws of leadership.
3. Are Leaders Made When Born Again?
Because there is a spiritual gift of leadership (Roman 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28) I would say that God equips some believers at salvation with an ability to excel at leadership. Just as there are also the spiritual gifts of helps, mercy, teaching, etc. God equips some believers to lead at higher levels in ministries and organizations.
J. Oswald Sanders in his classic “Spiritual Leadership” believes that leaders are both born and made. “While conversion does not normally make leaders of people who would never become such otherwise, Church history teaches that in the hour of full surrender the Holy Spirit sometimes releases gifts and qualities that have long remained latent and dormant. It is the prerogative of the Spirit to bestow spiritual gifts which greatly enhances the leadership potential of the recipient” (page 21).
But then Sanders make this comment which comes closer to my thinking: “Spiritual leadership and authority cannot be explained solely on the grounds of natural ability is strikingly exemplified in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. On one occasion Brother Masseo, looking earnestly at Francis, began to say: ‘Why thee? Why thee?’ He repeated it again and again as if to mock him.
‘What are you saying?’ cried Francis at last.
‘I am saying that everybody follows thee, everyone desires to see thee, hear thee, obey thee, and yet for all that, thou art neither beautiful, nor learned, nor of noble family. Whence comes it that it should be thee whom the world desires to follow?’
When Francis heard these words, he was filled with joy, raised his eyes to heaven and, after remaining a long time absorbed in contemplation, knelt praising and blessing God with extraordinary fervor. Then he turned to Brother Masseo:
‘Thou wishes to know? It is because the eyes of the Most High have willed it so. He continually watches the good and the wicked, and as His most holy eyes have not found among sinners any smaller man, nor any more insufficient and sinful, therefore He has chosen me to accomplish the marvelous work which God hath undertaken; He chose me because He could find none more worthless, and He wished to confound the nobility and grandeur, the strength, the beauty and the learning of this world’” (page 23).