Nehemiah is a great example of a leader in a replant context. Nehemiah was led by the Spirit to be an instrument of change and growth for the city of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. The wall has been destroyed. The Temple had been destroyed. The people of God were now living in exile. It could be argued that the people of Israel had been defeated due to the fact that the Temple was destroyed. Nehemiah gets the call of the Spirit to go to his hometown in order to rebuild the city wall and restore the Temple. As replanting becomes more of need for churches and denominations in the future, it is imperative that we develop a view of replanting that is both biblical and practical, and I believe that Nehemiah is the perfect case study. Nehemiah exhibits four characteristics that must be present at the very core of a replanter if he is going to be successful in transforming the church for the sake of the Gospel. I will discuss these in further posts but the first one is PASSION.
Nehemiah has a deep passion and love for his city. Notice his posture when he hears the words that Jerusalem had been destroyed: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). Nehemiah is utterly destroyed over the state of his city and church. He is heartbroken. The interesting thing to note here is that Jerusalem had not recently been destroyed. It was destroyed over 140 years earlier. Because Nehemiah worked in the king of Babylon’s court, it is doubtless that he knew this so why does Nehemiah respond this way? I believe it is because for the first time in his life he is literally broken for the state of his city and church.
Since the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed for over 140 years it is easy to see that most people would not be surprised by this “old” news. For most in Nehemiah’s day, this was just the current state of things. People had grown so accustomed to the city being destroyed that that was the new “normal.” Nehemiah gets the old news in a new way and as a result, maybe for the first time, he is heartbroken over the spiritual condition of his city. This newfound passion allows him to be sensitive and passionate about the work that God is calling him to do. If you are not burdened for the state of your church and the subsequent state of your community as a result, you will struggle to be of use in your church context. We must all understand that the our churches might be in an unhealthy situation, and it might just be that they have been that way for a long time, but just as Nehemiah was convicted of this, we must be also.
If our hearts are not burdened for the state of our church and churches, we will not be able to bear the weight of the ministry of replanting. Nehemiah understood what was at stake: the very reach of the Gospel in our city. Without the walls being rebuilt there could not be a Temple. Without the Temple the worship of God would not continue. We must realize that without healthy, local, Gospel-centered representations of the body of Christ, the worship of the God of the Bible will be severely hindered. What is at stake with replanting is the reach of the Gospel within our cities and communities.
Let us be as passionate as Nehemiah. Let us love our churches and communities well. Let us let our passion drive us to the important ministry of replanting. Let us understand the status quo of what is the new “normal” in our churches does not have to continue.
Published June 23, 2016