In this 10th month of COVID-19, churches and Baptist bodies such as associations, state conventions and Southern Baptist entities have faced enormous challenges. While many wonderful things have occurred and we marvel at God’s activity among us, there is a need to start rebuilding.
Pastors have sought counsel about the uncertainty of seeing their churches one day return to pre-pandemic practices and in-person attendance. In recent days, I have told many that I believe the key word for churches in 2021 is rebuild. Pastors, church leaders and leaders of our Baptist bodies around the world will have to start rebuilding, day by day and inch by inch.
We have seen flexibility and agility become imperative for effectiveness over these past months. While maintaining this attitude and practice, each of us will need to rethink progress and growth. Rebuilding requires us to begin where we are and start again.
Nehemiah called for this mindset and action when he arrived in Jerusalem. The city was in ruins, and the gates had been burned. The broken wall meant their protection was gone and the enemies had easy access into the city.
Nehemiah’s burden was a divine wake-up call to himself and the people. Nehemiah called to them, “Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall” (Nehemiah 2:17). After testifying to the people about how the gracious hand of God had been on him, the people declared, “Let’s start rebuilding” (Nehemiah 2:18). The scripture says their hands were strengthened to do the work. Even while facing multiple obstacles, the wall was rebuilt in 52 days. The miraculous hand of God was evident.
Knowing God does miracles and His presence is with us, we must declare together: “Let’s start rebuilding.” It is a call to action filled with hope. It also involves knowing where we stand and where we want to be, working intentionally and strategically. It was not easy for Nehemiah and the people in Jerusalem, and it will not be easy for us. However, if we are willing to focus on the future and begin rebuilding, clarity of our vision will return.
What would Nehemiah tell us about rebuilding amid adversity and hopelessness?
- As you understand where you are and how far you have to go, you will develop a burden. A burden is something you go to bed with at night, get up with in the morning and live with throughout each day. When this burden is great, we come to God in our brokenness and desperation.
- Take up fasting and praying for a few days, pouring your heart out to God. Through this experience, God will increase the burden; but He will also give you His vision for yourself and the people you are leading.
- Share your burden and vision with your people. Call upon them to resolve with you that it is time to begin rebuilding the ministry, even in the midst of adversity. This definitive call to others will activate a resolve, “Let’s start rebuilding.”
- Remember that all leaders, churches and ministries face the forces of evil. Obstacles will be endless, and the temptations that distract you from God’s work will never cease. When Nehemiah faced threats and ongoing intimidation, he responded, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Progress and advancement cease when toxic, divisive people are setting the agenda and influencing a ministry.
- Begin to rebuild the ministry you are leading today and increase your focus and intentionality on fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We are called to go, make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them how to live like Jesus. We limit the Great Commission work Christ assigned to us when we chase after anything else.
When rebuilding begins, let’s remember it is the Great Commission in which we cooperate. As we stand upon our deep and abiding beliefs in The Baptist Faith and Message, we have historically worked together to fulfill one major task: The Great Commission. The Great Commission is the only way to unity and cooperation. This is true for a church, an association, a state convention, and the entire Southern Baptist Convention. Knowing this, why would we not choose to do it? Let’s start rebuilding!
Now is the time to lead.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)