Ministry is Community
We have learned some leadership lessons from the life of Nehemiah (see my blog Nehemiah: Leadership in Action). Finally, the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls takes significant progress. The work of God had commenced.
Chapter 3 of the book of Nehemiah is about ministry, about a united group of people taking part in God’s work. It’s a community of…
People of the Clergy and the Laity. Ministry is comprised of clergymen and laymen, not just the former alone. Chapter 3 opens with Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests rebuilding the Sheep Gate (v.1). In other sections, there were priests from the surrounding region who took part at the rebuilding (v.22) and who made repairs in front of their houses (v.28). Levites also made repairs (vv.17-18).
But there were also laymen:
8Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.
31Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs (emphases added).
There were goldsmiths, perfumers, and merchants taking part at this massive reconstruction project.
Moreover, there were lots of government officials (“rulers”) working at it (see for example verses 9, 12, 13, and 15).
We are not to think that ministry work is only for those appointed as full-time ministers. Laypeople have their part as well.
People of Different Tribes and Nations. There were people coming from outside Jerusalem. These were the men of Jericho (v.2), Tekoa (v.3), Gibeon (v.7), Mizpah (v.7), among many others.
People of Both Sexes. While the names listed in chapter 3 are male names, there were females who participated in the reconstruction project. Shallum, ruler of the half-district of Jerusalem, was helped by his daughters (v.12). Though there are ministry duties exclusive for males, women have their place in the ministry.
People of Humility and Service. There were people in chapter 3 who wouldn’t get their “shoulders to the work under their supervisors.” These were nobles of Tekoa (v.5). They were lazy and unsubmissive.
But what blew my mind is there were government officials, or rulers, who got their hands dirty. I initially thought they were just supervising the work, for rulers, I suppose, were good in administration. They were good in managing people and tasks. Yet, they humbled themselves and took part in the work. Wow! Look at the following verse (emphases added):
9Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section.
12Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
14The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.
15The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Kol-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam, by the King’s Garden, as far as the steps going down from the City of David.
16Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Heroes.
17bBeside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district.
19Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle of the wall.
This reminds me of the Lord Jesus, who “did not consider equality with God” but “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). He humbled himself and served. (I’ll be discussing more on this at a future blog of this Nehemiah series).
Let’s be like these rulers and like Jesus. Let’s humble ourselves and take part in the work of God.
People of Redemption. People commit mistakes. They have limitations. And the people who took part in the reconstruction project weren’t excluded. In fact, some names mentioned in the chapter had their shortcomings recorded in the Bible.
One is Malkijah son of Harim (v.11). This person was guilty of intermarriage (see Ezra 10:31). Yet he helped out in the repairs.
Ministry is not for people who are perfect (but no such group of people exists). It is for people who commit mistakes and have shortcomings. It is a community of graced people like Malkijah, and also like you and me. It is a community of people redeemed by Jesus Christ and given the opportunity to serve.