#371 Nehemiah: Run to Great Purpose™

April 10, 2024

The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ recognized and taught by Dr. John Stahl-Wert are universal actions that every great serving leader uses to build high performing teams. These actions work in every sphere of society and in all types of organizations.

In this series we’ll look at how Nehemiah demonstrated these five actions in rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem. The first action, Run to Great Purpose™, focuses on clarifying and embedding the great purpose, or vision, into the organization.  Nehemiah developed a great purpose as he listened to the report of those who came from Jerusalem and spent time in prayer.   

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:….“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying,…. I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name’ (Nehemiah 1:3-8, portions, NIV).

Later, when Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem, he spoke these words to the people:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. (Nehemiah 2:17)

Nehemiah models how serving leaders Run to Great Purpose™.

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by addressing the importance.

Nehemiah mourned and wept over the condition of Jerusalem and was convinced that rebuilding the wall would make a significant difference for the nation. The broken wall was a sign of “trouble and disgrace” and God had promised to gather people in Jerusalem around His temple. Nehemiah’s vision to build the wall was inspired by issues that would make a difference in the world.  The vision was not about bricks and mortar, it was about removing disgrace and recapturing God’s purpose for the city. Some leaders fail to tie daily activities to a greater purpose. But serving leaders create a compelling vision that provides meaning for every aspect of the work.  Nehemiah might have said it this way: “You’re not just putting stones on top of each other, you are removing disgrace and restoring this city to its destiny!”

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by articulating the need.

When Nehemiah addressed the people, his first words articulated the need of the moment, “You see the trouble we are in…”  There was a need for a wall, but the people had become so accustomed to walking past piles of rubble that they didn’t notice the need until Nehemiah pointed it out. Every organization exists to meet a need in the world. Some leaders fail to make the connection between the everyday activities of people and the need. But serving leaders articulate the need and connect it to the great purpose.

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by appealing to emotion.

In his appeal Nehemiah says, Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.  As he mentions disgrace Nehemiah is appealing to their hearts and emotion. He recognized that until peoples’ emotions were engaged, they would not devote themselves to the hard work of building the wall. This is not an emotional plea, but an appeal to the emotions. Some leaders deliberately avoid emotions and assume that work is all about the task. But serving leaders recognize that emotions are a key factor in motivation. They find ways to touch the hearts of the people they serve and connect their emotion to the great purpose.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is the great purpose of my organization? Is it clearly stated and understood by everyone? Does the work of every person in the organization help us accomplish that great purpose? How do I communicate with every person how their actions help us accomplish the great purpose?
  • What need does my organization meet? What difference would it make if we were not in existence? Have I deliberately articulated that to everyone in the organization?
  • Do I see emotions as important for the work we do as an organization or have I viewed emotions with suspicion? What difference does this make in my leadership? How can I deliberately link an individuals work with their emotions?
  • Read the entire story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Run to Great Purpose. What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Nehemiah used values in his leadership.

Finally, as a free gift to you, click here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization. For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.