Perhaps the greatest story of leading and sustaining vision in Scripture is Nehemiah. Nehemiah Chapter 6 states: “The wall was completed in fifty-two days, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul. When all our enemies heard this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God.”
Don’t miss this incredible statement! Without John Deer tractors or a single Home Depot, Nehemiah and his neighbors accomplished in less than two months what the Israelites had failed to do in 100 years! How did they pull this off? How did they survive all of the road blocks along the way? It’s one thing to get started, but another to sustain a vision.
As leaders, how do you sustain the vision that God has given you for your church or ministry area?
1. Celebrate Victories Along the Way.
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “Celebration is at the heart of Christ. He entered the world on a high note of jubilation: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy,’ cried the angel, ‘which shall come to all the people.’ He left the world bestowing his joy to the disciples: ‘These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.'”
Unfortunately, the word celebration is probably not in the top ten of words you would use to describe a Christ Follower or the church. Harvey Cox, a theologian and retired professor from Harvard, states that “Modern man has been pressed so hard toward useful work and rational calculation he has all but forgotten the joy of ecstatic celebration. The carefree spirit of joyous festivity is absent in contemporary society and our churches. Apathy, even melancholy, dominates the times.”
Did you know the Bible is full of celebrations? Feasting, rest, and social life were not only offered to God’s people, but God mandated them as essential to biblical community. Throughout Scripture we see God’s people, in the Old and New Testaments celebrating family milestones, like births, rites of passage, weddings, funerals and even the return of a prodigal son. God instituted celebrations that would tie families and communities together in recognition of who He is, what He has done, and what He will do.
As a leader, I want you to know something: it’s ok, even encouraged, to celebrate the things that God has done in your life. It is! As a leader you have a responsibility to celebrate the victories in our life.
2. Focus More on People Than Projects.
Nehemiah 7:4-5 says, “The city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and no houses had been built yet. Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles, the officials, and the people to be registered by genealogy….” I want us to see something here, the wall was finished but the vision was not. Yes, they celebrated the wall but there was still work to do. The vision was never the wall.
Recall what Nehemiah said in chapter 1, verse 3: “They said to me, “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace.” When he heard these things, Nehemiah then cried out to the Lord in prayer. But he never asked God to build a wall; He prayed for God to hear his prayer and to remember His promise.
The Vision was never to build a wall, the vision was to restore the people.
In fact, half of Nehemiah is the listing of the names of those involved! The people are the heart of the vision God has put on Nehemiah’s heart. It should be the same with you!
As a leader you have the constant struggle of managing resources, projects, and teams. One of the best ways to sustain your vision is to pour into the people around you. Those on your staff and in your congregation are the ones God has entrusted to you. They will be the ones who cast and carry the vision God has given you!
Superbowl winning coach Andy Reid was once asked about a hypothetical question. He was asked what play would he call on 4th down and limited time left in the game. He simply responded, “I never think plays; I always think players.”
As a leader, when you celebrate victories and milestones and focus on people over projects, you not only sustain the vision, but create a winning culture that continues to sustain the vision.