Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 23, 2014


Progress requires visionary leaders


          No nation can grow stronger without visionary leaders who can inspire people to sacrifice.  America became a great nation because of visionary leaders like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. They inspired the people to make the sacrifices necessary for progress.

            Sacrifice is presently a bad word. In recent years no candidate for the presidency has been willing to call upon our people to sacrifice. The implication is clear: no one using the word sacrifice could hope to be elected. The mood of our citizenry is mostly materialistic and selfish. People want a president who will make life more comfortable.

            Churches, like nations, need visionary leaders who understand the relationship between progress and sacrifice. The way of Jesus is the way of sacrifice. When it comes to sacrifice, Jesus is our prime example. But there are others, especially in the Good Book. In one sense the Bible is a leadership manual. In its pages we find many examples of visionaries, men and women, who led God’s people forward. We can learn from them how to lead. Take Nehemiah of the Old Testament for example. 

            In the days of Nehemiah cities without walls were indefensible. Strong walls were necessary for protection. Seventy-five years after the return of the exiles from captivity, the walls of the city of Jerusalem were still in ruins. The once proud gates of the city had been burned.

            Nehemiah got sick of looking at the dilapidated walls of the holy city. He decided something had to be done. So he devised a plan and executed it. His visionary leadership led to the rebuilding of the wall. We can learn helpful lessons by studying Nehemiah’s strategy.

            First he saw the need. Then he took his concern to God. He fasted and prayed about what to do. Here is a great lesson. Often when we recognize a need, the first thing we do is complain about the problem. A wiser response would be to take our concern to God in fasting and prayer. Complaining seldom produces positive results. But a man with a plan authorized by God can usually get things done.

            Nehemiah realized that he could not fix the problem without God’s help. So he prayed until God gave him a passion for rebuilding the wall. He prayed until he was in synch with God. When he told people God wanted the wall rebuilt, his appeal had an authentic ring. Our leadership can become effective when we take this same step.  

            Observe that Nehemiah did not rush off to repair the wall by himself. After taking the problem to God in prayer he came up with a plan of action. He realized that God had placed him in a strategic position as the king’s cupbearer. He had served the king faithfully. The king trusted and cared for Nehemiah. And he discerned that the sadness on Nehemiah’s face was caused by sadness in his heart.

            Nehemiah used the respect he had earned to win the king’s approval for rebuilding the wall. He realized that the resources he needed for his project were at hand. Wisely he gained the help of both God and the king before making his appeal to the people. Here is another fine lesson. Often the resources we need to do the will of God are already with us. We have but to see them and claim them. Wisely Nehemiah saw that the support of the king was the result of “the gracious hand of God” upon him.

            When Nehemiah appeals to the people he calls the community together, including the leaders, priests, and ordinary citizens. He casts the vision with passion and confidence. His speech is electrifying. The people are ready to respond. With conviction they say, “Let us start building!” So the work began and soon the job was done – all because one man had a vision. Was their work easy? No. Did it require sacrifice? Yes. But together they got the job done.

            Nations and churches need visionary leaders who can inspire people to roll up their sleeves and go to work. Often only one voice is necessary to stir people to action. Each of us must ask God to clarify our role. He may call us to cast the vision. Or he may call us to be like Aaron and Hur and hold up the hands of our leader.

To know the will of God may require fasting and prayer. This much is certain: we do not want to found sitting on our hands when God has called us join the team that is doing his work.  When the vision is cast, let’s not quibble about why it cannot be done. Let’s respond eagerly and say as the Israelites did, “Let’s get started!” + + +