Why should the work stop

No one is indispensable. As Jim Collins said, “Your organization isn’t great if it cannot be great without you.” Making disciples is about equipping people to go themselves and make disciples. 

We hear all the time about not thinking of yourself too highly, of learning to be humble and part of a team.

I agree.

But I also am learning much from Nehemiah about accepting responsibility to take responsibility.

In the story we’re looking at about a great work which cannot be left,  we need to look at the rest of Nehemiah’s statement.

And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Nehemiah’s heart was broken about the broken walls of Jerusalem. He risked his career to enlist the king’s help. He traveled 900 miles by horse and foot. He surveyed the damage himself. He rallied the residents to start rebuilding these walls. He planned work strategy and defensive strategy and morale strategy and prayer strategy. He was everywhere during the project.

Though he was not indispensable, he was the heartbeat of this project, this great work.

Being an effective leader means that you care enough about the work you are assigned to do that you believe that you can’t follow rabbit trails. That while you are on duty, you are on duty. That you would never let yourself walk away while you are in the middle of a project where you hold the vision and you care about the outcome and you are passionately concerned about protecting the hands and hearts of the rest of the team.

Being a Nehemiah-style leader means you accept the significance of your leadership. Because you understand that serving means owning up.

6 thoughts on “Why should the work stop

  1. joseph ruiz

    Jon these have been thought provoking posts, I am contemplating what this might look like in my life. Thank you.


  2. Rich Dixon

    This really challenges my thinking. So many aspects to it. Arrogance vs. confidence. False humility vs. true humility. Empowerment vs. seeking power and control. Accepting that you’re “the guy” vs. wanting to be “the guy.” And so much of it can be faked (even in your own heart), at least in the short term, to achieve a personal agenda.

    For anyone trying to lead, this is convicting stuff.

    In this cynnical political season, one might spin the story to make it seem Nehemiah did all this for personal glory and recognition, just to get a book named after him. Maybe one sign of his sincerity was the lack of messages saying, “I’m Nehemiah, and I approved this message.” He was too busy keeping his team together and doing the great work to worry about who got credit.


    1. Jon Swanson

      I so understand this tension, Rich. What’s compelling to me as I am walking through this text over and over is that Nehemiah kept going to God, kept within the bounds of the task, was fully engaged in the work, was “doing” more than “telling about what he was doing.” Every step I read resonates so clearly as good strategy. Actually, as great strategy.


  3. Mark J. Zanotto

    Jon, I have been reading you postings for a few months now and really enjoy them. These latest on Nehemiah have been excellent and so timely for me at this point in life. I had to forward this on to a LinkedIn group I am a member of it is called Fratrem, and was started by a brother who was trying to provide a venue to expore servant leadership.

    I hope you don’t mind, but it was just great stuff and perfect for this group to see.

    Thank you again!


Comments are closed