Nehemiah – What are you building? (@unshaunsheep)

capital-campaignIf Nehemiah means anything to me, it means “Oh, this church must be raising money for a building project.”  This is based on the experience of popping into a few churches over the years (usually when I’ve been working away from home or am on holiday), finding myself in a strange church and in the middle of a sermon series on Nehemiah. And yes, in each case, the congregation were being encouraged to make the link between the church building project and Nehemiah restoring the city walls. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself – there’s a lot of underlying stuff worth teasing out in this book, stuff about leadership, teamwork, vision, worship and much else.

But for the purposes of this BigBible post, I just have a few questions for us as we potter around online, doing the whole “being the Body of Christ” thing here. What are we building?

Whether we intend it or not, we build things by interacting with people, whether online or offline. We build relationships, people build an impression of us, and through that people build an impression of the Church. And through that, people should glimpse Jesus.

Looking at a few bits of Nehemiah as our guide, let’s ponder that for a moment.

Looking at how the story starts in Chapter 1… Just as Nehemiah prayed for his people, recognizing their shortcomings before God and asking for God’s help in resolving the problem. Do we similarly pray for our brothers and sisters online, for the Church as it presents itself to people online? It’s a complex and varied picture, but there are certainly some ‘broken walls’ out there which don’t look great as a testimony to our Faith or our Lord. Acknowledging our corporate shortcomings as Christ’s ambassadors online and asking God to help sort the problem out seems a wise place to start.

Then look at the teamwork aspect of things in Chapter 3, with the whole nation taking responsibility for its own bit of the wall. There’s a temptation to see ourselves as Nehemiah in reading this book, but try thinking of yourself as a bit-part player. The coolest names mentioned (in my opinion) are Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab, especially as they were responsible for sorting out the delightfully-named Tower of the Ovens. How about being one of the daughters of Shallum, son of Hallohesh? It doesn’t matter whom you choose really – the point is just think of the reality of their situation. They’ve lived among the ruined walls and probably grumbled about it. There was not a lot of point rebuilding your part of the walls if the rest were still in ruins, at least from a defensive point of view. Now, here they all are responding to the call from someone else who has taken the initiative and their work sits alongside that of others, building something which fulfills its purpose. In online terms, this might mean looking around and being aware of campaigns, initiatives taken by others and getting stuck in to help, lend our voice, or making something happen in a way which is part of someone else’s vision.

And then, in Chapter 4, when the work is threatened by others, the people watch each others’ backs. While some work, others keep watch. That’s not to say we need to wade in mob-handed when we see someone attacked for their faith online – discernment is needed – but it may mean being aware that someone may need encouragement, may need defending, may need help defusing a situation in an online context.

Being the Body of Christ online has a lot to learn from Nehemiah. The bottom line is: are we building up something which shows people how the people of God can lovingly work together to make something which glorifies God? Ideally, our online relationships, like those of God’s people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, should show those ‘outside the walls’ what the Kingdom of God – a holy nation, a royal priesthood – might look like.


For further pondering…

What do people see when they observe Christians online?

How like the Kingdom of God is the Church, as witnessed online?

About Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan, Church of England ordinand based at a welcoming, bijou-sized northern Cathedral. Writer and composer. Tweets as @Unshaunsheep