“Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.
The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. . . . ” -Nehemiah 3
When reading the book of Nehemiah one can’t help but notice the numerous insanely long lists of Jewish names. The first occurrence of this is in chapter 3 as Nehemiah runs off the various people who worked to rebuild the walls and where they positioned themselves at to do this work. It would be easy to just pass this off in the same way we may pass off other lists of names or genealogies that abound in the Old Testament, but instead I think that there is a point in it that we can find, namely that being the point that in order to rebuild the walls of the city it requires the participation of the whole congregation, each taking and constructing their own little piece.
Look at the language used in verse 5 of chapter 3: “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.” The people weren’t just embarking on a public work, they were performing an act of service to the Lord. In the same way we need to accentuate to our people how their involvement in the task of the church is a vital part of service to the Lord and a crucial piece of the wall that is being rebuilt.
I just recently finished reading Thom and Sam Rainer’s new book Essential Church? and the main point of the whole text is that in order for our church to put an end to the exceedingly high number of dropouts occurring when our members are 18- to 22-years old, it is important for us to make them see how church is essential to their life. And one of the ways in which they recommended making this stick is by giving these young people roles in the church. What could be better than putting the next generation of the church, the next generation of inhabitants of the city, in roles where they are working to rebuild the walls?
Another point we need to see is in verses 17 and 23: “After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. . . . After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house.” So many people are discouraged from serving in the church because they see it as the role of someone else to do. This is mainly because a lot of those people see service in the church as being service in a teaching capacity to which they do not feel called. Yet we need to show people how they can serve the church and work to rebuild the city walls by taking care of the area around them, that is, by putting to use whatever talents it is that the Lord has given them.
This may seem simplistic, but some of the most vital ministries which the church performs are ones that seem so benign, such as providing meals for young couples who just had a child or mentoring church members a stage of life behind you. All forms of hospitality and guidance should always be encouraged in our churches as they help to birth the genuine community which is so crucial for the church to actually perform its mission in the world.
At the same time, behind the scenes ministries such as technology assistance and facilities preparation are backbone operations which must be done to keep the church running smoothly and yet are often unnoticed by the average Christian searching for ways to serve. By illuminating these opportunities we can plug dozens more people into the service of the Lord and help shore up our abilities to rebuild the wall quickly and efficiently.
If we are truly going to rebuild the church it is going to take the participation of more than just a select, motivated, talented few. It will take the collective effort of all of God’s people serving in their own areas, putting in time to make sure that every corner and crevice of the wall is as strong as possible.