Aug 17, 2011

Nehemiah The Project Manager

When we lived in Texas I was part of a men's breakfast study group at our church. For a time, we studied the book of Nehemiah. Over the course of this study (and teaching a few times) I became fascinated with him. Many Biblical figures such as David and Peter are held up as great examples of manhood for their courage and boldness. Nehemiah can and should be considered part of that group of men we can look to. Besides his prayerfulness, leadership, and courage, he was a skilled project manager.
Building a wall around a good sized city like Jerusalem was not a simple undertaking, but the wall had both practical and psychological significance. It serves to physically protect the city from invasion and makes defense much easier. Psychologically, the people felt shame (see 2:17) from having their former wall torn down; experiencing defeat and vulnerability.

On one level, the solution is technical: rebuild the wall. The rubble is there for materials. Building up the wall was not a high-skill task. However, the solution is also logistical - the whole wall was torn down, and managerial - how to motivate the people to the work. Nehemiah motivates the people to the work, even through harassment by outsiders. He coordinates groups all around the wall to work simultaneously. Finally, he stages a demonstration of the soundness of the wall by having two groups walk along the top of it.

We can learn a great deal from his management techniques to make a huge technical project happen. We can also learn from his reliance and focus on God in the work.

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