By Mick Boersma

Pastors have many roles. They are teachers, evangelists, caregivers, guardians, and leaders. Much is written about these areas of endeavor, but perhaps none as much as leadership. Recently the Society of Human Resource Managers released figures from a global survey of corporations that revealed 57% of all of the organizations surveyed employ outside vendors to provide leadership training. Companies know the great importance of good leadership.

When listing great leaders, we think of Nehemiah, the man who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem during the time of the great Persian Empire. Many books have been written about his skillful handling of a desperate situation. But I’d like us to look at his heart as he expertly leads. When looking for a new king, the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

As we follow Nehemiah upon his arrival at Jerusalem, a broken city, verses 11 through 20 of Nehemiah chapter 2 reveal several key features of his leader’s heart. Having sought permission and been given support for his venture, he arrives in Jerusalem after a long and arduous journey. 

Many would arrive at such a scene and immediately decide what needs to be done, give orders, and push for a quick solution. Not Nehemiah. While he was a man of action, he was also a man of careful observation:

He cared enough to accurately assess the circumstances confronting his people.

It seems he took three days to re-gain strength after his nearly 1000 mile trek. And after resting up, he took a few men and quietly toured the walls so as to not alert the many enemies of God’s people, those who did not want Jerusalem to regain its position as a place of worship and influence.

He also very carefully inspected the walls, making sure to note the exact circumstances facing the people. Being careful with such details would assure a wise approach to the project and success in bringing protection to God’s people and honor to His name.

One of my hobbies is working with wood, building furniture and other items of household use. Woodworkers have a saying: “Measure twice, cut once.” It is better to make sure your measurement is correct than to try and stretch a board you have cut too short! 

We demonstrate a leader’s heart when we take care to know our people, their circumstances, and the challenges they face in their lives. Such leaders do not force solutions on others, but listen to the hearts of their people and create ministries that meet their needs. Careful sermon preparation, program planning, organization, and counseling reflect the heart of a leader who honors God.

Having done his careful inspection, Nehemiah speaks to the leaders and says: “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire” (v. 17). Here we see a second feature of Nehemiah’s heart:

He was sensitive to the brokenness of his people.

The walls he examined had been compromised for over 140 years. The city had lived in this desperate state for so long, the people most likely did not even notice the brokenness.