Most of us have more ideas than time. That’s a good problem. It’s better than more time than ideas, for sure.
The danger, however, is that we develop a tendency to also have more half-started projects than we have involvement. Once we’re convinced that an idea is something God has laid on our hearts—whether that be a new ministry, building, activity or event, project, or program—how do we act on it to bring it to completion?
One of the best books in the Bible to study regarding project completion is Nehemiah. Throughout this book, we see six steps a spiritual leader will take to move an idea to a reality.
1. Begin with Prayer
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,—Nehemiah 1:4
Why is it that we wait until things are falling apart to pray?
Nehemiah began with prayer. It was how he developed a compelling burden for the project on which he was about to embark. It was also how he saw God provide for the project all along the way.
When you believe God has laid an idea on your heart, begin with prayer—before any other step. Pray for wisdom, insight, power, provision, and the supernatural help of God.
2. Clarify the Purpose
Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.—Nehemiah 2:17–18
When you begin with prayer, God often crystalizes the purpose through that process.
Ultimately, our greatest purpose is to glorify God (Revelation 4:11), and the purpose of every aspect of local church ministry should relate to the four areas of the Great Commission—go, win, baptize, and teach (Matthew 28:19–20).
Before you can lead others, you need to clarify for yourself how what you are doing ties into that purpose.
Two important questions to ask at this stage: Why are we doing this? And how is it getting done?
Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. And be careful of proceeding without answering them.
And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;—Nehemiah 2:6–7
One area where Nehemiah excelled was thinking through and preparing for the details.
Sometimes very good ideas fall flat because the leader doesn’t prepare. Ask yourself questions about how this is going to get done: Who will be involved? What supplies will they need? What will the process look like? What can I do now to prepare for that?
We can’t know every step of the journey—that’s why we walk by faith. But we do know some steps. And we should prepare for the details that we can foresee.
Don’t short what God may want to do by failing to think through and prepare for the details.
4. Expect God to Purify
But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?—Nehemiah 2:19
If you are engaged in an endeavor with potential to bear fruit, difficulties will arise. In fact, much of the book of Nehemiah is a record of overcoming difficulties.
Instead of being undone by the difficulties, expect the Lord to use them to purify your life and your motives…and to do the same for those laboring with you.
One of the benefits of difficulty is that without it, we tend to slip into just going through the motions. What began in prayer, reverts to self effort. Trials help to purify our hearts and remind us of our dependence upon God.
When God begins to purify, examine your heart, allow Him to make adjustments, but don’t give up. Keep your hand to the plow and your eyes on the finish line.
And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?—Nehemiah 6:3
5. Encourage Participation
And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them…—Nehemiah 3:4–5
The entire chapter of Nehemiah 3 is a record of participation—who built what sections of the wall.
The local church is a body, and it needs every part working. As spiritual leaders, part of our responsibility is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
Participation by others is indicative of a sense of ownership—belonging, responsibility, and care. When people cease to stay involved, it’s indicative of lack of care. It’s serious. And a leader must encourage and monitor participation.
As a pastor, I want everyone—as in every single person—to go to the next level of ministry and growth with our church. Not everyone will, but everyone will be invited and encouraged.
6. Praise God
Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.—Nehemiah 12:43
These are steps of faith. And when we exercise faith, we’ll certainly have opportunity to offer praise.
One of the dangers of fervency in ministry and diligence in executing action plans is that we neglect to praise God for what we first prayed for. Think of it—what started as an idea is now a fruit-bearing reality. Don’t rush on to the next idea before giving thanks to God!