Louder Than Words

These are the notes for the lesson I taught in Sunday School this morning.  The class is a group of 30-40 year olds.  Most of us are married and have young kids.  We are starting to ascend to leadership positions in the organizations where we work and volunteer.  The resources for the lesson are

1.      Andy Stanley’s opening talk at Catalyst 2008 titled “Louder Than Words”

2.      Visioneering by Andy Stanley

3.      Shane Claiborne’s talk at The 2008 National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN. Gen. Session #2

Arrival: (Divide into small groups of about 5 people)

1. Everyone in the small group needs to name at least one leader that they respect

2. List the qualities of the named leaders that make them worth following (come up with at least five).

3. Describe a time when you were in a group that was lead by a “leader by position only, but did not have any authority.”

4. Everyone in the small group needs to name at least one leader that lost their respect (personally or on the National stage).

5. What was it about their “action” that caused you to stop following them?

Warmup: (Discuss in same small groups)

Read Luke 7:18-23 (NIV)

18John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 20When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ “

 21At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

1. How does Jesus respond to the question from John’s disciples?

2. Can you respond the same way that Jesus responded if someone at work, or wherever your position of authority is, were to come ask “Are you the one who is to manage us, or should we expect someone else?”

3. Could we respond the same way if someone asked us “Are you a Christian?”

Notice that Jesus didn’t highlight all of his major accomplishments we typically do in an annual review with our boss.  He didn’t say “I fed over 5000 people with only 2 loafs of bread and five fish” or “I spit in some dirt and wiped it on this blind guys face and now he sees”.  He simply responded with “Take a look around and tell him what you have seen.”  His actions spoke louder than words.

Exercise: (Come back together and work as a large group)

Read Nehemiah 5:1-13 (The Message)

1-2A great protest was mounted by the people, including the wives, against their fellow Jews. Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”

 3 Others said, “We’re having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving.”

 4-5 And others said, “We’re having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. Look: We’re the same flesh and blood as our brothers here; our children are just as good as theirs. Yet here we are having to sell our children off as slaves-some of our daughters have already been sold-and we can’t do anything about it because our fields and vineyards are owned by somebody else.”

 6-7 I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother.”

 7-8 Then I called a big meeting to deal with them. I told them, “We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?”

    They said nothing. What could they say?

 9 “What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?

 10-11 “I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop. Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”

 12-13 They said, “We’ll give it all back. We won’t make any more demands on them. We’ll do everything you say.”

    Then I called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word. Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, “So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn’t keep this promise-turned inside out and emptied.”

    Everyone gave a wholehearted “Yes, we’ll do it!” and praised God. And the people did what they promised.

Do people really act like this?  It sounds like a “Bible story” – “Thus saith the Lord, and the people obeyed….” How could Nehemiah command this much respect from his people with just one conversation?

Let’s look at the context of this passage?

  • Nehemiah was the cup bearer to King Artaxerxes, Babylonian King, and he had a vision to go rebuild the wall in the place where his father is buried (Jerusalem).
  • He travels to Jerusalem and finds the Hebrew people and the town of Jerusalem a total mess.
  • The Hebrew were people in high debt to the Gentiles.
  • Nehemiah assumes all of the debt of the Hebrew people. They are now financially free.
  • Most of the Hebrew people don’t know how to manage their resources, so they get right back into trouble.
  • This time the wealthy Hebrew people start loaning with high interest (Lowell Baron style) to this same group.
  • This is against Mosaic Law – Nehemiah gets very angry – and the story picks up at 5:1.
  • The Hebrew people had to work the fields during the day, and after work they worked with Nehemiah on the wall.

 Let’s continue on in the story…

 Nehemiah 5:14-18 (The Message)

14-16 From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah-from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years-neither I nor my brothers used the governor’s food allowance. Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. But out of fear of God I did none of that. I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn’t have time to line our own pockets.

 17-18 I fed 150 Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn’t use the food allowance provided for the governor-the people had it hard enough as it was.

19 Remember in my favor, O my God, everything I’ve done for these people.

This is why the people listened to Nehemiah:

  • He didn’t take what was owed to him – he sacrificially gave himself to the vision.
  • He didn’t leverage his position.
  • He lived with alignment of creed and deed.
  • He knew their work on the wall was a sacrifice, so he sacrificed equivalently.
  • He didn’t ask them to do anything he, himself, wouldn’t do.

Cool Down: (Large Group)

Nobody cares how smart you are as a leader – Do they believe that you believe in what it is that you are asking them to do.

How would you feel if your boss paid you more than what they were paying themselves because they knew they needed you to get the job done?  Would you follow this leader?

Christ lived with perfect alignment of Creed and Deed.  He didn’t have to present a resume of polished activities to prove who He was.  All he had to say was “Go back and tell John what you have seen”. 

Are you living louder than words? 

Are you living with alignment of your creed and your deed?

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