After Nehemiah led the children of Israel to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, fend off attacks from their adversaries, and refocus on their spiritual identity as a people, you might think that the work had been completed. The temple had been rebuilt; the walls were now secure. The basic physical structures of Jerusalem had been reconstituted, though certainly much rubble remained. In fact, the people themselves recognized the challenges that remained in their capital city. “Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem (Neh. 11:1-2). It was a sacrifice to live in Jerusalem during these times. The land had been devastated and the buildings burned and destroyed. They had built walls to protect the city and the temple, but it was an impoverished city, to be sure. However, both leaders and volunteers from among the people were willing to give up perhaps a more profitable and easier living in their own home cities in order to stay and reclaim Jerusalem as the vibrant center of their culture. Thus, they had to reconstitute not only a citizenry but also workforce. They needed people in different roles, whether leaders and overseers, priests and Levites, mighty men of valor to protect the city and gatekeepers to watch the walls, men to do the work of the temple and men to do work outside the temple, people to lead in worship and others to sing and be in charge of practical matters (Neh. 11:3-36). They needed all of these people, because a rebuilt temple surrounded by a rebuilt wall means nothing without people within them fulfilling their purpose.
In many ways this reminds me of the perspective required in the work of the church. Far too often we are willing to invest time and money in building a building but remain unwilling to give of ourselves in the work of the Lord for which that building was built. We will give great attention to the classroom complex but little attention to the quality of the curriculum and instruction. We will call for evangelism programs, visitation programs, and youth programs, but then not participate once the programs exist. It appears that we believe church work lies in building a facade of spiritual activity instead of making it a working model. We cannot outsource the work of the church, and the leaders alone cannot do everything required. Therefore, we must determine not only to rebuild the appearance of a healthy congregation but to rebuild the lives of individual Christians.