Nehemiah was in leadership during an extraordinary time in Israel’s history.In 587 BCE the people of Judah were taken in captivity from Israel and deported to Babylon. In 538 BCE Cyrus sent some of the people back to rebuild the temple. Zerubbabel built the temple, Ezra brought the law back into Israel’s life, Nehemiah rebuilt the wall that made Jerusalem secure.
Nehemiah’s heart was burdened by God to see Jerusalem transformed; he was concerned for the welfare of the people and the glory of God. The ruined walls seemed like a giant task to address. Nehemiah, prayed, planned, prepared and set to work with a large team.
Nehemiah doesn’t just rebuild a wall, he rebuilds the people of God.
We are at a time when we face a giant task: to see Wigan transformed. The vision of this movement is for 1 in 10 people to be engaged on a journey of discipleship with Jesus in the next six years. Currently there are around 2,000 church ‘members’ in Wigan, we are looking instead for 20,000 disciples of Jesus.
Our town has some of the highest rates of social deprivation in the country (the majority of our parish is in among the 2% most deprived areas of England). Nationally, the financial base of the church is a rapidly ageing population, the average age in the Church of England is 61, compared to a national average age of 48. 30 years ago the church was younger on average than the rest of the population. Today just 0.6% of 18 – 24 year olds attend a Church of England church (that is 3 in every 500). 20% of clergy will retire before 2022.
When we hear statistics like this it can be paralysing. How can we turn this around? How can it change?
The Bishop of Liverpool writes:
“In our Diocese we speak of asking God for a bigger church so that we may make a bigger difference. When we do that, we are speaking biblically. The New Testament rejoices in the numerical growth of the church, and in the feeding of the poor. We may want to do more than this, but I do not believe we should do less.”
As we study of Nehemiah are you prepared to be burdened by God to see His kingdom come in Wigan, to see our town transformed? Will you ask God for a bigger church so that we may make a bigger difference? The Church in Wigan appears to be in ruins, there is injustice in our community and desperate poverty.
Jonathan Edwards, the 18th Century theologian of the Great Awakening in America said “The obligation of every generation is to understand what God is doing and then to do it together with Him!”
In our study of Nehemiah let us pray together that we will have greater clarity of what God is doing and how He wants to use us in His movement of Transforming Wigan.