His beloved home-city lay in ruins. The effects devastating conquest by its invaders had taken its toll. And to make matters worse, those who had been sent there a few years before with the task of repairing the city had despaired at the enormity of the task and done nothing. But now he had an opportunity to achieve in a few weeks what these others had failed to do in years. He succeeded. His success was due entirely to his "10 yards" strategy.
And they said to me, "The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire."
When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he found the city in utter ruins, the Temple gone, and their city walls demolished.
I said to the king, "Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The task looked hopeless because the problem seemed too far gone. Many people feel like this with the problems they face too. But Nehemiah didn't the situation only like this. He saw the problem as a leader sees what most people see as an overwhelming problem. A high-level leader, like Nehemiah, sees overwhelming problems as a series of smaller problems. Rather than just seeing the miles and miles of problems, a seasoned leader has developed the ability of seeing these problems in a series of "10 yards" of problems. Inexperienced leaders who are daunted by the tasks before them will often make the mistake of delegating "miles and miles" of problems, and then wondering why competent help is so hard to find. Nehemiah turned up at the site of the former Jerusalem and assigned each family a task just 10 yards in length.
¶ Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision." Nehemiah 2:17
"I CAN DO THAT!"
When Nehemiah delegated the task of rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem, he went first to those who were leaders already. Even though these people weren't builders, he had them model to the others what it was going to take to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem.
¶ Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel.
Wise parents with a growing family soon learn the "10 yard" technique with their children. Rather than assigning them to miles and miles of tasks (which cause most children to despair and shut down) they assign to them just "10 yards". When Jed is just two years old, his 10 yards might look like putting the salt and pepper on the dinner table for the family meal. His older sister Merga, aged four, has her 10 yards - to set the cutlery on the table. Her six year old brother Selwyn has his 10 yards to do by putting the glasses and drinks on the table. His eight year old sister Myrtle has the 10 yard task of clearing the table between courses and at the end of the meal. Her ten year old brother Reginald-James III does his 10 yards by washing the main course dishes and cutlery. His twelve year old sister Wilhelmina has to do her 10 yards by drying the main courses utensils. Her sixteen year sister Franscesca-Fern-Florantina has her 10 yards done when she washes up the dessert and drinking utensils while her fourteen year old brother Augustus-Archibald enjoys drying them up as his 10 yards. For the sake of time (and out of respect to the oldest child of this family who is in therapy for the trauma caused by his triple hyphenated European rhyming name) I will avoid detailing what the next five older children in this family have to do as their 10 yards, suffice to say, this family enjoys a pleasant nightly meal together and basks in the joy of their teamwork in making it happen.
When Nehemiah presented the task to each family in Jerusalem to rebuild just 10 yards of the wall, we could reasonably guess that many of them who had previously been over-awed by the enormity of the project could say, "I could do that!"
BREAK DOWN YOUR PROBLEMS INTO 10 YARDS
Nehemiah quickly got the job done of rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem. He laid the foundation for the Temple to be rebuilt and for the spiritual revival of Israel after he organised for Ezra to come to Jerusalem. It's often very practical people who pool their 10 yards of effort together with others who are pooling theirs that enables great and seemingly impossible things to happen. You may be facing a problem that seems beyond you. You may not know where to start and indeed be afraid to start (being easily distracted by other things so that you never make a start is often a clue that this is what is happening). Try breaking your problem down into 10 yard segments. Instead of looking for someone to come and rescue you and solve your problem for you, invite others who offer to help by giving them just a piece - 10 yards - of the problem.
In this light, from God's perspective, every local church is "10 yards" of the solution. And within each local church is the potential to make their 10 yards count if people within that church are given a clear model of what it looks like to repair just 10 yards.
¶ So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
In our church, 10 yards might look like this -
1. Pray 10 minutes a week for our church - particularly, 1 minute a day asking God to bless, keep, grow, protect. our church, and especially our leaders. Ask God for new souls to be saved. In addition to this, take 2 minutes on a Saturday night to pray for the following day's services. On Sunday morning before the church service pray for our church for an extra minute.
2. Give 10% - your giving makes a hug difference to what we are doing. It enables us to punch above our weight. It provides the resources for us to take the Gospel each week into hundreds of homes Live around State.
3. Say hello to 10 people each Sunday - by all means catch up with your established friends during our Sundays together, but could you say hello to another 10 people as well? Look them in the eye, smile at them and say, "Gidday, my name ... What's yours?"
Our city is just 10 yards away from being touched with the Gospel for eternity. You don't have to win or reach out to all our city. But you can touch just 10 yards of it.