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Don't Forget the Mortar

The first time a youth worker from another country visited my office, it made an indelible impression on me. He took one look at my library of youth ministry materials and his mouth dropped open. “Where did you get all these?!” he said, as if he had just discovered a chest of hidden treasure.

I felt grateful, embarrassed, and sad, all at the same time. Grateful, realizing our abundance of resources should not be treated as a “given.” Embarrassed that I hadn’t used some of these books in years. Sad that he didn’t have access to a fraction of what I did.

But I was sad for another reason. Sometimes, I wonder what effect all these resources have had. I don’t need to rehearse the moral condition of our nation or the lack of distinction between the lifestyle of Christians and non-Christians to make the point that we have a long way to go to impact our nation for Christ.

Why is that? Will we ever reach all our nation’s youth? Will we ever see widespread revival? The fulfillment of the Great Commission? If we can’t do it with all the resources we have in America, who can?

Maybe we’re not doing ministry the way God intended. Sure, we have abundant resources, impressive mega churches and gifted leaders—but is everyone acting too independently? Can we afford to do that? How much of a crisis do we have to experience before we see our need for each other? I think of Nehemiah as he gathered all the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem:

“You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17).

Do you see the application to America in this verse? We know “the trouble we are in.” It is a moral crisis that has largely poisoned the seed bed where youth are germinating. The Holy Spirit can empower us to help bring revolutionary change, but His pattern is for us to work together as one body in Christ. (I Corinthians 12:20).

As in the days of Nehemiah, let’s rise up to rebuild our churches and our nation to love and honor God. Like those Nehemiah challenged to rebuild areas around their homes, let’s take responsibility to help build networks in our own communities – ministries that point to the love of Christ and the unity of the Spirit.

As with Nehemiah’s effort to rebuild the wall, this worthy goal will take commitment, wisdom and hard work. Jerusalem was not rebuilt by everyone just bringing a few bricks and throwing them in a pile. That may be a start, but our efforts need to connect us into meaningful partnerships that accomplish God’s purposes.

The difference between building a wall and stacking bricks is one important, unheralded, non-flashy essential: mortar. It is essential! But it must be done right. You have to mix the proper consistency that will bind the bricks together. You use plumb lines to keep things square. Building a wall is a slow process, completed in stages. You must give the mortar time to “set,” or the weight of the upper bricks will cause the mortar of the lower bricks to be squeezed out. Thus, the strength of the wall would be compromised and would eventually crumble. (Draw your own applications!)

Building an environment for collaboration and partnership in your community may need to start with you. Nehemiah took it on himself to call the workers to the task (Nehemiah 2:17). Someone has to take the initiative.

We can make a difference for Christ in our culture, but we must partner our efforts. Really, it’s the only way. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says to “pity the man who has no one to help him…” Jesus said the world will be won when we are “brought to complete unity” (John 17:23).

We can build the kingdom of God, one brick at a time. Just don’t forget the mortar!

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