In his book “Movements that change the world,” author Steve Addison writes,
“Movements are characterized by discontent, vision, and action. Discontent unfreezes people from their commitment to the way things are. Movements emerge when people feel something needs to change. If the vacuum created by discontent is filled with a vision of a different future and action to bring change, then a movement is born.
Movements change people, and changed people change the world.”
If you have ever known frustration at the way things are then you may well know the discontent Steve Addison writes about. This can often be a precursor to change, but alone it will not change a thing. It is one thing to know things ought to change, but it is something else entirely to have a sense of what it needs to change to. That requires vision.
In the book of Nehemiah, the second chapter opens with an encounter between Nehemiah and the Persian King, Artaxerxes, who supports his cupbearer’s vision for a restored Jerusalem. Yet, when Nehemiah arrives at Jerusalem, he does nothing. For three days he doesn’t tell a soul why he has arrived. Only after three days does he inspect the walls at night to assess the task ahead.
It is only after he walks around, gathers data, and perhaps listens to stories about the city, does Nehemiah share his vision for the city with its leaders. As he shares he identifies what is causing discontent, the solution, a reason why they should act and why they should act now. It is a vision of a better Jerusalem, that inspires the city to action.
If you are feeling discontent at the state of things in our city, our world, and you desire to see change, then learn from Nehemiah. Clarity on what God is calling you to do can take time. Walk the proverbial city walls before you talk.
For us, it might include things like looking at the buildings of our area and asking what kinds of structures are these, and what kinds of people use them? Looking at the signs in the community, and asking what is their purpose and who are they catering for? Consider what are the public spaces like? Do people like wide open spaces, or privacy? Where do people hang out in this community? What are the places of worship in the community? Are they well attended? Listen for what stories are told and what cycles seem to repeat themselves?
Seek to understand what is going on here. Try to see what God sees. We could argue Nehemiah doesn’t just see broken walls, he sees a city without pride, without a sense of purpose or leadership.
Michael Frost & Christina Rice in their book, “To Alter Your World” suggest that we need to study or understand a place in order to effectively engage it. They write,
“As we learn more about our place, we become conduits of goodness and grace, holding the space for God’s Spirit to birth redemptive realities and build hope. We connect people in need with the resources that could best serve them. We cultivate gathering spaces that nurture human connection. We tell people about Jesus.”
You see, this is not just about data. This is about identifying with the people and place. Loving them. Understanding the vision of what God may have for us to do in this place at this time.
If you are feeling discontent with the way things are, it might be time to walk around where you live? Understand the place God has you in. Understand the people in this place and their discontent. Listen to God, and seek to understand what He might have you do. Then it might be time to talk, and see who else God has been stirring the same things in.