Many people are involved in nonprofit Christian organizations. In these positions, they encounter the many unique challenges of nonprofit leadership.

How do those who are Christian leaders differ from those who are not? Why do we operate nonprofits? What do we hope to get from our efforts?

The following thoughts were written for the Christian leader, pastor, lay leader, or corporate officer who would like to sit, think, and pray about what is next for the organization he or she leads. This three-week meditation guide is intended to facilitate just that, acting as a catalyst for meditation and prayer.

We suggest that before you start this study, you spend some time on your knees seeking God's heart for your organization. Then, read the book of Nehemiah through once or twice and try to pick out the principles that guided Nehemiah through turbulent days. After that, begin using this guide: read one entry a day for twenty-one days and spend an hour or so each day sipping coffee, staring out a window, and thinking about that entry. Ask God to give you the same guidance and results he gave Nehemiah.

Whatever the task God has placed on your heart, He also has a plan. He is older than you, smarter than you, and loves you; you can trust Him.

Thought for Day 1

Do I really see the problem, and am I actually bothered by it?

Nehemiah 1:3-6 (NLT)

They said to me, "Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire."

4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

5 Then I said, "O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 Listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel.

Nehemiah was not indifferent to the sin and disgrace that were brought to his attention. He did not shrug his spiritual shoulders and blame things on the world system, the religious system, or the media of his day. Instead, he sat down and wept. In fact, he wept for days; he mourned, he fasted, and he prayed.

Of notable interest is the fact that Nehemiah had a cushy job, as cupbearer to the king. This news did not directly affect Nehemiah's personal life; he could have ignored it and gone on enjoying the position that God had given him. The easy thing would have been to verbally condemn or rue what he had heard and then continue taking care of himself.

Or he could actually think about what he had heard and let it grip his soul. Nehemiah could begin to ask God why He had placed him where he was and why he had such good access to the king. He could begin to ask what he could do, if anything, to solve the problem.

The first step in any effective ministry is to have its leadership gripped by the obvious problems the leaders see, in a way that compels them into action.

So, what is the problem that God would have you observe? Have you dismissed the problem, or are you allowing God's Holy Spirit to bother you with a holy sorrow? What position or resources has God given you that He might use to solve the problem? Would you be willing to get involved if it meant giving up a secure position, giving up personal resources, working with ingrates, and doing battle with Satan himself?

Nehemiah was one who allowed himself to get gripped by the problem. He allowed himself to look at it, struggle with it, and dream about what could be done.

This is always step one.

I need to ask God to help me see the real problem—and once I see it, please help me honestly address it!