Spring 2015

Letter From the President

Back to Broken Hearts

By Dr. William J. Hamel

The Lord develops us as leaders in the body of Christ by breaking our hearts over the needs of people.

In the Book of Nehemiah, the nation of Israel is in captivity; its young leaders have been taken away. There are still Jews in Jerusalem, but the walls are broken down. In Chapter 1 it says,

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’ When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”

Nehemiah’s people were in great distress, experiencing misery, disgrace and reproach. The walls, the symbols of their protection and salvation, were broken down. And Nehemiah wept in response.

In Scripture, walls are important symbols. In Ephesians 2:21-22 it says, “In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”

Isaiah 60:18 says, “No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”

Now, the walls of Jerusalem were a disgrace.

There is a sacred connection between the blessing of God and the heart that is broken over others’ broken walls—walls of protection and care. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Leaders who have a tender heart over the needs of the least in their community, the last in their community and the lost in their community honor the Lord and have a sacred connection with God.

When was the last time I wept over the life and soul of someone outside my family?

One of the challenges we face in ministry, and I include myself, is that we get so wrapped up in ministry, we see the sea of humanity but don’t see the real heart of humanity. We see the trouble in our world, and we look at it corporately and politically—talking about this agenda and that agenda, about this party and that party. We don’t look at the heart issues.

Could it be that God would call us to our knees once again as the Evangelical Free Church to say, “Lord, show me the real needs of people”?

The real need in our day and age is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that people be discipled in their walk with Jesus Christ.

I’ve asked myself, When was the last time I wept over the life and soul of someone outside my family whose walls of protection were broken down because they didn’t know Jesus?

When I shared with the EFCA national office staff that I was going to move into this time of transition, eventually stepping down as president of our movement, I said, “I don’t yet know what I’ll do. But one place you will find me is in some coffee shop talking with pagans, because I have been so consumed with ‘ministry’ that I haven’t spent enough time with people whose real needs are Jesus.”

Will you go with me on a journey and allow God to break our hearts and give us compassion?

That’s what happened to Nehemiah. He was broken, he was sorrowful and he fasted, but then He prayed. He didn’t jump right into planning. He prayed. And he appealed for a righteous solution.

I propose to you: God hears that kind of prayer. He is ready to hear prayers from those who appeal to Him on the basis of His character, confess their sin and appeal to Him for a righteous solution.

After Nehemiah repented, he set a vision for the remnant in Jerusalem and planned to meet that vision. That brings us to where we are in the EFCA. Over the past few years, we’ve had a lot of discussions about vision. The vision that we need to focus on comes right out of Scripture:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

God wants to call us back to a vision from His heart: to allow Him to break our hearts for the least, the last and the lost, and reach out to them with the good news of the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. When that gospel message penetrates the heart and life of a person, they begin on a journey that the gospel continues to move and work in their life through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that’s called discipleship. And we get to be a part of that journey.

I believe that’s where God is calling us as the Evangelical Free Church. Won’t you join me?