“The people had a mind to work.” — Nehemiah 4:6
The group wasn’t large when the day started, but everyone was willing and ready to get some much needed work done. Over the next few minutes, more came by ones and twos and families to help, and soon a full crew was busy. Some were inside cleaning and clearing. Some were outside trimming every bush on the property and cleaning up the parking lot. Some were lifting loads others couldn’t. The 3-ton dumpster was filling up and the workers kept smiling and laughing, working together and enjoying the day. Men, women, teens and even younger kids stayed on task and accomplished so much in one day.
Noon (the advertised quitting time) came and went. The group kept at it, working steadily on their tasks. By late afternoon, five very junky (as in inaccessible) storage areas were cleaned and organized. The kitchen got a much-needed cleaning and organizing. The teacher resource rooms were in much better shape. Two totally new classrooms were set up from unused space. One even had a fresh coat of paint on walls and furniture. The grounds around the building looked clean and freshly groomed. It was a rewarding day of cooperation and getting things done.
I am writing about a work day we had at church a couple of Saturdays ago. We made a few announcements about it and the response and results were wonderful. It would be quite dangerous to try to name everyone who was there, but we had a great group of volunteers who worked then worked some more.
So many aspects of fellowship were modeled by that group. These people were humble enough to work together, and it didn’t matter who got the credit or who was the leader. Not all could do the same things but each did what he or she could. It was the body picture of the church with different members doing their part from 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.
The workers encouraged and complimented each other, laughed and enjoyed sharing a slice of pizza or a snack cake together. It was fellowship — fellows on the same ship — and it was fun and productive. They were what Paul called some brothers and sisters at Philippi: “fellow workers” (Philippians 4:3).
These people with gifts and talents and strength from God used what they had received for the good of the whole church. It was 1 Peter 4:10-11 coming to life: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
And these folks were willing to work. We had lots of jobs that needed to be done. They didn’t talk about how somebody ought to; they just did it. They reminded me of Nehemiah and Company, the company that got the contract to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after captivity. Nehemiah described his helpers, saying “the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).
Let me choose one more idea from several more that come to mind. More got done in one day by that group than could have been done by one person in months. There is tremendous power in people joining together to accomplish so much more than they could do on their own. “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). And 20 or so are a lot better.
When I left the church building about 6:45 p.m., the dumpster was full and my heart was filled with a sweet sense of gratitude. I was grateful for all that had been done. I was grateful for the fellowship and cooperation. I was grateful for the loving spirit of helping one another and looking out for each other during a day of hard work and heavy lifting. And I was grateful to God for the privilege of being part of a church like this one.
Mike McElroy is a regular faith columnist for The Tribune.