Preachers do a number of things in the course of their work. They study, prepare lessons, write articles, counsel, teach classes, and preach sermons, besides visiting and handling a number of administrative tasks. This is correct, as far as it goes. However, far too often, people in the congregation, elders, and preachers themselves view these things as their purpose, when in fact these are only the means to the end. Saving souls should be the primary focus of every gospel preacher—and every elder as well. But in order to save souls you must also solve problems—spiritual problems. Indeed, this is what good gospel preachers understand and excel in. If we are not solutions oriented as a people, we will simply run to and fro between various problems.
When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, he found all kinds of problems. However, while most people remember Nehemiah’s leadership in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he showed just as much leadership in the spiritual realm. Leveraging the good will and respect he had developed previously, in the closing chapter of his record, Nehemiah cites the numerous spiritual problems the people still faced—and how he solved them. While we do not have the exact issues today, today’s problem solvers do need the same skills demonstrated by Nehemiah.
- Problem solvers make God’s Word the foundation for addressing problems (Neh. 13:1-3). Solutions oriented people create a culture filled with respect for the truth of God’s Word and thus establish the standard by which all problems will be judged and from which all solutions will come. Problem solvers therefore do not just bring up God’s Word when convenient or use it when defending a personal position but rather make it the consistent judge by which they consider all things rather than reverting either to the demands of the congregation or their own past practice.
- Problem solvers do not accept sinful situations; they address them and change them (Neh. 13:4-9). Preaching about a sin or a doctrinal problem is only the first step. Solutions oriented thinking confronts those responsible and replaces sinful practices with spiritual solutions. It will likely take time and require great wisdom, but focusing on the long-term godly solution makes the effort and patience worthwhile. However, a leader who fails to correct erroneous practices due to fearing complaints or losing numbers is not really leading in the first place.
- Problem solvers notice subtle issues that indicate larger problems (Neh. 13:10). Not all of problem solving involves seeing things that are wrong. Much of it requires recognizing when something or someone is missing. Solutions oriented people look for ways to involve people whose abilities have been overlooked. They recognize quickly the inconsistencies in leadership that create an atmosphere of distrust. They understand the implications of small things, which enables them to work in principle to address critical mistakes.
- Problem solvers stand up to the leadership when the leadership is in the wrong (Neh. 13:11). We have come to accept the wrong view of authority in many congregations of the Lord’s church today, practically speaking. While people will recognize the Bible as the authority in theory, they often defer to the leadership in practice—even when those leaders are acting contrary to the Bible’s authority. Solutions oriented people take a stand against leadership when the leaders themselves are sinning rather than sitting on their hands as if they can do nothing.
- Problem solvers seek out faithful people who are willing to rise to meet the challenges God’s people face (Neh. 13:12-13). Solutions oriented people remain constantly on the lookout for other people who value solutions over the status quo. However, real solutions require faithfulness—not just change. Therefore, problem solvers must not only find people who are ready for something different; they must find people who are committed to what is better and right.
- Problem solvers work for God, for the benefit of God’s people, and for their future (Neh. 13:14). The business culture of America has had an unfortunate influence on the way many Christians view the work of the church and those whose work is specifically with the church. A preacher who sees himself as the congregation’s lackey cannot help them solve their problems. Only by seeing his work from a divine perspective and with eternity in view will a man rise above the employee mindset to do what is best for people—even when those affected do not realize it immediately.
- Problem solvers admonish people who commit sin (Neh. 13:15-18). You cannot solve a problem if you refuse to address a problem. If you want a solution, you must eliminate the problem. Unfortunately, the most popular approach to problems today is often to try to wait them out, talk them to death, or ignore them. Solutions oriented people understand that these are not actually solutions but rather just trying to push the problem down the road. If we are not strong enough to correct people in sin, we are not strong enough to be spiritual leaders.
- Problem solvers create solutions to prevent the recurrence of the same old problems (Neh. 13:19-22). Some people act as if complaining about a problem long and loud, wagging their fingers at people, and bullying people until they capitulate is the same as problem solving. It isn’t. Solutions oriented people do address the sin, but they also have the foresight to create a workable solution that involves people positively and puts measures in place to prevent the problem from resurfacing.
- Problem solvers address personal issues as well as congregational issues because they understand they are related (Neh. 13:23-28). A congregation can only be as healthy spiritually as its members are in their daily lives. Leaders who evaluate the well-being of a congregation based only on Sunday’s records and the preacher’s sermons are not shepherding sheep—they are monitoring the assembly. Since the problems that affect people the most are personal, solutions oriented people must prepare themselves to offer personal solutions for people, both in and out of the congregation.
- Problem solvers do not compromise. They cleanse, correct, and beseech (Neh. 13:29-31). You cannot solve a problem until you are willing to address everything about the problem, eliminating those things that contribute to the problem and putting forward everything necessary to create a solution. Sadly, many people are content to do only a portion of each. This is no solution whatsoever. It is a half-hearted attempt to convince others (and perhaps ourselves) that we are doing something, hoping to be evaluated on our effort rather than on our results.
We live in a world filled with problems. We know by experience that we all face numerous problems. We therefore should acknowledge that congregations will have problems. However, accepting the reality of problems is just the first step. We must prepare ourselves to address the problem, correct the problem, and then move past the problem or we are not really solving the problem. Solutions oriented people know this, and that is why more preachers and elders need to become solutions oriented people.