Any high school history textbook will likely tell you that Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type printing in the 15th century. However, more than 400 years earlier, a man named Bi Sheng – who lived during the Song dynasty in China – created the first moveable type made from hardened clay.
Bi Sheng is just one example of someone who lived before his time. History is full of examples of precursors to major innovations that we regularly use today: Leonardo Da Vinci (invented preliminary flying machines), Rene Descartes (invented the contact lens), Hero of Alexandria (inventor of the vending machine … in the 1st century!).
These men and women paved the way, and often didn’t receive credit for their inventions. They were simply pathfinders who built foundations for later pioneers to innovate.
In our Year of Provision series we’ve been looking at the example of Nehemiah – a pioneer who successfully governed the Israelites and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in the 5th century BC. But did you know that two men – Zerubbabel and Jeshua – attempted rebuilding the city decades before?
“In early autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel.” – Ezra 3:1-2
When the Persian king heard of this project, he immediately ordered a stop be put to it (Ezra 4). It would take decades for Nehemiah to come, find the same king’s favor again, and continue building.
Nehemiah gets credit for being the pioneer, but the real pathfinders were Zerubbabel and Jeshua.
Sometimes we’re presented with seemingly unfair situations – we are called to faithfully start a project, but we don’t get to enjoy the fruits of its completion. We don’t get recognized for starting the work, but others are praised for completing it.
There are numerous Biblical examples of pathfinders who never enjoy the fruits of their work. Moses receives the blessing of a promised land, but he dies before seeing it. David is told that the temple will be rebuilt, but it will be his son who constructs it. Zerubbabel and Jeshua do not see the completion of Jerusalem’s reconstruction. The Apostle Paul was likely martyred before witnessing the rapid growth of the early church.
Maybe you’ve experienced this before: you started a ministry, but hand it over for others to carry forward. You carried that project at work, but your boss gets to present it as hers. We’ve all faced situations where we were the pathfinder, but another pioneer got credit for the work.
It’s understandable to be upset for not receiving proper credit. But when you widen your understanding of the spiritual principle of equipping others, you begin to reframe how you view leadership.
Because leadership is rarely ever about being the pioneer. Usually, it’s about pathfinding. Usually, leaders build the roads that will be travelled by others.
At Calvary we call this style of leadership hero-making. It’s something that we believe is an essential practice of disciple-making. Put simply, we want to equip leaders who make heroes not of themselves, but of others.
In this series where we are looking at the leadership of Nehemiah, remember and apply to your life this simple spiritual principle.
How can you make heroes of others? How can you be a Jeshua and Zerubbabel to another Nehemiah in your life and in our church?