One thing I tend to do at this time of year is plan the teaching programme for the next session in church. I'm a bit late this year for all sort of reasons, not the least of which has been the trouble I've had writing that has tended to slow everything else down.
In the evenings from January to March we'll be using Nehemiah to ask some questions about what it means to be a missional people.
I have to confess that I find Nehemiah difficult. One reason for this is that I'm fed up of books and conference sessions on leadership telling me that he is the model leader! I'm sure the book that bears his name must have more to tell me than how I exercise leadership - otherwise those who read it who aren't leaders can't be getting a whole lot from it!
The other reason is that he comes across as an insufferable chauvinist, precursor of the Pharisees that Jesus struggled with during his ministry which tends to make the text that bears his name somewhat uncongenial.
However, I've been looking for a handle that will let me into seeing Nehemiah in a fresh way and I think I found one with Stuart Murray Williams' brief comments on this text at the end of his still excellent book on the city and some sermons by Mark Driscoll, who explored Nehemiah as the builder of a city within the city and used the book to help his church in Seattle explore their calling to embody the gospel where they are.
I'm hoping that we'll be able to do the same for us. So we'll be exploring aspects of being a missional people where we are as we read the book together, things like being a people who pray, plan and prepare, who recognise that everyone has a role but not everyone does the same amount of work, who have a passion for economic justice, who seek to create space for those not in our group to explore the meaning of life, who recognise the importance of covenant relationships and constantly retelling the founding stories of the community, and so on.
I think all this - and more - is in Nehemiah, so it'll be interesting to see whether we're able to extract in in such a way that helps to shape our identity as a missional people in our city in the second decade of the third millennium after Christ.