Updated: Nov 23, 2019
If you are a Denver Broncos fan, you will remember one of the most memorable comebacks in football. In football lore, it is simply remembered as “The Drive.” It took place in the final minutes of the 1986 AFC championship game between the Broncos and the Cleveland Brown. With 5:32 remaining in regulation time, his team trailing 20-13, and the ball on the Broncos’ own two-yard line, John Elway engineered a fifteen-play, ninety-eight-yard drive to tie the game with only 31 seconds remaining on the clock. Then on Denver’s first possession in overtime, Elway marched his team sixty yards down the field in nine plays, and the Broncos won the game on Rich Karlis’s thirty-three-yard field goal
If you are a Buffalo Bills fan, you remember the AFC wild card game in 1993 between the Bills and the Houston Oilers. Houston was ahead 35-3 in the third quarter. They were so far behind, fans began heading home to escape the cold weather in Buffalo. But backup quarterback, Frank Riech, led the Bills in the largest comeback in NFL history to win the game 41-38 in overtime. In football lore, the game is known as “The Comeback.”
In the 2017 Super Bowl, halfway through the third quarter, the Atlanta Falcons were leading the New England Patriots, 28-3. But quarterback Tom Brady passed for 466 yards (a Super Bowl record) and the Patriots outscored the Falcons the rest of the game, 31-0. They never led in the game until the final play, winning in overtime, 34-28.
Each team’s comeback is credited largely to the leadership of their quarterback. Just as football teams need strong, courageous leadership to spark a comeback, so plateaued churches need strong, courageous leaders to lead their own comebacks. Churches on the brink of extinction need strong leadership to bring spiritual renewal and revitalization.
I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true in the corporate world and in churches. It is especially true in turnaround churches. Very few, if any, will experience revitalization without courageous leadership.
Turnaround leaders come in many sizes and shapes. Some studies have suggested that turnaround pastors tend to be high D’s or I’s in the DiSC personality profile. However, I believe that God can use anyone He chooses, regardless of his personality or his leadership profile. Each pastor has a unique blend of God-given personality traits, spiritual gifts, passions, talents, abilities, and life experiences that help mold and shape him or her in the man or woman God chooses to use for this high calling of church revitalization.
When God called Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land, He gave him some words of encouragement: “Be strong and courageous.” In fact, God repeated those words of encouragement three times in just four verses (Joshua 1:6-9). This is good encouragement for every turnaround leader today – Be strong and courageous.
While leaders demonstrate many good qualities, courageous leaders are marked by the following seven characteristics.
They are men or women of faith – committed to a personal relationship with God.
They are sacrificial – willing to sacrifice their time and resources for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
They are visionaries – able to catch and cast a vision of a preferable future.
They are change-agents – introducing and implementing needed changes to minister more effectively in today’s culture.
They are risk-takers – willing to step out and introduce new and innovative strategies in ministry.
They are peacemakers – willing to confront divisiveness in the church in order to promote peace and unity.
They are authentic – willing to be open, transparent, and vulnerable.
While many church growth experts believe that new leadership is required in a plateaued church in order to turn it around; I suggest that renewed leadership can also lead a church in renewal and revitalization. Whether you are a new or a renewed leader, Be strong and courageous.