In this year's Super Bowl, the New England Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit, with a little more than a quarter to play, to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, in overtime, by a score of 32 to 28. (Reuters/Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

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The world is filled with examples of turnarounds.  Business, sports, career, personal and church examples abound.  Money Inc's list of business examples include the well-known names of Apple, IBM, General Motors, Marvel, Delta, Starbucks, Netflix, Ford, Whitepages, Lego, Nintendo and Tesla.  Apple is now the most valuable company in the world.

Apple's founder, Steve Jobs (who passed in 2011), has a personal turnaround story. In 1976, Jobs (with Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne) incorporated Apple Computer. In the late 1970s, the Apple II was a huge success, but in 1980, the Apple III was a huge failure. In 1985, Apple's board removed Jobs from all executive responsibilities. Jobs then failed with his NeXT computer and succeeded with Pixar. He came back as CEO of Apple in 1997 and released the first iPhone in 2007.

The sports world has been filled with many turnarounds of late. In this year's Super Bowl, the New England Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit, with a little more than a quarter to play, to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, in overtime, by a score of 32 to 28. The 25-point deficit was the largest in Super Bowl history.  The Chicago Cubs won the 2016 world series after being down 3 games to 1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA finals against the Golden State Warriors after being down three games to one, which is a NBA finals first. In the last America's Cup (2013) for sailing's top award, Oracle Team USA trailed Emirates Team New Zealand eight races to one. With no margin for error, the American team won the next eight races to win the cup.

Organization turnarounds are attributed to a variety of factors.  They are often studied to mimic their success.  Application of specific principles will enhance the likelihood of success.  Tactics, in contrast, will often vary by the specific organization and environment.  

For churches, the following principles and tactics should provide insight into a successful turnaround.  Principles include:

  1. Be on Mission.  Every Christian church should have a biblically mandated mission. All should be following the great commission: making disciples, baptizing and teaching obedience. All should be intentional about equipping the saints for service leading to spiritual maturity.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you," (Matt. 28:19-20).

"for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).

  1. Have Anointed, God-edifying Worship.  God inhabits the praises of His people and we enter His courts with praise. The worship service is an opportunity for everyone to have a personal encounter with God. Nothing else can compete with God-led corporate worship.  More songs should magnify Him than emphasize us.
  1. Have Anointed, Bible-inspired, Spirit-empowered Preaching.  A good sermon will magnify the Lord, draw unbelievers, and equip believers.  There is power in the word.  Avoidance or minimization of the word of God is perilous.  A sermon must attract the attention of listeners, but should not attempt to compete with the world's entertainment.  God-inspired, Spirit-led sermons change lives, families, communities and the church.
  1. Allow for Ministry Opportunities.  Every service should be an occasion, for anyone desiring, to receive ministry.  Each service should provide opportunity for anyone to accept Christ, to renew their relationship with Christ and/or to receive prayer for healing or other needs.
  1. Pray and Be Spirit-led. God is in control of turnarounds. Successful godly turnarounds require prayer and the leading of the Spirit. God wants all churches to be healthy and growing. But changes that lead to turnarounds will have opposition both within and outside the church. Prayer and the direction of the Spirit are crucial.
  1.  Allow Freedom to the Spirit.  Revivals originate and are maintained with a movement of the Spirit.  Fruits and gifts of the Spirit, judged by the appropriate authorities, should be allowed to operate. The Spirit gives the best altar calls, chooses the best worship songs and gives the best sermon topics. He reserves the right to use His timing.

Tactics should be used when it fits your church. They are not designed to be applicable in all circumstances. Example of tactics for church turnarounds include:

  1. Cell groups. If using cell groups, focus on the development of new groups. If not using cell groups, consider using them.
  2. Develop and/or maintain a strong children's and youth program. Many people decide church membership and/or attendance on the strength of the children and youth programs.
  3. Encourage members to invite others.
  4. Encourage evangelism outside of the church walls.
  5. Become more involved in community activities.
  6. Sponsor biblically-based new-member and Bible classes which give the opportunity for people to grow.
  7. Critically evaluate current programs and activities. In some churches, too many activities and meetings have exhausted the sheep. Decrease the number of programs and meetings and concentrate on quality.  

Pastors want turnaround. Congregations want turnaround. God wants turnaround. Following God's principles will provide a foundation for healthy turnaround.  Selectively implementing proven tactics should help.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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