How the Mighty Fall

How the Mighty FallJim Collins' books have been one of biggest influences on my ministry from outside conventional ministry circles (theology, ministry, devotion, etc.). Good to Great was absolutely fantastic, and I could hardly recommend it more highly. Charles Siburt required it as reading in my doctoral seminar on Christian leadership. If I ever teach a ministry course, it will be required reading as well. I read How the Mighty Fall (Collins' latest) last summer, but wasn't paying very close attention at the time. I had just found out that Emily and I were expecting, and we were spending time in Texas with family…so I read it in short spurts, with half-attention.

So, I began rereading it again in a serious way yesterday…and I love it. While the book chronicles the fall of companies that were at the top of their field, it is packed with lessons for those who want to be at the top and those who are doing an autopsy on their own struggles. Collins mentions five stages of decline: 1) Hubris Born of Success, 2) Undisciplined Pursuit of More, 3) Denial of Risk and Peril, 4) Grasping for Salvation, and 5) Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death.

How the Mighty Fall has some terrific implications for churches. It also potentially shines some light on the current predicament of Churches of Christ…offering some suggestions similar to those I've written about in the Turnaround Fellowship series. Here are some quotes and ideas from How the Mighty Fall:

  • "Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you."
  • "So, even though I remain a leadership skeptic, the evidence leads me to this sobering conclusion: while no leader can single-handedly build an enduring great company, the wrong leader vested with power can almost single-handedly bring a company down. Choose wisely."
  • "…One of the most significant indicators of decline is the reallocation of power into the hands of leaders who fail to comprehend and/or lack the will to do what must be done—and equally, what must not be done—to sustain greatness."
  • "Any exceptional enterprise depends first and foremost on having self-managed and self-motivated people—the #1 ingredient for a culture of discipline. While you might think that such a culture would be characterized by rules, rigidity, and bureaucracy, I'm suggesting quite the opposite. If you have the right people, who accept responsibility, you don't need to have a lot of senseless rules and mindless bureaucracy in the first place."
  • "…You break Packard's law and begin to fill key seats with the wrong people; to compensate for the wrong people's inadequacies, you institute bureaucratic procedures; this, in turn, drives away the right people (because they chafe under the bureaucracy or cannot tolerate working with less competent people or both); this then invites more bureaucracy to compensate for having more of the wrong people, which then drives away more of the right people; and a culture of bureaucratic mediocrity gradually replaces a culture of disciplines excellence. When bureaucratic rules erode an ethic of freedom and responsibility within a framework of core values and demanding standards, you've become infected with the disease of mediocrity."

I don't even know where to begin drawing parallels to the plight of churches…or even movements of churches. So, I'll let the quotes stand. They don't offer How the Mighty Fall for the Kindle yet. But, you can get it at any bookstore. It's expensive for its size. However, gold is always expensive J

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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  1. Jim Collins is way beyond the understanding of most church leaders. The problem isn’t a lack of intelligence, but the pride that obscures any intelligence or common sense.