Winning Streaks
By: Bill Easum
I just finished watching the 40th Super Bowl. It was a see-saw battle of momentum. One team had it and then another. You could feel the momentum change on the field and you could see it in the faces of the players on the sidelines. But neither side built momentum to a winning streak. One team just lost by default.

Momentum in a football game is like “winning streaks” in organizations. Confidence is built when people, teams, and organizations experience “winning streaks” (see “Confidence” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter). One success leads to another success and another until an air of expectation is built. Confidence does not guarantee never-ending wins, but it does create an environment where people meet obstacles head-on, are willing to build support when needed, and they are more likely to be flexible and innovative. If a “winning streak” lasts long enough, the organization may reach a “tipping point” where the competition is blown away and new front runner emerges. Ring any church bells?

When a person or an organization experiences a winning streak, the “competition” takes notice and may make it their overarching goal to defeat or surpass the leader. But Kanter says that it’s not external forces that tend to hurt winners. Instead, she insists “it is their own failure to maintain discipline and support systems. Paradoxically, winners get lazy and slack off the activities that made them winners in the first place.” Give you any ideas about what happens to churches and denominations when they drift too far from their original genius?

Her words apply equally to the church as they do to business. The church exists to make disciples – quite literally the church exists to storm the gates of hell and to make disciples of the souls rescued from the clutches of Hades. As good and noble as they may seem, the church was not primarily charged with social reform, building institutions, educating the masses, or teaching good music. So long as each of these serves the mission of the church to make disciples, then they are worthy tactics (and nothing more).

When church leadership keeps the main-thing the main thing, success builds on success, confidence is created, and the congregation swells with new disciples. But all too often, confidence turns to over-confidence and leaders let themselves get distracted. There are buildings to be built, programs to be programmed, good church members to visit, web sites to peruse, leadership forums to read and respond to, let alone the never-ending plight of the poor. And when these Sirens catch the ear and tempt the heart of the faithful leader, they take their eye off the mission field and “slack off the activities that made them winners in the first place.”

“No one who puts their hand on the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

If your church has lost momentum perhaps it is time to return to what once made it a great place to worship God.