Perhaps you have seen video clips in movies or on television shows of a steam engine train taking off from a depot. You hear the water boiling and see the steam rolling and at the right time the engineer pulls a lever, and you hear that steam being transformed into energy, energy to turn the wheels on the train. It is then that you see the wheels turn slightly and ever so slowly. The engineer pulls again, the engine bellows, and the wheels turn again slightly more, but slowly. Another pull, and the wheels turn a little more and slightly faster. The actions are repeated again and again. Each time the wheels move a little farther than the last. All the wheels turn simultaneously in the same direction. Each turn is faintly greater than the one before, each turn building momentum from the previous turn.
This process continues until the train is moving and generating speed and seemingly pulling its own weight. Momentum has kicked in and the train will continue to move down the track, headed for its destination. The wheels are now turning with ease. The engineer’s job now becomes maintaining the correct pressure on the boiler and as needed convert that steam into the energy needed to maintain the forward motion and speed of the train.
To reverse the decline in a church requires not one turn of the ignition, but a series of good decisions, each one building upon previous decisions. Like the steam engine locomotive, it takes time and energy exercised in the right direction. All of the train’s wheels are always pulling in the same direction. To get the train moving, each blast of energy is pushing the wheels in the same direction. Every blast is for forward motion.
As a church you must set the course and from that moment every decision made needs to be to move the church forward. You cannot go in different directions. The track is set and every move will be either forward or backward. To make one not so good decision or the lack of a decision to move the train forward only thwarts the momentum gained by previous actions and good decisions. To gain momentum is to make each decision with God’s wisdom and with the express intention and purpose to move the church forward. Each good decision will improve the church’s momentum until the church appears to be moving on its own as does the train. Every good, solid decision you make is fueling the locomotive of the church forward. It is helping gain the momentum to propel your church to be the church God desires.
The caution here is to remember the engineer did not stop or let off the lever creating forward progress. As the train moves forward, it still requires energy and power to arrive at its cruising speed and to maintain that speed. In the church there are always decisions to be made. There is always forward progress required. Good decisions require a team effort. It is imperative that you strive to have and keep the right people in positions of leadership.
Develop a process for making decisions that will positively impact the forward progress of your church. Who will be involved in the decision-making process? Who will be impacted by the decision? What could the decision impact negatively? What could the decision impact positively? How will your decision-making team come to a resolution? When will you know the decision is the right decision at the right time? Successful leaders realize they need not “yes men” but people with freedom to think, discuss, and debate the pros and cons of each impending decision.