Book Review: How the Mighty Fall

///Book Review: How the Mighty Fall

Book Review: How the Mighty Fall

If you’re like me, you’ve got a stack of books somewhere in your home or office in a pile named, “I really need to read this once I have time.” If you have that pile—or would just like an executive summary of a work that has enormous implications for the church—read on.

In his book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins talks about why great companies often fail. In my search work with large churches, and my work as a pastor at Cypress Creek, I have found that Collins’ research on companies has incredible parallels—not only between churches, but also individuals who fall.

Collins has identified five stages on the path to failure. They are listed below with my brief synopsis, commentary, and questions you (or your church) might use to prevent a fall.

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

God elevates a person, church, or company because of their humility and ability. But soon, success becomes a set of blinders that keeps people from thinking seriously about their possible failure. Think of how none of the churches of Revelation exist now. How Rome fell. The list could go on and on.

Ask yourself: When is the last time you prayed for humility? How do you (or your church) do your “gut checks” against the blinders of success?

Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More

God elevates a people or person for their excellence in an area. The person/church begins to fail when they take on new disciplines that they are either ill-equipped for or have no business doing. Think of how Solomon “diversified his portfolio” by taking 700 wives. Think of how the fall of nearly every General in history happened when they took on a multi-front war.

Ask yourself: What are the one or two things I (or my church) should use my skills for? Am I focusing on those things or wandering into something new, just so I can “grow bigger?”

Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril

A person/church is failing, but there’s still enough health to “explain away” the problems and believe that things are fine. A major symptom: shut down of dialogue. Think of how the kings of the Bible clamped down as their kingdoms drifted from a God-mission. Another major sign: blame-shifting.

Ask yourself: Are lines for honest dialogue more open, or less open than they were a year ago? When is the last time I personally accepted responsibility for specific problems?

Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

Fearful, reactive behavior begins to permeate the falling individual/church/company. Think of how Saul was plagued with reactive behavior and paranoid persecution of David as his throne crumbled. Nearly every failing individual/church/company enters a stage where the leader believes they can save the organization by frenetic work—rather than a return to the original disciplines that bore excellence.

Ask yourself: Is your current plan for the future based on what you are gifted at doing or what you are afraid might be happening? Are you being proactive or reactive with your life and mission?

Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

Enough losses mount that hope fails; the person (or church) that’s failing raises the white flag. Once hope is extinguished, failure is inescapable. Sometimes this takes the form of relentless negativity or strong stands against all that is evil (rather than a call for hope). If attitude determines altitude, this is the point where the mind of the failing sets a course for a crash landing.

Ask yourself: If you asked those around you to label you (or your church), would they call you an ambassador of hope, or a prophet of doom?

A Reason to Hope

In the midst of all failures studied, Collins found that there are some companies who can turn the ship around. Those companies share a common marker: they didn’t avoid problems. They found a way to hope in the middle of despair, to comeback at even better levels of success after setbacks. It is almost as if Collins implies that those who are truly successful are able to hope against hope, and find a way to bring life to what was dead.

Now that sounds a little bit like Easter to me. And it gives me hope. Take a hard look in the mirror. Then look to the Risen Savior and know there is a hope for your future.

By | 2016-10-12T11:01:06+00:00 December 6th, 2012|Books|

About the Author:

William Vanderbloemen

William is the founder and CEO of The Vanderbloemen Search Group.

William has been able to combine over 15 years of ministry experience as a Senior Pastor with the best practices of Executive Search to provide churches with a unique offering: a deep understanding of local church work with the very best knowledge and practices of professional executive search.

Prior to his founding The Vanderbloemen Search Group, William studied executive search under a mentor with over 25 years of executive search at the highest level. His learning taught him the very best corporate practices, including the search strategies used by the internationally known firm Russell Reynolds.

He also has experience as a Manager in Human Resources in a Fortune 200 company, where he focused on integration of corporate culture and succession planning. All of these experiences have come together with his pastoral work to form a unique gift for helping churches and ministries connect with the right key people.

Prior to executive search, William led growth and innovation in churches in North Carolina, Alabama, and Houston. During his time in Alabama, William had the chance to help rebuild and relocate an ailing congregation, and lead them to new levels of growth. At 31, he was elected Senior Pastor for the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, a church of about 5,000 adults and 1,500 children strong. It is Houston’s oldest congregation.

He is regularly invited to speak across the country in both church services, and as a resource to churches and conferences on leadership. William holds degrees from Wake Forest University and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Besides helping connect churches with key staff and preaching, William spends a whole lot of time with family, and connecting with people. William is an avid social networker. Whether connecting with friends, candidates for searches he is doing, or church members, he loves to network, and he would love to interact with you through Facebook and/or Twitter.

He is co-author with Warren Bird of “Next: Pastoral Succession That Works;” more information can be found at

William, his wife Adrienne, their seven children, and their two poodles (one small who thinks she’s big, and one big who thinks he is a lap dog) live in Houston. In his free time, William enjoys running, working out, and caddying for his kids, who are now better golfers than he is.