Stall Recovery

Stall Recovery

I don’t know anything about flying, though I do know quite a bit about flying by the seat of my pants. I am not a pilot, but I learned something the other day about flying…and crashing. When an aircraft stalls there are warning signs and alarms. It’s of crucial importance to known the signs and sounds so well, that the pilot can react immediately.  Stalling in an aircraft means that the airframe has lost lift and the air flow across and below the wings has ceased to be sufficient to keep the airframe in the air. In short, the airframe is not flying.  It is falling.  The instinct is to pull back on the yoke in order to take corrective action.  But the right thing to do is to push the nose of the aircraft down in order to regain lift, and then once lift is re-established, regain control of the aircraft. The corrective action is aggressive, not passive. Pushing the nose of the aircraft down is counter-intuitive and even seems a little crazy, but it is the only chance the crew and passengers have of surviving.  A failure to rightly diagnose the problem very quickly and then immediately react to it counter-intuitively out of discipline often proves fatal.

Stalling is a part of the missional journey for a community, as well.  Communities stall and immediate corrective action is needed.  The action needed is also counter-intuitive.

Know the warning signs and sounds.  There are certain sounds and sights that should be just as much of an alarm as the one in the cockpit in a stall warning system.  What is the sound? It sometimes sounds like, “If you switch from the organ to that guitar music, we are leaving!!”  That sound definitely means that you’re stalled. People are focused on being entertained in worship instead of the mission. Another very loud alarm: “This isn’t working. We need to go back to the old way.”  That sound might as well be, “Go back to Egypt! Go back to Egypt!”, and it means you’ve definitely lost momentum.  “They want blue carpeting, but we want red carpeting.  We’re sure that red is more Biblical.” This definitely indicates a stall.  People are focused on the building instead of the mission. “You know what time she came home? And her car was parked out in front of that young Dr. Jameson’s house all night.  You know they must be sleeping together.”  That’s a stall alarm.  If people have time to gossip, they aren’t busy enough in the mission.  Get the picture? There are alarms that should go off for you when your missional community is stalled, and knowing what they are is critical.

Train your people for it.  We make a mistake when we preach only what one of my friends and mentors calls “Candy Canes and Apples”.  If all we’re giving people is feel good, prosperity, secure your own salvation stuff, they will be unprepared to recognize the signs of a stall and how to react to it.  We have to work on these things from time to time when things are good, not when they’re already in crisis.  Crisis without preparation leads to fear and panic, which lead to bad and often fatal miscalculations.  This isn’t really an “education” thing.  It’s a training thing: When you stall, do this without thinking about it.  Training.  We have to reduce the time it takes for the community to interpret signs and alarms so that we can go as quickly as possible from alarm to proper reaction.

Push the nose down.  Get moving in any direction doing almost anything action-oriented.  Most leaders in a stall in the mission will pull back on the yoke, pull the brakes…for one reason or another: lack of know-how, fear, lack of proper training and discipline.  And what then happen is you lose momentum, lose inertia.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion.  An object at rest tends to stay at rest.  Get moving in any direction…even if it’s only you and then draw people in to provide momentum.  It’s easier to turn a moving vehicle than to get one moving when it’s stalled. Discipline yourself to move when your brain says stop, to run into the stall instead of pulling back from it.  This is pretty counter-intuitive stuff.  Don’t stop to self-check or hear everyone out or rewrite your by-laws.  Push the nose down and get moving on anything that makes people move in one direction together.

Once you’re moving again, then make adjustments and get back on track with vision and purpose. Once your community is moving as a missional body again…IN the mission field and IN the mission, then adjustments are easy to make.  Reconnecting what you’re doing to your vision and purpose will be a part of that process, but it is much easier done once you’re moving then while you’re sitting still.  Your values reflect the state you’re in.  That’s why it’s essential to get right back into it.  All of a sudden the alarms will stop going off.  People will be more concerned about incorporating a kind of music that the people you’re trying to reach like, and those stupid worship fights will stop.  Nobody will care about the color of the carpet.  And nobody will have time to be talking bad about anyone because their hearts will be too filled with the concerns of the mission.

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