The Fourth Quarter Ministry – Seven Qualities of a “Comeback Church”

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By Dr. Michael Rackley   Certified Church Consultant

What is your fondest memory of the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in the last 10 years of sports? Maybe it’s Russell Wilson’s latest comeback in 2020, Seattle 27, and Minnesota 26 football game.

A Seattle Times Reporter describes like this, “But 94 yards in 1:42, converting two fourth downs, including on the final play with 15 seconds left, was as dramatic and improbable as most of the others on this list — according to The Associated Press, it was just the third time since 2001 a team has driven 90-plus yards inside the final two minutes to win. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third-longest touchdown drive that began inside the final two minutes in the last 40 years. It marked the fifth time Wilson threw the game-winning touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining (he’s thrown three others in overtime).”

When I think of a fourth-quarter football game, as a former college football running back and an undrafted free agent, I think of phrases like:

  • Stick to the game plan.
  • Call time out.
  • What’s the next play coach?
  • The best defense is a good offense.
  • Walk it off.
  • Look for opportunities to score. And
  • Don’t give up until we hear the last whistle.

What is a fourth-quarter ministry? Fourth-quarter ministry may be a church making a comeback after COVID-19 in which their numbers are declining; leaders feeling stuck and unable to move; members feel like time is running out; leadership struggling to keep the church together; murmuring in the congregation, or financially the ministry may be challenged to truly walk by faith.

Webster’s dictionary defines comeback as a return to a former position or condition (as of success or prosperity): recovery, revival.

Here is a list of a few comeback champions in the Bible: King David fell from grace and came back (2 Samuel 11, 12, Acts 13:22), Saul persecuted the church and came back (Apostle Paul Acts 7, 8, 22), Peter’s denial of Christ and came back (Mark 14, Luke 24, John 21).

What did these men have in common? They made a comeback through the grace of God.

“Comeback Churches” are churches that believed they can make a comeback. The phrase “Comeback Church” possibly was coined in the 2000s. Here is a list of seven qualities of a comeback church?

  1. Prayerful

A “Comeback Church” is a church that believes prayer isn’t dead. In other words, a church that prays fervently, liked in Acts 12:4-17.

  1. Committed

This “Comeback Church” is purposeful and faithful to the Great Commission. They are outwardly focused and their geographical game plan is Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, evangelizing/making disciples of the local church’s Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world for Christ.

  1. Community focused

This “Comeback Church” hasn’t given up on its community. It reflects its community’s diversity. This church understands its field, and that their address and zip code is their local Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). Also, this church understands before going global it must go local.

  1. Strategic

The church’s game plan in this “Comeback Church” is strategic like in Exodus 18:13-26 and the Antioch Church in Acts 11, 13, 14-18. This church believes a biblical strategy is needed to accomplish its mission and vision, as well as reach its target destination.

  1. Leadership team still believes it can make a comeback

This leadership team is in Ephesians 4:11-17, and 1 Corinthians 12. This “Comeback Church” leadership team understands, knows how to use its gifting effectively, and still believes it can make a “comeback.”

  1. Congregation believes it can make a comeback

The congregation in this “Comeback Church,” still believes Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and supports and follows its leadership, and believes it can make a comeback.

  1. Re-envision

“Comeback Churches” understand the new evangelistic opportunities and a renewed vision after the pandemic, with a destination in sight.

In closing, churches that feel like they’re in the fourth quarter of ministry must be willing to make the necessary changes to make a “Comeback,” by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit that brings glory to Jesus Christ, leadership is unified, the congregation is ready, and the community is changed.

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