Book Review- Relaunch by Dr. Mark Rutland
If you are not familiar with Dr. Mark Rutland, you are missing out on one of the premiere voices in the Church today. He has long been regarded as a tremendous communicator and leader. Dr. Rutland has been involved in pastoral ministry and foreign missionary work since the 70’s. After serving for a couple of years as an associate pastor at the Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta in the late 80’s, Rutland’s ability as a turnaround leader became evident. Mount Paran is one of the largest churches in the United States and he credits Dr. Paul Walker for helping to equip him for the next phase of his ministry.
ReLaunch: How to Stage an Organizational Comeback is Dr. Rutland’s newest book that describes his three major institutional turnarounds. In 1990, Rutland was brought in as the senior pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. This was a former mega church that was now in the midst of its death throes. The previous pastor had been involved in a sex scandal that had rocked the church. Members were leaving by the hundreds and the church was on the verge of bankruptcy. They were fifteen million dollars in debt and the bank was talking about taking their building. When Dr. Rutland stepped in as the senior pastor, the membership had dropped to around twelve hundred. As he says in the book, “Twelve hundred is certainly not a small congregation. But twelve hundred in a room built for five thousand- that looks like the funeral of a very unpopular man.” During his five years as the pastor at Calvary Dr. Rutland steered the church on a major turnaround. The debt was reduced to four million dollars and the congregation was back up to almost four thousand. More importantly, the people who stayed had been healed and the many members infused the church with new life.
Dr. Rutland’s next turnaround leadership post was at Southeastern College in Lakeland, Florida. This small college is connected to the Assemblies of God denomination. When Rutland accepted the position as president in 1999, the school was on the brink of disaster. Enrollment was shrinking every year. It had dropped from over twelve hundred students to around nine hundred the year Rutland took the helm. He describes Southeastern as, “a sad little campus situated at the edge of an alligator-infested lake.” The board of trustees was already looking at closing the school down.
This turnaround was very different from the one Dr. Rutland orchestrated at Calvary. This was a college that almost needed to be built from scratch. The facilities were old and falling apart. “Southeastern was an ugly little campus that looked like it might fall into the neighboring lake at any time.” This chapter in the book is an excellent look at the power of a leader’s vision being the primary instrument of change for an organization.
It took ten years for the turnaround to be completed, but when Rutland left Southeastern College, it had become Southeastern University. The campus had been transformed to an attractive and modern place of higher learning. More than fifty million dollars had been spent on new buildings and renovations. More importantly, the student body had swelled to over three thousand.
The other turnaround that Dr. Rutland describes in Relaunch was Oral Roberts University. In many ways, this was the most dramatic of the three turnarounds. I encourage you to get the book and learn how Rutland was able to restore ORU to its place as one of the premium institutions in Christian higher learning.
Relaunch is a book for leaders of organizations that are in need of a turnaround. More importantly, however, this book is a distillation of Dr. Rutland’s thirty-five plus years of leadership experience. If you only read one book on leadership this year, this is the one that you should read!
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