No one leads forever…

No one leads forever…

About The Book

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 departed New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina. Almost immediately the Airbus A320 hit a flock of birds, causing the engine to lose power. Unable to get to an airport and with no other landing options, pilot Sully Sullenberger skillfully landed on the frigid Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew survived with few serious injuries. The pilots and crew deserved and received many honors for their heroism in this near-death situation.

Key lessons of this story are easily applied to ministry succession and sustainability. Pilots never want to crash a plane. Similarly, pastors never want to crash a church. But many in ministry do just that when they retire (or die) without a succession plan or a successor.

In this book, you will discover proven principles to help ministry organizations and their leaders survive and thrive long after a leadership transition.

Inside the book


Part I:

The Leadership Runway


Part II:

Prepare Emerging Leaders to Lead the Organization


Part III:

Prepare the Organization to be Led by Emerging Leaders


Part IV:

Prepare Experienced Leaders to Finish Well

Chapter 1


Because we tend to think that speed and height are dangerous, it might surprise you that the low and slow part of a flight is actually more dangerous and deadly than the high and fast part. Low and slow refers to the takeoff and landing phase and represents only a small portion of the actual flight time. Even on short flights, much more time is spent high and fast than low and slow. In terms of accidental aviation fatalities, 49% happen during landing and 14% during takeoff. That means 63% of fatalities happen during the low and slow phase—on or near the runway—and only 37% occur while the plane is high and fast.

I can’t prove it with data, but my experience tells me similar percentages might also apply to leadership transition crashes in churches and ministries. If we can get the plane off the runway and high in the air, there is less chance of a fatal crash. Likewise, if we can get the leader firmly in the pilot seat with hands on the controls, there is a better chance of a successful ministry.


Whether we are taking off or landing, the runway (succession and transition) is the danger zone.

Before we start building our leadership runway, let’s take a moment to consider the most common causes of runway disasters. When the Tenerife Island runway disaster was analyzed, the challenging circumstances were obvious—over-crowded runways, last-minute decisions, impaired vision, and confused communication—but the real problem was pilot error. Every runway disaster is unique, but like Tenerife Island, most are ultimately caused by pilot error. Likewise, in the church world, every leadership transition is unique and challenging, but the most common fatal flaw is “pastor error.”

The aviation industry has identified three common pilot errors that lead to runway disasters: incursion, excursion, and confusion.



May this book help you do succession planning wisely and leadership transition humbly, so that your ministry will not crash-land but will multiply and thrive 100 years from now.

As we prepare to take off, it is time to fasten your seatbelts, fold up your tray table, put your seats in the upright position, turn off all electronic devices, throw your carry-on junk under the seat, and get ready to soar!

"No one leads forever." What a sobering thought! There is an important leadership conversation that is needed across the church worldwide, right now.

Wayne Alcorn

Senior Pastor, Hope Centre
Brisbane, Australia

Every ministry and every leader needs to have a clear transition and succession plan, and this book is your guide to preparing one.

Pinky C. Katipunan

Lead Pastor, Victory Ortigas
Manila, Philippines

The Leadership Runway provides a practical and thoughtful paradigm for thinking through all aspects of the inevitable baton-pass that every leader and ministry faces.

Larry Osborne, PhD

Pastor, author, mentor, leadership consultant North Coast Church Vista, California, USA

About the author

Steve Murrell is the co-founder and president of Every Nation, a global family of churches working in more than eighty nations. He is also the founding pastor of Victory Church in Manila, Philippines.

Steve holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and serves as a leadership professor at Every Nation Seminary. Steve and his wife, Deborah, have three sons, three daughters-in-law, and nine grandchildren and split their time between Nashville, Manila, and Delta Airlines.

Other books

The Multiplication Challenge

100 Years from Now


My First, Second & Third Attempts at Parenting

Get Ready to soar