The church in the Book of Acts spread like a blazing fire. Persecution could not stop it. The church was vibrant, active, and powerful. Great signs and wonders were performed. Its members were strong, loved God and His truth, and shared it with everyone. You would have suspected that the church would have continued in its greatness. It did not. It slipped from being a bright light into what has been termed the Dark Ages. Paul prophesied this would happen in Acts 20:29.
History has a way of repeating itself. Vance Havner said, “All we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” It does not have to be like that. History is a willing teacher if we are eager students. We can avoid the pitfalls that crippled previous generations.
We must be careful we do not become like the men Paul met at Athens. They were “very religious” and “spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21, NIV).
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8, NIV).
How can we steer away from drifting?
Arnold Cook in Historical Drift said, “Steer right to go straight. According to aerodynamic experts, when a propeller-driven airplane takes off, it naturally veers to the left unless it is steered to the right. Based on my observations of evangelical institutions and leaders over the past half-century, it appears to me that the same principle applies. The only way to keep on a straight path is to keep turning to the right. The prevailing winds of doctrine blow against us, and if we are to resist them then we must have a firm grip on the wheel of the good ship evangelicalism and steer it to the right.”
1. Face reality.
Where are you? How far have you moved/drifted from where you should be? If necessary, repent!
“Those who live in the past are blind in one eye. Those who never consult the past are blind in both eyes.” (Arnold Cook)
2. Know your direction.
Have a vision for the future. Chart the course by having firm direction. Make decisions now concerning tomorrow. Stick with your core values, and beliefs.
Cook said, “Those who have most powerfully and permanently influenced their generation have been the ‘seers’—men who have seen more and farther than others.”
He adds that this becomes the lonely side of spiritual leadership. Often it translates into going with the minority report, e.g., Joshua and Caleb. No leadership style breeds historical drift better than consensus—going with the flow of compromise. Stephen was willing to take a costly stand for truth. Noah was another man of God that was willing to stand alone.
The trend today is that there are no absolutes—no one is wrong, and everyone is right. The denominational world pulls us toward tolerance. The prevailing viewpoint is everyone should be united.
C. H. Spurgeon once said, “I am quite sure that the best way to promote union is to promote truth. It will not do for us to be all united together by yielding to one another’s mistakes.”
Philip Melanchton said, “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
What does this mean to us? We should be united when it comes to the essential, major doctrines of the Word of God. We should always speak the truth in love.
3. Stand firm for truth. Stay on guard.
G. K. Chesterton once said, “Whenever you remove any fence, always pause long enough to ask yourself the question, ‘Why was it there in the first place?’”
The National Geographic magazine (July 1985) made this interesting statement that could serve as a potent reminder to the church, “They opened up the doors of the world, but they closed up the heavens forever.”
Dr. Ralph Winter, founder of the U. S. Center of World Mission, said, “I would rather fail in that which will ultimately succeed than to succeed in that which will ultimately fail.”
“Preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance… Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word. For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will…follow their own misguided ideas” (2 Timothy 4:2-4, TLB).
4. Be committed:
- To love and maintain unity among ministers and leaders (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1; John 13:44-45).
- To respect protocol and ethics (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17).
- To pray and fast (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- To be guided by the Word and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13, 16; Job 23:12).
- To personal ministerial assessment (2 Timothy 1:6; 4:5; Acts 26:16-18; Acts 9:2).
- To develop spiritually for effective ministerial leadership (Philippians 3:13-14; Luke 2:52).
- To emphasis on evangelism and church planting (Mark 16:15-20; Matthew 19:19-20).
- To maintain discipline and cooperation (1 Timothy 5:19-20; 3:10).
5. Be courageous in your leadership.
Cook wrote, “Although drift is inevitable in all social structures, including religious organizations, it can be curbed and even reversed through renewal and wise, godly and courageous leadership.”
Take a stand for righteousness and truth in your leadership. Lead the way. Others will follow.