Story of Two Fishermen

Ruth Rieder in Covenant by Sacrifice tells a story of two fishermen on the reservoir. Caught up in the excitement of the trip, the men neglected to put down the anchor as they reached their favorite fishing spot. Unmindful of the subtle undercurrent of the water, they began to fish. Hours quickly passed; suddenly one of the fishermen looked up. To his horror, the boat was drifting dangerously close to destruction. He shouted a warning to his partner, and they began rowing with all their might, seeking to escape the deadly rapids that lay just ahead. After a furious effort, they made it safely to shore. The fishermen were shocked that they drifted so far. It had happened without notice. The danger went undetected until it was almost too late.

The writer of Hebrews warns, “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1, NLT).

The King James Version admonishes us to “give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1). It is as if the truth could slip out of our hands, and we could slip out of His grace. I can’t allow that to happen. Neither can you!

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Boiled Frog

Stuart Piggin in Firestorm of the Lord said Satan likes to threaten us. ”I will cool you insensibly, by degrees, by little and little. What care I … though I be seven years in chilling your heart if I can do it at last; continual rocking will lull a crying child asleep.”

George Barna in The Frog in the Kettle explained the drift in this way: “Place a frog in boiling water and it will jump out immediately because it can tell that it’s in a hostile environment. But place a frog in a kettle of room temperature water and it will stay there, content with those surroundings. Slowly, very slowly, increase the temperature of the water. This time, the frog doesn’t leap out, but just stays there, unaware that the environment is changing. Continue to turn up the burner until the water is boiling. Our poor frog will be boiled, quite content, perhaps, but nevertheless dead.”

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Signs of a Drifting, Dying Church

 

1. Churches drift when they fail to pass on the truth to successive generations.

2. Churches drift when they move away from their foundational doctrines.

The trend is for church denominations to drift (or move) away from their foundational doctrines over time. It does not have to be this way. Drifting can be prevented. It must be prevented.

John Wesley once said, “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist…But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having a form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline which they first set out.”

Hold on. Before casting a judging eye on another’s church, there is a question for consideration. Could this same thing be said of your church?

3. Churches drift when they move away from soul winning.

L. R. Scarborough, a Southern Baptist once said, “It is found that so long as the heart of an institution burns hot with the fires of soul-winning, it is not likely to drift in its theology.”

4. Churches drift when they concentrate on maintaining the organizational structure.

Arnold Cook said, “As a result of their position on the aging side of the life cycle, congregations are being sustained by their management rather than fueled by their vision. Generally, the more aged the congregation, the longer it takes to produce lasting change.”

5. Churches drift when seminaries and Bible schools fail in training the leaders.

Timothy Beougher and Alvin Reid in Evangelism for a Changing World cautioned, “When a denomination’s theology changes, that change almost always begins in the seminaries that train its leaders.”

6. Churches drift when Satan lulls us into sleep rather than the church experiencing revival.

Revival means “to bring back to life.” As believers backslide they become a corpse. Revival is imperative.

 7. Churches drift because their leadership drifts.

Arnold Cook in Historical Drift stated, “Organizations don’t drift, only their leaders.”

There is a backsliding in the pulpit before there is a backsliding in the pew.

8. Churches drift when there is the lack of vision.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18).

9. Churches drift when there is a desire for the world (and to be like everyone else).

Steer Away From the Drift

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.

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