Historical Drift: Must My Church Die?

by Arnold L. Cook

(How to Detect and Reverse the Trends), Arnold L. Cook, Christian Publications, 2000, 346 pages, $14.99, softcover.

What an intriguing title for a book! What is historical drift? Does it exist today? The author defines it as "the inherent tendency of human organizations to depart over time from their original beliefs, purposes, and practices, which in the Christian context results in the loss of spiritual vitality." That sounds like what the old timers called "backsliding," except on a large scale.

Any thinking North American Christian can see that, for the most part, we have experienced historical drift on a grand scale. What are the roots of historical drift? How can we detect its entrance? How can we reverse its trend?

Cook first identifies historical drift in biblical history. The Israelites drifted away from their God; the Lord God allowed their enemies to persecute them; they repented of their sin and asked for God's deliverance; they again served God with fervor and gladness.

Some contributing factors to historical drift are neglect or departure from the Word of God, failure of the church or organization to maintain biblical discipline, and immoral behavior on the part of leaders or members. Also contributing to decline are the improper view or use of money, top leadership stagnation, and loss of biblical vision exacerbated by affluence.

Historical drift is inevitable; however, its effects can be lessened or reversed, the author concludes. The first step toward renewal (revival) involves a thorough dissatisfaction with the status quo. When the organization's leaders recognize that they have strayed from their original biblical purpose, they must be driven to prayer. Heart-searching prayer will lead to confession of sin, which will ultimately lead to renewed vision of God's purpose for the organization.