On Tuesday evening, January 29, 2008, following the Florida Republican Primary election, Fox News aired an interview with Dick Morris; the interviewer asked why Senator John McCain received more votes than Governor Mitt Romney. The principle reason cited by Mr. Morris can be summed up in his statement: "The Republican electorate is drifting to the left."
This articleís purpose is not to cite election results, or to tell anyone how to vote. However, in recent years, the perception has been that the GOP is more conservative than the Democratic Party. Hence, the terms conservative, versus liberal and right wing, versus left wing have been freely used. Worded differently, conservatives are perceived as being right wingers and liberals are regarded as left wingers. Therefore, when Mr. Morris said "the Republican electorate is drifting to the left," he, in essence, said the Republican electorate is becoming more liberal. And I presume he is correct in his assessment.
Interestingly, the terms conservative and liberal are also widely used among members of the Lord's church. For the most part, during the last 50 years of the 20th century, conservatives opposed the sponsoring-church concept, as well as church support of human institutions set up for the purpose of doing the work God obligated the church to do. Others were called liberals because they favored the sponsoring-church set-up, and because they endorsed the concept of local churches financially subsidizing human institutions founded in order to do the work God authorized the church to do.
For the record, I confess to being a conservative or a right winger, both politically and religiously. As an American citizen, it concerns me when judges completely disregard the United States Constitution and make rulings that are at variance with it. But as a Christian, a member of the New-Testament church, it concerns me even more when brothers and sisters in Christ disregard their spiritual Constitution, namely the New Testament of Jesus Christ.
Admittedly, as great as I perceive it to be, I must confess that the United States Constitution is a human document. But the Bible is not. It is "the word of God," (Hebrews 4:12). It was "given by inspiration of God," (2 Timothy 3:16); and even its very words (as recorded in the original manuscripts) were given by "the Spirit of God," (1 Corinthians 2:9-13). It is a complete revelation from God to man, containing "all things that pertain unto life and godliness," (2 Peter 1:3). Moreover, we are forbidden to take liberties with the Bible, lest we incur Godís anathema (Galatians 1:8,9; Revelation 22:18,19; 2 John 9; etc.).
While I perceive the United States Constitution to be the best human document to govern our nationís affairs, I cannot say that one has to be an American in order to go to heaven. Though I believe "the governing authorities ... are appointed by God," (Romans 13:1), I cannot say that God is more the Author of our form of government than He is certain forms of government in other parts of the world. Hence, the mere fact that a politician may be drifting to the left may not have a great bearing on the Richter scales of eternity. Yes, as an American citizen, I become concerned when the evidence indicates that either political party is drifting to the left. But as a Christian I must put things in proper perspective, and be more concerned about to-the-left trends that may very well affect the eternal well being of millions of souls! And, yes, I believe many local churches of Christ are drifting to the left.
Of course, the condition to which I am referring is not peculiar to the present time period in human history. A study of Old-Testament history reveals that God's people during the Mosaic age engaged in one apostasy after another. Moreover, New-Testament writers often warned God's people that apostasies would occur during the gospel age. Speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul conveyed the sad news, "From among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves," (Acts 20:30). Writing to the saints at Thessalonica, Paul referred to "the day of Christ," and said "that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first ... ," (2 Thessalonians 2:2,3). In 1 Timothy 4:1, the same apostle wrote, "The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith ...Ē Indeed, the New Testament contains numerous warnings about a falling away.
For that matter, even during the first century, while some of the apostles yet lived, there were departures from the faith. There were some among the saints at Corinth who said, "There is no resurrection of the dead." (1 Corinthians 15:12)
Two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, "Strayed concerning the truth, saying the resurrection is already past, and they overthrew "the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:17,18)
Numerous New-Testament books addressed the problems of Judaism, which so often crept into the first-century churches. It seems that brethren, even then, were continually drifting to the left. It has often been stated that "The Lord's people are never more than one generation from apostasy." All it takes is for one generation to let down its guard, for one generation to lessen its vigilance, for one generation to remain untaught in the true principles of the religion of Jesus Christ; and apostasy sets in. But it doesn't happen overnight. It generally occurs because God's people start drifting to the left. Such drifting may occur, either deliberately, or inadvertently, because of a lack of study and vigilance. In my judgment, most such drifting is more inadvertent than deliberate. However, regardless of the cause, drifting is drifting!
Evidence of Leftward Drifting
What more can I say? Actually, a whole lot more, but Iíve run out of space. Brethren, let us keep the faith. Let us avoid drifting to the left.
Brother Witherington has touched on an ongoing problem in the Lordís church. In talking with congregations that are looking for new preachers to work with them, I find that many are not looking for a man who is sound and who preaches the whole counsel of God, a man who will not tolerate error or compromise the truth, a man who is knowledgeable about the Bible and current trends and problems that are plaguing the church. What many consider most important is the LENGTH of his sermons! One large church suggested that they wanted sermons that lasted no longer than 25 minutes! One elder judged a certain preacherís quality and effectiveness by how much he smiled and laughed. Brethren, it may be later than we think!
Sadly, many congregations, and the elders who are responsible for their spiritual oversight, are more concerned about streamlining the services, having a comedian in the pulpit, and making sure he is a good mixer. Sadly, they have forgotten the crafty and cunning work of our adversary, the devil! Has the world become a less dangerous place for Godís people? We all know the answer to that question, but how do we combat the devil and his evil schemesówith shorter sermons, more jokes, and the ability to mix with all the different folks in the world. Such thinking will leave the next generation unprepared for the issues and spiritual pitfalls awaiting them.
I wholeheartedly agree with my brother; we are drifting to the left. Congregations are losing their patience and appetite for real spiritual teaching in the Bible classes and from the pulpit. They seem to be more concerned with the time they spend in the worship services than with being warned about the dangers awaiting them in the world. It is sad to think that a gospel preacherís effectiveness and soundness comes down to the length of his sermons. In the past few years, Iíve often heard one comment (I recently heard it following a lesson I preached in Florida): ďWe donít hear preaching like that anymore.Ē By the way, the lesson lasted 45 minutes, and the congregations had many older members. Not one mentioned the sermon length. I didnít notice them looking back at the clock or at their watches. They listened and followed along in their Bibles.
Brethren, when a church desires to hear less Bible and more fluff, it should raise red flags in our minds. How can we, by hearing less of Godís word, be edified, built up in the most holy faith, prepared to battle our spiritual enemies and fight the good fight of faith? Please understand; Iím not talking about endless and repetitious sermons--just sermons that are meatier and that might take longer than 30 minutes. Could we be drifting from the safe shores? (KMG)