SOME CAUSES OF BACKSLIDING
Several years ago I read an article entitled "Saving the lost and losing the saved." It lamented the fact that so many who had obeyed the gospel were falling away. The fact that the saved can be lost is clearly taught in the Bible and is too often an observable fact. In this article, we will not argue the fact, but will discuss some of the reasons for it and suggest things that we may do to prevent it.
One reason that many fall away is because of the lack of spiritual leadership. God has provided special leaders in the church in the elders. They are to be "watchmen of souls" (Heb. 13:17), "overseers of the flock" (Acts 20:17,18), and are charged with the responsibility to "tend the flock of God which is among you" (1 Pet.5:2). As spiritual leaders, they have the responsibility to know the needs of the members and oversee the provision of those needs.
Not only do elders have responsibilities, but every spiritually-minded member has an obligation to provide spiritual leadership. Paul said, "Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6: 1). To the Ephesians, he said, "From whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16). Babes in Christ need the spiritual leadership of their more mature brethren.
In our physical families, the newborn is surrounded with attention when he cries. Not only the parents but the other children want to know what is wrong. The same principle should be true in the family of God. The babe should receive our attention instead of being deserted to "sink or swim" as soon as he is born into the family. Not only babes in Christ, but any brother or sister who is undergoing trials or hardships may need our spiritual leadership. Any spiritually minded person can provide a sympathetic ear or an encouraging word, and none of us are immune from the need for those things. Let each of us be alert to the first signs of spiritual problems and provide the leadership that is needed to help the brother or sister through those problems.
Another reason that many fall away is because of evil companionships. We can get into the wrong crowd. Paul said, "Evil companionships corrupt good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). Even the apostle Peter got into trouble because of "Peer Pressure." He was "warming himself" around the enemies' campfire, and denied the Lord (Mk. 14:54). Evil companionships "corrupted." If he had been with good companions, he would not have been tempted. Brethren, can we not see the advantage of forming good companionships? We tell our young people to form good companionships, because we realize the value of it. Do we practice that ourselves? How long has it been since you invited another Christian to your home? How long has it been since you have been invited to the home of another Christian? Are we too busy to form good companionships?
Paul told the Corinthians to "have no company" with the wicked brother, no "not to eat" with him (1 Cor. 5:9,11). Does this not imply that they had been having company and eating with him before? When brethren in Corinth withdrew themselves from that brother, he missed them I Too often today, those who are disciplined are not treated any differently after the withdrawal, because we had no association with them anyway!
Another trend away from hospitality that I see today is churches putting preachers in motels and giving them meal tickets to the nearest restaurant because they have trouble finding anyone who is willing to "put him up" for a week. Some churches have trouble getting enough people to sign up to feed the preacher for a week during a meeting, and maybe some who do are not exactly enthusiastic about it. This may be illustrated by the story of the preacher who went home with a family the first day of a gospel meeting. The family let their young son ride with the preacher to give him directions. When they arrived, the preacher told the woman that her son had told him that they were having buzzard for dinner. The mother was upset with the boy, but he said, "You said yesterday that we may as well go ahead and have the old buzzard and get it over with." Of course, there are preachers who do not want to be "bothered" with people too!
Brethren, there are benefits in being "given to hospitality" (Rom. 12:13). Speaking personally, not only do I benefit, but our children have greatly benefitted by our keeping the preacher during a gospel meeting. They have actually cried when the visiting preacher left, after having lived with us for a week. If brethren knew what they were missing by not keeping the preacher during meetings, they would have problems deciding who would get him. Many people have extra room, and most preachers enjoy being with people and are not really different from human beings! You don't have to entertain him; just show hospitality.
The early Christians spent time together. "And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46). This may account partially for the unity that existed among them. Getting acquainted is closely connected with getting along. Many church fusses today result from the lack of understanding among brethren. "They would have to be friends to talk to one another like that" carries a thought that we should consider. We can worship together from now till the day we die, and we will not really "know" one another unless we associate at home. The failure to do this may have contributed to the "social halls" provided by the church. Brethren recognize the value of eating together, but individuals "will not do it," so they have substituted the church supported kitchens and "fellowship halls." Those things are wrong, but is it not also wrong when we do not teach and practice hospitality?
A third reason that many fall away is the failure to study. God, through the prophet Hosea, said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos.4:6). That sounds like a modern day statement of fact. The lack of knowledge among Christians is appalling, and inexcusable. In addition to taking time to read, many could learn without expending effort if they would simply take a tape recorder along on trips and listen to Bible reading or sermons.
Our physical bodies cannot be healthy without proper nourishment. Oh, that our spirits would crave "food" like our bodies do! One meal a week will not keep a person healthy - either spiritually or physically. If we knew how little spiritual food some brethren get, we may wonder why they didn't die sooner, rather than why they did die! There is no substitute for study. If we do not do it, we will die.
The final reason we suggest for many falling away is a love of the world. The word "worldly" is found twice in the KJV. In Hebrews 9:1 it refers to the physical sanctuary of the Old Testament. Men today may be "worldly" because of too much emphasis on material things. It is used in Titus 2:12 of "worldly lusts." These are the "lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life" (1 Jn.2:15-17). When Christians do not have their priorities straight, or are not fully committed to Christ, they are easily led away from God. We must realize that spiritual things are more important than physical (Jn.6:27), and that we are to "abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thess.5:22).
Brethren, we can guard against backsliding ourselves, and we can help others if we will become spiritual leaders, be given to hospitality, study God's word daily and avoid worldliness in every form.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 17, pp. 513, 533