During last Sunday's sermon I spoke of the various reasons people leave church life (not being spiritually fed, not connected to the body, not being used). After the service ended a church member suggested to me yet another reason someone might leave a church: it is when a church leaves that person. That is, when there has been a theological shift within the church or church's leadership such that any person with a real love for God's word is going to face serious questions about staying at that church.
It is difficult to know just how recent a phenomenon this is. Back in the early 18th century, the famed Jonathan Edwards, was voted out of the church he pastored because of his insistence that those coming into church membership should be able to give a credible confession of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. I have always thought, "I don't know if that church still exists but a claim to fame they would have would be, 'We're the church that (stupidly) voted Jonathan Edwards out of our church!'" The fact that that happened in the 18th century is witness enough that issues of theological purity have troubled the church for many hundreds of years. And, of course, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century is proof that this issue goes back even further in time.
So what IS one to do when a church or a church's pastor, or even a church's denomination suddenly decides to take the church in a different (and non-Biblical) direction? Undoubtedly some would argue in favor of staying: being "salt" to an otherwise decaying mound of meat and "light" in the darkness. But can one person or even a group of persons make a difference? Martin Luther TRIED TO STAY in the Roman Catholic Church believing that a unified, holy Church was possible. But in the end he was given the boot. I personally think there is a bit of naivete being exhibited when people think that they – a sole person or small group of persons – can really affect something that is very big. More than a few evangelicals have attended a liberal theological seminary thinking that they would be "salt and light" to that institution, only to find themselves 3-4 years later totally corrupted in their own faith.
I think the best thing to do is to leave LOUDLY. Let it be known WHY one is leaving. I have experienced the loss of people under my own preaching and teaching and, by and large, they have left quietly – disappearing into the night. I would rather have had them be vocal about their reason(s) for leaving and let the church judge how valid or invalid their reasons were. If we believe truth can win out, then what is there to be afraid of? So if you should ever find yourself in that kind of situation (and hopefully Burning Hearts will never give you cause for such concern), speak to those in leadership privately, but then, if nothing changes, let others know WHY you are leaving. Don't leave anyone guessing. "Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) and then move on to find a fellowship where the truth of God's word is not being compromised.