Let’s do a "thought experiment."
Suppose you are a teacher in a local church.
As you teach, suppose someone brings up the subject of people who are living together, but who have not entered into a marriage covenant. And suppose that since that topic has arisen, you decide that God wants you to address it. You learn that there are individuals who are living together outside marriage, so, in the spirit of Matthew 18– (You can read the first of a series of seven posts on the topic of church discipline here.) –you go to them to try to help them see why they are making a bad mistake.
Suppose that the couple complains to the church leadership. And suppose that the church leadership comes to you and says, "Look, these are good people!" (You don’t deny that, because from all you can see they are good people!) "And we don’t want you talking about this topic anymore. You are causing confusion. You are dividing the church. You are tearing up the church by your teaching!" What would you do?
Or suppose that someone mentioned that there were people in the church who belonged to a group that claimed there were many ways to heaven. That Jesus is certainly one way, but there are many others. And suppose you decided that since this issue had come to the congregation’s attention, that it was time to teach the truth about it. And suppose someone from this group complained to church leadership.
And suppose that the church leadership comes to you and says, "Look, these are good people!" (You don’t deny that, because from all you can see they are good people!) "And we don’t want you talking about this topic anymore. You are causing confusion. You are dividing the church. You are tearing up the church by your teaching!" What would you do?
But that’s enough isn’t it? You get the drift, don’t you? You can fill in the blanks with any number of issues that involve sin vs. righteousness; light vs. darkness; obedience vs. disobedience; God’s way vs. man’s way.
You could decide to teach the truth about Mormonism, Universalism, Humanism, Abortion, Same-sex marriage, church discipline, the Masonic Lodge, etc. You could probably list many more such issues. You can easily imagine that someone complains. And, in the name of "keeping the peace" or of "avoiding confusion" or of "not being divisive" the leadership can decide "no more teaching in this area! People are getting upset!
What would you do?
You could just cower down and say, "Wow, I wouldn’t want anyone to be upset, so I’ll just shut up!" Many pastors and teachers make that choice. They will just teach (very boldly!) on topics that are "safe" for their particular congregation. (For example, it’s easy to boldly preach security of the believer in Baptist or Presbyterian congregations. Not so easy in some other churches!) But they studiously and carefully avoid issues that some people might find to be "offensive."
Or you could just ignore the church leadership and teach it anyway. In this case, you might argue that "I must obey God, not man." This choice is certainly more courageous. But is it really the wise and godly thing to do?
I believe that this last response would be a legitimate attitude if it were not the church leadership that had taken the unbiblical stand. However, when church leadership says, "You cannot teach on this topic." I believe the time has probably come to simply remove oneself from the church in question. Certainly it would be good to appeal to the leadership, in hope that they might change their minds. But if they do not, to continue to rebel against the leaders (even though they may be seriously in error) really does seem to cross a line of confrontation that might not be pleasing to God. Many times, when, by teaching the truth, Jesus or His followers caused disruption in a group of people, rather than "stay and fight" they simply left them alone.
If there is a topic involving righteousness vs. sin or light vs. darkness, that cannot (according to church leadership!) be discussed openly, boldly, and candidly in a local church, then the church obviously has serious and glaring problems. Sometimes those problems can be addressed and solved. Sometimes, if the leadership has "dug in" and seems intransigent, the wiser course might be to simply move away, causing as little disruption as possible in the process. I guess it’s sort of a "shake the dust off your feet" attitude. That can be very difficult when you have invested a significant part of your life in a church. But sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
The Following Scripture Passages May (or in some cases may not) be Relevant!
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2Ti 4:3-4)
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Col 2:8)
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” (2Pe 2:1-2)
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Ga 1:6-10)
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Ac 20:27-30)
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Eph 5:6-11)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2Co 6:14-17)
“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” (Lu 9:5)
“But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” (Ac 13:50-52)