I was just reflecting that the last four churches which we have left were all for pretty much the same reasons: I will not back down from the truth of the Word of God. We are certainly not church butterflies, flitting about from place to place, never staying long enough to develop relationships. Far from it. I learned from Henry Blackaby long ago that we should never leave a church unless God directs us to and there are really only two reasons God usually directs in that way: moving and violations of God's Word in either word or deed, after having done all to gently restore the church to the Bible.
Here is a summary of our leaving the last four churches:
Church #1 ~ Stayed 6 years and then moved far away. However, about 2 weeks before we left, I was fired as the adult Sunday School teacher because I taught that wives should obey their husbands and that one of the reasons God was judging America is because of our national sin in this area. There weren't any real harsh feelings, and although there was a definite chasm, there is still respect both ways. We still have some incredibly great relationships from that church.
I would not change my position. I will stand on what the Bible says.
So, in looking for a new church, we made sure we included this in our list of important areas to look for.
Church #2 ~ Although it was very often preached from the pulpit that we should live soberly and righteously in this present age, that we would never have entertainment in this church, at the very same time, the children's and youth programs were being run by none other than worldly entertainment. At one point, the children's church "praise and worship" was led by a local non-Christian TV show! After teaching the children that LIFE means:
L - Love
I - Integrity
F - Friendship
E - Encouragement
~ and that if you have those things you will have true life, I said that my Bible says that he who has the Son has life. When they started singing (during "praise and worship!") "I Love Rock and Roll," I had had enough. Suffice it to say that God's Word was not in any way being taught to any of the youth in that church. After several meetings with the pastors, we were asked to find another church more to our liking. We still have friends from that church and the pastor is still friendly.
I would stand fast on God's Word.
We then abandoned youth and children's programs and looked for a church that didn't separate the family every time we walked in the doors.
Church #3 ~ After attending for 5 years, we began to see this church lean in an extreme right direction (as compared to the left leanings of most American churches). We feel that any extreme is extra-biblical, and therefore, unbiblical. When I realized this church was taking a position that we cannot help but sin (every 10 minutes!), I took God's position that we are no longer slaves to sin, that God has promised that we will never be under more temptation than we can bear, and that Jesus expects us to obey Him. I was excommunicated for this position and all those friends I spent hours each week developing relationships with now turn their backs on us in public.
I still stand on God's Word alone.
Church #4 ~ Although we had major doctrinal disagreements when we agreed to attend this church for six months, the love of Christ that permeates that church was what drew us there. However, when they started a series on how you can lose your salvation, we had to draw the line. Eternal security is a major doctrinal issue, but we still have many good friends from this church.
We will stand on only what God's Word says.
Should doctrinal differences divide us? Yes, if they compromise the truth of the gospel of God's Word. Yes, when it comes to choosing a church, if a doctrinal error is consistently being taught from the pulpit and it is enough to cause either confusion or irritation.
Should doctrinal differences divide friends? I say never. I have friends of all different doctrinal persuasions and we can still love each other in the Lord. I am grateful for the friendships that are so solid that we can discuss our doctrinal differences rationally and search the Scriptures together to see if these things be so.
I am saddened that some would think that turning their backs on a five-year relationship is the best way to handle a doctrinal difference. Even so, and having done all, I will stand, stand on God's Word, and His Word alone.