I recently resigned from the board of my church and renounced my membership mainly due to false doctrine. False doctrine, and those who promote it, should be rejected, rebuked, and exposed. This is demonstrated multiple times in the New Testament (1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:14-15, Jude 3 – 4, Matthew 23, Galatians 1:6-9, Galatians 5:12, Titus 1:9, Romans 16:17). However, I realize that this is a sensitive topic and every situation is different. My goal with this article is to share insights that may help others in their journey. I’ll outline what actions should be taken to prevent from departing irresponsibly and what a Biblical mindset looks like.
1) Do your research – Don’t be uncharitable to your pastor. It’s unwise to assume the worst and act hastily. Challenge your assumptions honestly against the scriptures. Most sermons are preserved in a digital forum somewhere. Watch them as many times as you need to achieve a proper understanding within its correct context.
Be in unceasing prayer for wisdom as you do this. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” With a repentant heart, faithful and rigorous study, and a love for God’s truth, you’ll discover the answers to concerns organically. If these answers legitimate your concerns, it’s time to prayerfully move to the next step.
2) Talk to your pastor – Barring extreme cases where heresy is unrepentantly preached from the pulpit, you should present your theological concerns to your pastor. The pastor should respond to your concerns happily, transparently, straightforwardly, and Biblically. If the pastor is not answering your concerns in this way and restoration isn’t fully or sufficiently reached, the likelihood of ongoing doctrinal problems resolving is unlikely.
3) Pray and observe – If the pastor resolves the theological concerns, that is the ideal scenario. It could’ve been a misunderstanding, which happens sometimes. However, if the meeting with your pastor still left matters completely or partially unresolved, it’s reasonable to be hopeful of change but mindful that your doctrinal concerns may arise again. Continue with your studies prayerfully and studiously if the theological issues continue. Depending on the doctrinal issue and your level of engagement in the church, each person’s journey will look different. Again, that’s why prayer is important in your journey.
4) Ask yourself the hard questions – Now that you’ve prayerfully invested time in studying the false doctrine, you’ve confirmed it’s false doctrine, you’ve notified the pastor of the issue and no actionable steps were taken, it’s time to judge whether all of your efforts justify a departure from the church. Again, this will look different for every person. False doctrine is a tricky subject to navigate sometimes. For example, denying the triune nature of God is a clear example of heresy while the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement cleverly cloaks its false doctrines by mainstreaming the redefinition of orthodox Christian terms and practices. They should be treated differently when exiting a church because they’re not the same.
5) Make the decision – This decision will be harder for some and not others. For my spouse and I, it was tremendously difficult. I was on the board and my wife was a staff member. My wife and I collaboratively did steps one through four mentioned above. Now that we did all the hard work and asked ourselves the painfully challenging questions, it was time to make a decision. We found that our investigation of this matter provided a powerful scriptural case for leaving the church. Ultimately, if scripture isn’t being presented in a way that is true to the Word, the Gospel is not being preached. As Christians, we are not obligated to stay at a Gospel-less church.
False teachers, false prophets, and false apostles have been warned about at length throughout the Bible. It’s not uncontroversial how God, the Creator of all things, feels about those abusing His Word. We see in 1 Timothy 6:3-5,
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
The truth is the only thing that will liberate the church. The church body must invoke a no-tolerance policy for those who promote heterodoxical or heretical doctrines. False doctrines must never be permitted in the Christian worldview. This is not a negotiable issue. You’re either for the entire Word or you’re not. All of God’s Word is inerrant, and we must treat it as such.
I’m not suggesting you make this decision lightly. I devoted six months of prayer and research, along with presenting my concerns to the pastor before I ultimately decided to leave the church. This was a process that weighed on my mind every day. If you’re in a similar position, I encourage you to use the Berean model of examining all teachings against scripture (Acts 17:10-15).
I’m also not suggesting you should communicate your findings in an unloving way. The second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-40) However, this doesn’t mean that I only tell people what they want to hear. Love includes telling people uncomfortable truths. I was in a position of church leadership, and I had responsibilities for the operations of the church, which included guarding the congregation against teachings that would compromise their understanding of scripture. I took this obligation seriously, which is why I published my concerns (i.e. NAR and Dan Bohi) on this blog for anyone to view. My prayer with each publication was that God would use it to communicate the truth to an audience who needs it. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” and the same is true today. Not everyone will approve of your departure. That’s ok. As long as you’ve demonstrated that you’re following God’s Word, you can depart the church with a clean conscience.
Lastly, do not leave without going to another church. Leaving one church does not relieve you of your Biblical responsibilities of attending church (Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 3:16, Matthew 18:20, 1 Corinthians 12:12-22). You must be a member of a Biblically faithful church somewhere. Church attendance is also non-negotiable. All Christians must be working in their churches and using their God-given talents for His Glory.
In closing, I encourage everyone to be emboldened to speak the truth in love, gentleness, and respect. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves so that you’ll be prepared to navigate the wolves among the sheep. (Matthew 10:16)