I've been away for a while--so many posts!
Living in a rural area, I thought I'd comment on this. What happens most often (at least in my experience) is that people with progressive outlooks tend to leave more conservative churches, whether they can find another church to attend or not. And the reputation of the church in the community suffers.
Let me just briefly tell you where I'm coming from. Seven or eight years ago, my stepfather, who had never preached regularly before, was asked to become the regular preacher at a small, rural church with no elders. The previous regular preacher in this church (a man whose name some of you would most likely recognize), leaned sharply to the progressive side. Dad was always middle-of-the-road, but when he arrived at this church and found a lack of commitment to the congregation, he blamed the church's apathy on the progressive teachings of the previous preacher, and became more conservative.
The congregation asked me to come work with the youth (something I'm no longer doing), and I did so. Dad hadn't realized how much my thinking had changed. When I questioned him privately about his blaming "denominationilism", to use his word, for all the churches problems, he preached sermons refuting my suggestions.
He has never asked me to stop teaching, and has in fact encouraged me to teach and occasionally speak. He does at times, though, go behind me and re-teach (he is now teaching the teenage-young adult class I taught for years, and has spent at least three months on the plan of salvation). He also continues to fellowship more progressive churches and tries to convince the hard right congregations (who tend to help him out financially) to do so. He at one time lost some monetary support because we announced a local appearance by Jeff Walling in our bulletin. It does worry me, though, that he is being bombarded with mailed material condemning "change agents".
I said all that to say this: most of the more progressive members of the congregation who were there when we arrived have now left. A few travel a distance to another Church of Christ; some worship with other chruches in the community. Many who previously came occasionally haven't been seen in years. Me, I continue to teach what I believe, sometimes too cautiously, sometimes too plainly. Twice in the last three weeks a member of my adult bible class has taken offense at something I said. On the other hand, I spoke last Sunday morning, and did not speak plainly enough. My topic was our dependence on God, and I talked around so many points that in the end I couldn't even hold my own interest.
But I stay here for two reasons. First, the congregation is so small, every member is needed. I have a place here. Second, there is still the remnant of a progressive spirit in the church, and I feel I should do all I can to keep it from dying.