Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Here are two different scenarios that many Christians sometimes find themselves within when they start attending a new church. Both start with the facade of grace, then slowly, as the unaware Christian becomes more and more ensconced within the church, that facade deteriorates into something much less gracious.
Scenario #1: False Advertising
How many times have you heard a church claim salvation is by grace through faith alone? If you've attended many Evangelical or non-denominational Christian churches in your life, you've probably heard it thousands of times.
You try out a new church, you hear them preach the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and you decide, "That's Biblical and it's what I believe, so I will attend this church."
Then you start attending on Sundays until you're pressured into joining a Small Group, where your relationship with Christ can be nurtured and your relationships with other God-loving Christians can begin.
You go to the Women's Group, everyone seems so nice and loving. Everyone begins talking about their struggles over the past week, their faith, they ask questions, and your initial shy and closed off demeanor begins to relax into a much more comfortable and open one.
You're asked how long you've been going to "the church," and then asked how much you decided to start giving as a new member, because "I'm just curious to see if anyone could possibly pay less than I did when I was a new member *giggle*."
In your naive honesty and openness, you say you don't believe in paying tithes. A collective gasp surrounds you. You are then given a lesson on why you must give to the church in order to be considered a member, in order to be a good, faithful Christian, and in order to protect yourself from greed and selfishness.
You feel uncomfortable. Your wall goes back up, and you retreat in silence back to the shy woman you were when you first entered the group. If you thought disagreeing with the church's position on tithing was going to get you into trouble, you never would have said anything about it in the first place.
The women are satisfied with their rebuke of your misguided beliefs, and the discussion switches gears. The Small Group leader opens her Bible to this week's verses, which are in 2 Corinthians chapter 6. She reads aloud from verse 10 until she reaches verse 14, where her tone changes and emphasis are put on the words very obviously.
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
She looks up from her Bible and peers around at the other women in the group. "Who here has an experience with being pressured to socialize or fellowship with an unbeliever? What did you do, or say? Did you cave, or stand your ground in the Word of God?"
You swallow hard. Beads of sweat begin to form on your temple. Your pray. God, please don't make me talk about this.
One by one the other women begin bragging about how they've been approached by a friendly atheist or agnostic at work or school or some other place with an invitation to the movies, to have a drink, or to attend a party. Various accounts of kindly saying no or openly explaining to the unbeliever that they do not fellowship with non-Christians ensues. Then, everyone looks at you.