Returning to Church – Part 1

I’ve told you about how we left the church and I’ve told you why I don’t like church. Now I’m going to share the story of our return to church in an unfiltered format.


We wait a full 6 weeks after moving before we finally work up the nerve to get the kids dressed, pack ourselves in the car, and find our way to a stained-glass parking lot.  Butterflies ransack my stomach.  Not the good butterflies, the ones bursting with hope and excitement. No,  these bad boys are the ones full of dread.  The ones that gnaw at your insides and convince you doom is imminent.


The butterflies and I spend the 10 minute drive prepared to be skeptical, to be judgmental and critical.


I get out of the car, egocentrically certain that everyone is staring at me. At the door a man in a Hawaiian shirt greets me. I inwardly classify him as “typical”. I reply to a cheerful “Hi” and volunteer my name before the accent question emerges.  You get used to that when you travel the world with a twang.


We find a seat (because this church seems the kind that is too cool for pews) and I commence the Christian people watching.  I glanced around at the upper middle class hipsters one at a time, finding things wrong with them.


“Wonder how much she paid for that hair color.”

“Could those skinny jeans BE any tighter?”

“There is no way that dude isn’t gay.”


And so goes my haterade.


The “worship service” starts and I fully embrace the air quotes in my heart.  The young and peppy worship leader has a tattoo on the back of his arm. “Ooh, edgy” – I mock silently. I find the songs awkward, as always. Mostly due to the format – standing unnaturally for no good reason except that we were told to. The tattooed, chipper worship leader occassionally takes a kicking step back from the mic with a dramatic strum of his guitar. It makes me want to giggle.


At some seemingly arbitrary point in the worship song service, the children are ushered to their classrooms. The unschooling mama in me wants to reject this. We’re not used to being separated. And I don’t want to hand them over to someone else to be taught some watered down bible story.  But I don’t say any of this.  I let The Husband usher them out with the rest of the crowd.  Then I sit instead of stand until he gets back – the smallest form of rebellion I dare to brave.


Finally, Mr Peppy McEdgy finishes his set.  Then I’m slightly surprised to find Mr. Hawaiian shirt taking the stage. Apparently he’s going to preach…


…to be continued.


(Spoiler: it gets better. Don’t burn me at the stake yet. I’m chronicling my emotions how they happened – not claiming they’re right or proper.)




  1. Oh my I love this, that’s so my thinking when I go to church. I love it when people share this sort of honesty, makes us all feel a little more normal! Clinging to the edge of my seat here waiting for more!!

    • I’m glad you said that. Because it’s exactly why I’ve decided to start writing more honestly again. Makes me feel less alone, too.

  2. I bet you got a wake up call didn’t ya. ;)

  3. Thanks for sharing your unfiltered reactions. It’s nice to get your honest perspective, and to realize we’ve all had those thoughts and can be a bit skeptical. Looking forward to seeing part 2 of your experience.

  4. Hey, did Mr. Peppy McEdgy lead you in the classic “McPraise and McWorship”? It goes like this:

    “McPraise and McWorship… we’ll have it our own way. We’ll go to church on Sunday, Lord, but don’t ask us to pray, oh no… McPraise and McWorship… we’ll have it our own style. Commitment’s on the menu… eh, maybe we’ll try that in a while….”

    Parody song I wrote a while ago (mid-90s?), poked fun at the church for being me-centric in how we approach church – what do I get out of it. The 2nd half of song was sort of the turnaround (like your next post will be, I’m guessing) — church isn’t about us being served but serving, not just having our needs met but helping to meet the needs of overs.

    Looking forward to hearing the 2nd half of what you found — I know that when I come in with pre-determined attitudes and ideas, God tends to open my eyes and change my perspective. And that’s a good thing!

  5. I love this!
    The worship leader – “…the dream of the 90’s is alive in our churches…” (revision of the ‘Portlandia’ dirge)
    The pastor- still rockin’ the “purpose driven life look”

    Thanks for writing, and looking forward to the next post.

    • Lol. I had to go to the people described in this series and warn them of my original haterade and assure them that it wasn’t personal – just my own rotten attitude.

  6. I LOVE YOUR HONESTY AND TRANSPARENCY!! From on in full-time ministry (we pastor a church in Texas), I appreciate your insight and realness.

    Can’t wait to the next segment…

    • When church staff don’t burn me at the stake for transparency – that’s a good day. Thanks, Stefanie. :)

  7. very interested to hear the rest of your experience. :]

  8. Julie Williams says:

    oh yeah..this is going to be a great post! I have been convicted recently of my bad attitude i have had about church. Just repented Sunday and man did i ever get alot out of the sermon! I had to change my expectancy level! I am once again so hungry for the Word and Worship!

  9. Ooooh I can SO relate to those thoughts and feelings! It’s many years since we’ve regularly attended church services (although we are part of a dynamic group of Jesus lovers who love to hang out together). I can hear my judgmentalism upon those playing the roles I used to play and yet I totally agree with everything you wrote in your prior post, which is what has kept me from returning. Keen for the next instalment too……

  10. I love how you tell it like it is.. I feel so much less like an awful self-righteous judger when I read these things. we’re all in this together. love you girl. xoxo

  11. Lol–you poor thing :)

    Once upon a time someone in high school told me that she thought church should be quiet and you should just sit in awe (which was weird, because she was not a church-goer). I’ve always looked at worship services like rock concerts. If I go to a concert, I’m excited to see the band–I stand–I cheer–I sing the songs. That’s how I feel during our hipster worship services. I’m not praising the singers, I’m praising God, and I *want* to stand and raise my hands and sing *His* praises.

    I’m headed to a huge women’s conference this weekend. I. CAN’T. WAIT. The most important thing I learned from it last year was not to sit and wait until I “feel” like worshiping. Praise Jesus whether you feel like it or not! And I’ve taken that to heart for a year and it has really, REALLY changed my life.

    Hope you don’t mind my comments–I get a bit preachy when I’m excited about church. :)

    • I think a lot of it has to do with different personality types, too. Some people just super don’t worship that way (my husband is one of them).

  12. Looking forward to the conclusion! This is kinda what goes through my head whenever I go to church with a big old dose of “you are the worst Jesus follower to ever walk the face of the planet!” and then I feel super guilty so I just don’t go anymore = more guilt. It’s a bit of a cycle…..

    • I think it’s important to admit these things because then we realize that we ALL think we’re the worst Jesus follower to ever walk the face of the earth. And somehow, that brings balance back to the world. And grace.

  13. Oh I love it! My husband and I are fairly heavily tattooed…it’s been a part of us since waaaay before it became “ok” to be tattooed. We can’t help sometimes feeling snarky towards those Peppy McEdgy types. It seems to be some sort of uniform. One or two tattoos always in a place for maximum impact, fauxhawk, untucked shirt with an edgy cross printed on it. They are always the guy in highschool that told me I was in mortal danger for wearing my combat boots or dying my hair black. They never seem to know what to do with people like us. Teehee! Ah well, I guess I should be grateful that churchy types don’t totally hate us anymore. Probably should get of my high freaky horse now. :)

    • And I’m totally that person, too. Got a prominent tattoo when I was all of freaking 18 years old. Now I’m dealing with the residual McEdginess of it.

  14. I used to have the same level of cynicism/criticism whenever I went to Mass with my in-laws. I just sat there mentally picking apart every. single. thing. Last spring we went to my niece’s baptism, and I made a point of going in expecting to the Holy Spirit to be there with me, just like he is everywhere else I go. And while I still was uncomfortable with some aspects of the service, I did find myself listening more and criticizing less, and I actually enjoyed many parts of it. Which sounds like it was all about me, but you know what I mean. I began to appreciate how many of the songs are just Psalms put to music, which I love. And they ended with Amazing Grace… I guess they didn’t know how very Southern Baptist that was! Ha!

  15. you are an ass. seriously everyone is entitled to their opinion but get to know the people first, holy. it’s your opinion, i get that, but you don’t have the right to judge. what the hell.

  16. I can so relate.

    This is where I am, a bit disillusioned…and wondering…

  17. My husband (saved in his early teens) was once told by a pastor that he wasn’t a Believer because he didn’t like to sing and worship expressively during singing time. (nevermind that he’s a terrible singer…can’t hold a tune in a bucket).

    Seven years later, he STILL battles the hurt of that in a significant way. We left the church, obviously, and now attend one that has loved him well, and given him ample opportunity to love others well.

    I swing back and forth between knowing my own heart—one that loves to sing and worship, feels compelled to stand and raise my hands in surrender, and loves the way music can lead us to a worshipful attitude—and also wanting so deeply to remove the emphasis on show.

    I look forward to the rest :)

    • My husband is even “worse” than I am. Severely introverted, doesn’t do the whole group-think thing. So he usually just stands there (or sits) and tries to pray during the singing.

      We’ve also been told before that if you don’t like the singing then something is wrong with you.

  18. You pretty much summed up my attitude towards church as of late (awful I know)… never was this way. But as of late I’ve become disenchanted with the sterile corporate feel of it. Can’t wait to read the rest. Thanks for your unsugar coated approach!

  19. Oh my gosh … my husband is a worship leader but he is also extremely introverted so I bet he would 100% relate to everything you wrote. I loved the comment you made earlier about personality being such a factor. Yeah, that … so true. Ian Morgan Cron spoke at a conference we attended earlier this year and he said, to a room full of worship leaders and creatives about leading worship experiences, “Do not speak until the silence gives consent.” Maybe (probably? definitely!) what we need – in church, at home, in LIFE – is not to speak until the silence gives consent. What would happen to our churches then????? {Besides the requisite freaking out by people who are deathly afraid of quiet because – gasp! – they might actually hear something that matters!} I cannot wait to read the rest of this series.

    • Seriously, my husband is pretty sure he’d make a great Quaker. He would just love to sit in silence. :)

  20. Thank you so much for sharing with such transparency. I so love your words on a page Jessica. Looking forward to what comes next. Blessings!

  21. Mr. Peppy McEdgy. Heh. McPerfect.

    I remember those days….stand and sing. Sit for a song. Stand and pray, then sing. Sit. Stand and throw your hat in the air. (Not really. But that would have been fun.) I always hated that. My mom was the McWorst at making me do that too, She always gave me the eye when I didn’t cooperate…and I always thought “Why the crap does standing during this song make it more effective? I don’t feel different when I stand. I don’t want to sing. And why is there all this public singing any way?? I don’t understand.” So as I got older, before I stopped going, I just started sitting in the back and did whatever I wanted. Of course, I got the eye from other church members, because obviously I was a devil worshiper. OH. Remember that Halloween?? HA!

    • I bet you even wore black, didn’t you?

      • Of course. I only own maybe 3 colors in my wardrobe (that word looks weird.)…I’m pretty sure its been that way since high school. So I know there was black wearing on my non-standing, non-singing anti-participation. Because devil worshipers only wear black, duh. That’s the sign…its how you know.

  22. I love your honesty, Jessica. A lot of those thoughts you were having, about the cost of the haircolor, the skinny jeans, etc. I confess I did much the same the first time I went to the church where I am now attending. Thanks for being so open.

  23. The church that we braved this last week.. well I could have written this post about it. Minus the Hawaiian shirt, just substitute polo for that. Oh, and I did reject children’s church. We’re family integrated so we don’t play the age segregated game. We could compromise on that but not with strangers right off the bat, even my kids would balk at it initially. I picked apart everyone there, including the songs, service, and paint color. After about a half hour I realized I didn’t hate it. Then the 2yo started so loudly that I couldn’t hear the service so I wandered with him and went to “peek” in the children’s rooms. Just then the worker came out covered in vomit. Apparently the stomach flu joined them for the bible story that morning. So we went back to the pew and I took it as a sign from God that He doesn’t mind if my kid shouts “cookie” periodically while listening to His word.