Returning to Church Part 3


So yes, we’ve made a return to church. And an “institutional” one, at that. Why? Did we suddenly change our mind about the fundamental things we don’t like about church? Nope. There are many things we still disagree with in principle. But the truth is, we simply needed community and were willing to accept the fact that no church is going to be perfect.

Starting over in a whole new country helped. If we were still in south Georgia we would not have returned. We had the community in Christ that we needed down there and were not led in any way to interact with the traditional churches any longer. But much is different here in far away Canada. And, we needed to get plugged in.  We needed the support, the family.

So we picked a large church in line with our beliefs hoping that the more people that attended, the more chances we’d have to find someone to form a genuine connection with. Super spiritual method, yes? So far, it seems to be working out.

I still don’t like worship services and still prefer a small group to a lecture format and I still don’t even want to know what it costs to financially maintain the church we’re visiting, but I’m trying to have a good attitude about the things that don’t do it for me – to look past those things for now and just make personal connections with the people. Because, let’s face it – it’s much harder to be critical about the worship service when the leaders have been in your house that week and you’ve been in theirs.


My current weapon against the church is intimacy.


And it’s obvious to me that God knew we needed to be wooed back to his bride because the folks at this new church have been courting us pretty righteously. We’ve been invited to dinners, given food and clothes, contacted personally about things happening in town that might interest us.

There’s still the cynical side of me that says, “This is the honeymoon, Jessica. Churches are always nice in the beginning. That is the nature of dating.” But I’m ignoring that voice as well as I can and just putting one foot in front of the other. Spewing less haterade. Applying more golden rule.


Because the Church doesn’t need more hate. It needs more love.




  1. I love how honest you’re being about all this.

  2. Amen Jessica. We ‘officially’ walked away from church this year (haven’t been attending a long time before that but was still calling it ‘our church’ and thinking we’ll go back eventually BUT then I realised we didn’t ‘need’ church anymore. We have community, we are growing, the mainstream church only frustrates me right now so when I realised this I finally felt released from thinking I HAD to go to church. Through this process though I just knew that I needed to accept it may not be forever and God ‘may’ one day call us back to church, like he has you. Thank you for your honesty and sharing this, I’ve REALLY enjoyed it (especially the laughs).

  3. It’s funny to read this because just last week dh and I had “the talk” about church. We’ve visited here and there but haven’t settled anywhere since leaving our own unconventional fellowship almost 2 years ago now. We realized that the reason we haven’t is because we’ve been able to “make do” with just our circle of fellow believers who we prayed for/with. Why would we settle in a church when we didn’t need to fill that need? We stepped up to the plate again and we are going to settle in a church. (not settle for a church, because most are full of sinners like us and just as suitable to worship in) We still aren’t conforming to anything much but it does feel good to worship and serve in a community of believers again. …Now I’m going to end this comment before I get tempted to use any more “quotes”…

  4. Very good stuff. We had left the church earlier this year..Springtime… Just fed up with worrying about who is teaching my kids what. We heard many unbiblical things at our church…More shared from a friends about our church. It was time to go… But, the same friend moved onto a large Baptist church in another town and heard about the pastor’s son’s small church plant and called me about it because it seemed in line with what we were looking for. They welcomed us with open arms. We sit at round tables in some church basement discussing the bible, home fellowship on friday night in smaller groups (much like what you used to do.) . They have given us money to register my car, called us mid week for catch ups. It’s more a family than a church. And I am still holding back and disappearing from time to time. I’m still working on that getting over the fact that it’s okay to be socially uncomfortable and that I do deserve to be loved. That’s what Jesus was doing up on that cross. Loving me.

  5. Amen! It’s funny to me that as a guy who went to seminary, church really irritates me a lot too. We do the house church thing, but it’s also not perfect. Nothing is. You’ve got the right attitude. Without it, you’re going to be really lonely. :)

    • That’s what killed me about seminary! I started learning all this stuff about leadership, church planting models, church history, spiritual disciplines, and seeing the deeper meaning behind a lot of these “weapon” verses that people like to sling at you, and I thought, “If all the pastors go to seminary and they know this, why on earth are they not teaching it? Why aren’t they even practicing it?” I think going to seminary, which is about as institutional of an experience as you can have, put more fuel in my fire than anything other than Jesus himself.

  6. Oh, I want to have hope, I’m just not there yet. I am in the rural South, not many options here, especially without driving 50 or more miles, ONE WAY!! But, you still give me hope, :)

  7. I feel like he only one of our blog readers that hasn’t asked away from traditional church. Taken a break (breather), yes. Completely walked away, no.

  8. *love*

  9. You should try The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons). We’re a pretty cool church. And we have the small group setting that you’re looking for (after the main “lecture” meeting . . . er . . . and sometimes before . . . the worship order just depends on the congregation you visit)! Not to mention doctrine that just plain makes sense. :D Best of luck to you with your “reintegration”!! We LOVE church!

    • Oh Liz, you know how confusing non LDS people find LDS doctrine right? :) Thanks for the offer and kind words though.

  10. I rarely comment over here…you intimidate me a little with all your wit, but I smile with almost every post and often laugh out loud :)

    And I have LOVED this whole series…the honesty, the processing, the willingness to look for the good and the valuing of community.

    Over the years, my views on church have shifted and changed and shifted again.
    I am frustrated by many of the same things that comes as part of the “package”.
    But I’ve also seen how God has used those frustrations and that never-ending-wrestling (sometimes prompted by the interactions with our church) to chip away at things in me that need changing.

    I do think there are times when change needs to happen and when leaving is honestly His plan.
    But on the whole, as a society, we’re quick to leave, quick to quit…at least I am that way.
    God has used our church as a sort of family scenario…there have been times when being in a different family sounded kinda good…but when the long-term-stick-it-out-ness has ended up being the biggest blessing. When He’s used the church to show me how He CAN change things…not always on my hoped for timeline…but I’ve seen God change churches, remove the dross etc.

    And that community bit…the living in community…it’s just huge.
    It’s scary to open up my life enough to let the community be real, but over the YEARS (and it has taken years with some) we’ve found that raw place of vulnerability with many people in our church and I realize how rare that is. And when we walked through the heartache of Selah’s death…I just can’t imagine how that would’ve been without our church family encircling, walking through it with us, being His love in action.

    I don’t have any specific notion of what “church” should look like…no set rituals or routines or format or certain songs or dress or style…except things clearly defined by Him. But–I do know that He made us with a need for community and accountability and He has a love for the church body that I want to always appreciate and value as well.

    I love this series and really appreciate you sharing your journey.
    It it good for me to understand the other “church” experiences that others have walked through and I want to also understand how even we may be perceived when someone walks into our church for the first time.


    • I’m laughing at my wit intimidating you. :)

      Real community is all any of us really want or need, right? It takes a lot of hard work though and servant-hood.

      And yeah – just treat every person that comes in the door as if they’re the most cynical blogger in the world and you’re sure to woo them. :)

  11. #1. I love your honesty. I wish more “Christians” were truly honest with what goes through their head. I can almost bet the churches would change their methods.

    #2. My husband and I have been hurt by the “organized church” several times. Keep in mind we are in our late 40’s now, with adult children that we homeschooled through most of the 90’s through 2012. We were rejected from the church we were attending (SBC) in the mid-90’s when we decided to not put our eldest in school. Homeschooling wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. The mere idea shocked and upset folks. Later we started a house church with some other homeschoolers, mainly because they too had been rejected and frowned upon do to their homeschooling choices.

    #3 When we finally returned back to the institutionalized church we continued with our family center, relaxed homeschooling, ways. We were not fans of youth group, sunday school and the sort. Of course we were met with some opposition. The mere idea of not allow our children to partake is youth group shocked and offended others. When we gave our reasons…which were valid, we were furthered hit. We finally pulled away from the SBC and joined a family integrated, which turned out to be a legalistic nightmare. Even though we ourselves have some strong convictions about certain social things, aka dating…we could not handle the behavior modification tactics. We left and joined a mega church that turned out to be too mega and too flaky for us. Not to mention too world centered and lost centered. There was no real discipleship going on.

    #4 We tried a SBC, on more time. only to discover it too was a bit over the edge with theology and legalism.

    #5 Now we are attending a big church again…this time less seeker friendly and more gospel centered. Still has some of the issue big churches have, but at least they are honest in admitting they have issues. We are trying to connect and thank god they are open to people like us. We have no idea if we’ll stay or not. We leave that up to God, but for now we are where we are and it’s been a good place for healing.

    • I know this post is months old but I just wanted to comment.

      I think no church will ever be perfect since it’s made up of imperfect people. I also think that church is a community of people that will fill your need. I think that’s why there is so much church hopping and church leaving. We go thru so many different seasons of lives and our needs change.

      We haven’t been to our church in 2 months. We haven’t officially left. I have actually called my pastor’s wife to let her know that we are doing ok and we haven’t left church. But we are doing church at home. WE homeschool and like Anita, we don’t care for the church’s programs for youth or any other for that matter. WE love fellowship but we have come to the realization that most people don’t have time for fellowship because they don’t need it from the church. They got their own set of friends or family to help them, so fellowship is superficial. (we also live in a rural southern town- people here are supposedly friendly!)

      So after years of going to church for Sunday worship and leaving upset (by inappropriate content heard by children – we keep our children in the sanctuary with us,) or dry, or inadequate, or still thirsty and hungry… we decided to have church at home, just us and the children. It has been really good for us. We don’t feel the need to return, but we are still craving fellowship. We are praying God will put us together with other like minded families, or as He is already doing, uses us to minister His love to others.

      One more thing, your blog is a breath of fresh air! :) Blessings, tereza

  12. #6 Thank you for sharing.

  13. I have been struggling for so long with the church I’ve been attending, for many of the reasons you’ve described in this blog series. My husband and I haven’t walked away… yet. We’re trying to participate and make suggestions, rather than simply throw stones on the outside.

    One of the reasons we haven’t walked away yet is that we know it’s not going to be magically better at any other place. Part of me wants to just give up completely, but I know I need community. So I keep trying. Sort of.

    • I have become a firm believer in that sometimes it’s absolutely okay to walk away and find community elsewhere. It completely depends on your situation. :)

    • I’d say it sucks that you’re struggling, but at least that means you’re thinking or getting stirred up about something.

      I’ve church hopped a bit over the years, just to keep things fresh and see what’s out there. Forgive me for quoting my pastor like a little fan-girl, but he’s often said the reason that people can’t find a church that “suits” them is because that’s not what a church is for. We go to church to love and encourage each other to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” It’s kind of those “ask not what your church can do for you…” kind of things.

      I’m a HUGE problem-picker myself. I am always trying to “fix” things and people and getting frustrated and hurt when they don’t listen to me and continue to do things “wrong.” Then I just give up. But there are times when I’ve needed to be humbled a bit and realize that there are people in my church that love Jesus and maybe (just MAYBE) the Holy Spirit actually IS talking to them and taking them in a different direction. In any case, is this issue worth breaking fellowship completely? And maybe I’m actually the one who is wrong about this particular issue. I’m usually not but even so ;-) it isn’t necessarily right to just take my football and go home or find new friends to play with. Sometimes I have to abide a little bit of their folly because I am called to fellowship with, love and respect fellow-believers.

      Even if they are completely wrong.

  14. Jessica, we returned to a church building because we need the community as well. We need to feel like we belong (wow that sounds horrible….). I don’t think we will ever find a church that we agree with 100%, but I’m not sure that God ever intended us to do that. If that were the case would we study as hard? Nope…. so going to a church where there might be some areas we don’t exactly agree with all the time really keeps our eyes where they should be, in the Word.

    We home churched for many years and I think we were begining to grow stagnat…. I feel a renewed love and desire to study now, and the accountability isn’t bad either.

    • I don’t think it sounds horrible to need feel like you belong. It sounds human. It’s not even a weakness of being human, we’re wired to want and need to experience love from one another.

      And don’t fret about disagreeing with the pastor/other people. That’s normal and healthy. I don’t think there are churches anywhere that are completely homogeneous theologically. Actually, I think those are called cults :-)

      I usually sit next to my best friend during service and at least twice a month, we get into text side conversations about how much we disagree with something our pastor is saying-and I love that guy! We need to question things in order to keep us seeking and, like you said, in the Word.

      Home church-ing/small grouping is awesome but I think we need to mix it up in bigger groups if only to call each other out on our crazy!

  15. Really good. I mean really. I’ve been so burdened for “the church” lately…like for the last ten years. I love your current “weapon.” (I need to hang out on your site more often. Love it.)

  16. Thanks for this. I habitually go on short little crusades and two of my more recent ones have been “the problems with the church” and “in defense of the church institution.” So obviously, I’m a little conflicted, so I appreciate when other people are conflicted too :-)

    I suppose I could sum it up by agreeing that, yes, the church needs more love: both for the getting and for the giving.

    My ginormous comment from yesterday turned into a blog post (thank you and you’re welcome) :

  17. I am at similar place right now. My wife and I moved to Abu Dhabi last year and were really exited at the possibility that being part of the minority religion in the area would temper some of the crap that makes churchianity almost unbearable. The first year was a bit of a honeymoon. I was part of a leadership group and help with the youth group, ect., but honestly it somehow always comes down to get on board or shut up.

    I honestly have no real hope for the church in regards to official gatherings and the fellowship is rather over-rated unless you fit the mold of that particular group, but honestly this is a flaw that the rest of the world has as well. One would just like to think that the whole power of the Holy Ghost thing might have an effect on things, but…………………….

    • Seriously. Once you start trying to organize the fellowship it can almost only go downhill from there. Some are better than others, and almost every fellowship has the honeymoon face. But if you treat the church like a business you’ll eventually bump heads.