5 Tips For Attending a Baptist Church Without Embarrassing Yourself

This morning we are at Bromley Baptist Church in London. Apart from a visit to the Met Tab, the last time I went to a London Baptist church was in 2004 and I wrote up a few guidelines on not getting embarrassed at a Baptist Church. Here are a few of them.

1. Sit in the back. You have no right to be in the front seat unless you are a penitent sinner, the preacher, a deacon getting ready to serve communion, an underground charismatic who is starting a revolution by waving their arms during worship, or a breast-feeding mother. If you are none of these, and if you dont want to be caught out sitting and standing at all the wrong moments, stay in the back where you will avoid embarrassment.

2. Dress smart-casual, even if you usually dont. If you dress too formal, they will assume you are Catholic or a novice, or someone vying for attention. If you dress too shabbily, you will attract the attention of the volunteer outreach program staff who assume you are homeless. If you wear Eastern fabrics, or wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt, or have any pagan symbols, you will get special attention from the welcome committee and evangelism department who assume you are having your first church experience. However, you might get special treatment and thats not all bad. So do go casual and you will not feel like a dork. Instead, they will assume you are a church goer just like them. Jeans are OK in most baptist churches. So put your piercings back in. Trust me.

3. Be semi-somber when you pray. Unlike emerging or alternative worship churches, you should be happy when you arrive and somber when you pray. Not Anglican hard-core somber. More like a semi-somber, a soft-somber, with no facial contortion, lest you look too spiritual. And if there is an open prayer time during the service, which there sometimes is, don’t go King James or retro-Shakespeare on them (novice giveaway) but stay smart casual (like the clothing) and keep it on the healthy somber tone of voice. But don’t go too far on the casual side either . . dont start telling God your latest joke . . and don’t go asking Him for His.

4. Sing softly and hang back a beat or two. It looks weird if you dont sing but dont worry – its easy – the words are usually projected on the wall and the music is predictable for the most part. No one will notice that you are not familiar with the songs and mouthing the words in time is a cinch. Also, hang back a beat or two on the songs. There are one or two choruses where everyone sings on the off-beat immediately AFTER the beat which is precisely the embarrassing moment newcomers make themselves known by being the only ones not singing on cue. And if you sing softly, you might even get away with botching up the songs. I know I do.

5. Follow others and do what they do. If someone sings a solo on stage or does something creative, don’t be the first to clap and cheer and wolf-whistle – usually, there is no applause at the end, just a small appreciative smile or nod, You will also notice that people are not tipping the preacher or stage-diving during worship or opening a can of beer. Unless it is an emerging Baptist church but thats another story. Again, watch other people from the back and stay 2-3 seconds behind them, and I give you my word, you will never embarrass yourself in a Baptist church.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

18 Comments

  • Andrew, with #5 I would add that many times after the “solo” you should be prepared to say “Amen, Amen” with the rest of the congregation.

  • And this one is for Cathryn – don’t put your hands in the air like you just don’t care unless you see that the rest of the congregation is jumping for Jesus.

  • First time on your blog, and although I can see you meant your post in jest and as funny, it was still kind of bashing Baptists, therefore your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and that’s not cool. Have you ever thought of church as being a place of reverence and that some people actually think that’s a good thing? It’s possible I’m taking it the wrong way but I was looking for Christian blogs I can follow and sadly I don’t think this is one of them.

  • hahaha…If only I had of known! I made the mistake of attending a “Baptist” church that was very Holy Spirit filled (speaking in tongues, slain in the spirit, arms in the air, dancing in the aisles, etc) and that’s what I thought all Baptist churches were like. So, when I move to a new Baptist church and gave God my all, I never understood why only part of the congregation did so…until one day the truth came to light and the traditional conservative Baptists within the congregation had had enough and the church split. (That’s the short version)
    Regardless all that, I still love my brothers and sisters in Christ. (including the conservative ones 😉
    ~mp:)

  • Dear Vanessa, who just posted a comment,
    Andrew is a great guy, seriously in love with Jesus and his brothers and sisters in Christ. Come back! Often! You will be invited to think, to laugh, to ponder, to reflect. Take the time to read some of the older posts. This is one of my absolute favorite blogs written by a christian. If you don’t decide that this blog is for you, that’s OK too!
    Blessings,
    Michel in Canada (friend and long-time fan of TSK)

  • Actually Vanessa, although I appreciate Michel’s kind words about me, you would be best to stay away because I tend to bash Baptists more than anyone – the reason being that I have been a Baptist for nearly 30 years, was a Baptist pastor, have worked for Baptist organizations for many years, and in fact, are still connected with Baptists . . and love them very very much. So they end up getting bashed far more than any other denomination, esp. ones that i do not know so well or love so dearly.
    so yeah . . you BETTER run!

  • I just remember to tie my hair back.I actually spoke at the Easley first Baptist last month to a congregation of 2000 coat and tie members with wifes wearing high dollar clothes,The parking lot full of Mercedes and Cadillacs.I grew up at this church,We are only 12 miles from Bob Jones university too the heart of the Bible belt.When we got through I got off the piano moved up to the choir and joined them in chorus with Hanndels “Messiah,”I sang the tenor part.I felt the Lord move me.After all I am “classically” trained.

  • Baptists Rock!
    This post is funny, and true of Baptists 15 years ago.
    But most of us have moved on…
    Baptists in West Aust. appear to me to be progressive, ‘missional’ (ha ha ha!) and vibrant…
    at my Baptist Church, we even clap after singing a congregational song! :p
    (But I have a feeling a certain Northern Suburbs Baptist Church may still frown upon such frivolity!)

  • I have been an Independent Fundamental Baptist my whole life, over 20 years. I do find this to fit my hometown church to a T!!! Hahaha And I don’t find this entry to be demeaning at all. When I moved to college and found a new church, I seemed to end up at one that was WAY less traditional and (sorry!…) less judgmental. I can understand why knowing this information would be helpful! When growing up, I often gave the same shpeel to my visiting friends. It’s just the atmosphere that makes Baptists comfortable with themselves.
    My post is definitely not meant to be bashing, just stating the facts from my hometown Independent Fundamental Baptist church. 🙂

  • Don’t know too many baptist churches – but coincidingly I visited the above mentioned Bromley Baptist Church three weeks ago during a short stay in London!
    I found them to be good, an interesting message (full of British humor, but with a point) and had an interesting talk with someone.

  • LOVE IT!!!!!!
    Im Catholic and here’s a few about us….
    1. Wear loose clothes because you will sit, stand, kneel more that you have did your entire life.
    2. Don’t drink the water…
    3. Under no circumstances do you say “amen” during the priests’ homily.
    4. Don’t be late…and don’t leave early (every one will turn and look right at you.)
    5. If you are sick don’t go to mass, especially if it’s at a cathedral. If you cough it will sound so loud you will FREAK! Not to mention it’ll shake the foundations of the church.

  • At Rob Cassels –
    Wow. Seeing your name reminded me of my teenage years. “rev silk” was a classic. I grew up near GSP too. Hope you’re not doing exclusively classical these days.
    Love the Baptist humor. And, yes, I’m Baptist too.

  • Um,… you forgot one very important tip to avoid embarrassing yourself:
    Don’t hug anyone. You would not want anyone to think you were dancing!!!
    Smile, Guys. One only teases those one likes!

  • eh!!!!!!!!!!!!! may be late on the up take …. but just read your comment Becky!!!!!!!! i think you got it right on the first bit though……….. I DON’T CARE…….. LOL………. (ummm i usually do that in the back of the church …. in any event)
    i usually pray in tongues under my breath as well……..
    xocat

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