Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Naming Your Church, Part 2

Because we name things so often, and names often get lost in the yellow pages, you may be inclined to think that a whole series of blog posts about naming churches is a little too much. I would like to invite you to consider a church’s name and it’s naming as more important than you would first think. Naming of things actually plays a significant role in the Bible. In the Scripture a name is an important thing and it should be to us as well. There are well over a thousand verses in the Bible that have the word “name” mentioned and in many of those verses the word is mentioned more than once. Perhaps because we have lost the true impact of a name in the Madison Avenue world of branding and market placement we are tempted to think that all this attention on naming a church is a waste of HTML…but that would be wrong. I firmly believe that we have lost something in the naming of church.

Coming up with a name is serious business in more ways than one. There is a sense of permanence that comes with naming something, so you want to think about the long-term implications. A poor name can wreak havoc in a person’s life (especially in Junior High School).

We tend to name ministries in the West based upon criteria such as likeability, creativity, or personal identity and positioning in the community. In my first pastorate, I actually worked hard to change the name of our church from Grace Brethren Church to Grace Fellowship. My reasons were that it was more friendly to the community we were trying to reach and less offensive to those who may be gender sensitive. I mistakenly thought that simply changing our name would equate with church growth, and I was wrong. People do not choose a church home based on a name; there are many more important things to consider. That said, I do think that the way we name our churches in fact has great significance.


Tagbo {grimtraveller} said...

Interesting......I've been thinking alot about this over the last year or so. Personally, I'm of the view that "naming a church" is a retrograde step that has far more significance than many of us realize. It's maybe worth looking at two things, firstly the absolute lack of names given to churches in the NT. Secondly, the way we view church and churches. To be honest, the very fact that we even use the name "church" in the glaring absence of the word in the NT in all but at best a metaphorical sense, is suspect enough. But the fact that we have singularly thrown out or at best wilfully ignored the NT writers' word 'ekklesia'.....ooh. Though it's translated as 'church', it's a poor tranlation that gives rise to a concept that we've all lived with for centuries, but which has no real scriptural warrant. Because once we look at what the ekklesia actually was and it's implications, and focus on the fact that the word was the choice word of every NT writer except Peter and Jude {and Peter uses a related word in one of his letters} to refer to God's people, both personally and conceptually, well, us naming churches is a further nail in the screams "organization" and so clearly says "Division is acceptable". I know alot of us will deny this but I don't quite see how we can. And many of those who do not follow Christ certainly do look at it that way. I feel that it makes it seem that it actually isn't Christ's church. In times past, you'd just be the collection of God's people that happened to live in this city or that town. There weren't any 'connotations' as far as I can gather, in the NT. Jesus people were noted by how they lived, not what they called themselves. It's significant that they didn't call themselves anything other than disciples. Jesus' non naming of what he was leaving for the apostles to do should alone give us pause for thought. The fact that the NT writers used family analogies but called the people the ekklesia blows my mind. Or at least, it did once I found out just what the ekklesia was.
So while I can laugh with many of us at some of the names of churches in part one {my first church was called the 'apostolic church of God, seventh day'}, in truth, I see it as the first and most visible unpicking of the vital thread that holds our clothing together......
We are the body of Christ. Pure, boring and simple !

Ben said...

On a mission trip to Cuba where I preached to house church leaders, I asked one leader what was the name of their church. She had no idea what I was talking about, but could only say that they were the Christian community. I later thought how if I had had that conversation with one of the early church elders I probably would have gotten a similar response.