Monday, November 19, 2007

What's in a name (part 2)

Any time we name a church you are attempting to communicate something about the identity of your church. Most of the time, the name is meant to communicate something to those outside the church body itself. Naming of churches has gone through several stages. Some names are strictly utliltarian. Older church names commonly included only the denomination and the number church they are in a given area. Thus, it is not uncommon to find churches named First Church of the Nazarene, Second United Methodist, Sixth Baptist, and Tenth Presbyterian. I even found a Twenty-eighth Church of Christ. My seminary roommate pastored a church which having had a rather contentious split named itself Friendship Baptist Church #2 (the church has since changed its name).

Other churches were named for their location—named after city, road, landmark. This results in church names such as Dowagiac Christian Center, Rensselaer Community Church, or Worthville Baptist Church. Occasionally locations can result in some interesting church names. For example, Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville is now actually on Third Street. There are at least three “Little Hope Baptist” churches in the U.S.; as well as First Baptist Church of Cash, Boring United Methodist Church, Intercourse United Methodist Church, and my personal favorite, Calvin Free Will Baptist Church. Personally, I have dreamed of moving to Michigan to plant the First Baptist Church of Hell :-).

Knowing that names communicate, some churches include a word that relates to the gospel message. Thus, you find names such as Grace, Faith, Calvary, etc. Newer churches choose trendy names which communicate both their “post-modern” flavor and something of their core values in the name: Sojourn, Mosaic, Discovery, Journey, etc. Of course you don’t have to be a trendy post-modern church to include a core value in your name. Churches in my home state include Friendship Baptist, Community Fellowship, and of course, Greater-Come-As-You-Are-Baptist-Church. I would submit that some churches try to communicate too much in their name. Consider the following (I’m not making these up): Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas, Restoration Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith, African Church of God (Yahweh) Messianic Assembly of The Kingdom of God, and my favorite, A.B.B.A.'s (Adopted into the Beloved and Blessed Abundantly) House Church of God of Prophecy. You ask what’s in a name? Sometimes a whole lot!

Anyway, the point of all this, if there is one, is to say, that there a lot of possibilities in choosing a name and denominational identity is only one of them.


-- Todd

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