14 September 2009

A Church By Any Other Name

As followers of God, we have a fascination with interesting names for our houses of worship and prayer.

We forget that a name is powerful. God renamed Abram, Jacob & Saul when they began journeys for God. The prophet Hosea gave his children names based on the Lord's instruction. The boy Jezreel was a reminder of their sins against that city. Lo-Ruhamah translates to 'not loved,' & Lo-Ammi means 'not my people,' names that reflected God's attitude toward Israel.

I always seem to come back to her, but that's only because of how much truth she wrote. In Walking On Water, Madeleine L'Engle wrote, 'Our names are part of our wholeness.' The same holds true not just for people but for locations, like Church.

So if the name is so important, why do we name our churches such oddities as 'Warehouse 424,' 'First Baptist Church,' 'First Church of God,' or 'The Christian Center?' (All of those are actual names of churches.)

Those four names aren't even the worst i've come across; however, they are the easiest to poke fun at in an illustrative way.

I've grown up knowing about the various First Baptist Churches of the world. I've never really understood what it meant to call your church the First Baptist Church. It seems we need to be seen as winners. It can get confusing, though. If you live in Houston and someone says they go to FBC, do they mean Houston's First Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Houston, Greater First Baptist Church or plain ol' First Baptist Church? What does it mean to be the FIRST Baptist church in an area? Does it matter? Why is there more than one? We should find the absolute first Baptist church and give the name to them, all the while making the other First Baptists the world over change their names.

(There is a Second Baptist Church. It, too, is located in Houston.)

If it's arrogant to call yourself First Baptist Church, what does it mean when you are First Church of God? Unless you can count the heritage of your church body back to Abraham, or Adam, or even Jacob/Israel, then i'm not sure you can call yourself by this name. It gives you this sense of importance that other churches can never acquire.

The trendy thing now is to not even mention church in your church name. It's as if you can trick people into coming if you call yourself 'Warehouse 424' or some other name that sounds equally cool on a clothing store or a night club.

The worst, i think, is substituting 'church' with 'center.' Not only do you take out of the name this concept that's gone back thousands of years, but you make it sound like a one-stop shopping spree, but for Christians. I'm not sure if there is a membership fee, or if they manage to finally capture an accurate picture for their club cards, but Target is still ok in my book.

Why don't we spend more time thinking about the names and what they actually mean, as well as their impact on the populace? When we give all our churches the nondenominational moniker 'Community,' we need to back that up with some community impact.

The name should reflect who you are. If you want to be first, or most important, or biggest, then maybe we should let you be First Baptist or First Church. But if you want to show that you care about people and their growth with God, maybe something more akin to Disciples Church would be good.

No comments:

Post a Comment