Naming Churches

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 4, 2017

                                     

My family, growing up and current, has always been a part of Baptist congregations. The church I was first carried into as an infant was Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky. It was called Central Baptist because…it was centrally located in Winchester, just a couple of blocks off the main street that ran though the downtown area.

We moved from Winchester to Williamstown, West Virginia and began our association with a series of First Baptists.  Our home churches in Williamstown, Zanesville, Ohio, and Ironton, Ohio were all named First Baptist because they were the first Baptist churches established in those communities. In Ironton the First’s were all situated within about three blocks of one another…First Presbyterian and First United Methodist. The Catholics turned up their noses at being “First” and moved right on to one of the saints, Saint Lawrence. Not to be outdone the Lutherans went for St. Paul even though they were first across the street from First Presbyterian.

Church names became connected to either “First” or “Second”, indicating their timing in the community; or a saint to indicate their…saintliness!

There was usually reason to the naming of a church. The last church I pastored, Highland Park Baptist Church, was situated in an area of Colorado Springs known as Highland Park. Interestingly, as the city has grown and mushroomed very few people know that area is known as Highland Park, but, originally, location determined the name.

My cynicism is now going to splat all over the rest of these words. It seems that a new wave of churches are looking for a “catchy name!” It’s like the intriguing name of a new development of homes that is underway. Across the highway from our subdivision there is a development called “Wolf Ranch.” I’m somewhat drawn to the name. We could be the Wolfe’s of Wolf Ranch. To the north of Wolf Ranch there is Cordera. In their publicity they make it shown exotic and sexy as they say the name, like Gloria from Modern Family saying it. Houses are being built at a crazy pace there…for a couple hundred thousand dollars MORE than what homes in our subdivision are valued at.

It seems that the new wave of churches is looking for that name, that name that sounds like a destination, a vacation spot, or at least a weekend service spot. People aren’t drawn to the new church in town that decided on the name…First Baptist! It needs to have essence, depth, be sweet-sounding and peaceful, relevant but sophisticated! I was traveling along an Ohio Highway yesterday and passed a church that is called “The Point.” The Point is probably a happenin’ place to be, and when people say they are going to “The Point” it doesn’t even sound preachy! It sounds hip and cool and whatever other words that are being used today to indicate relevant.

It seems that there are more of The Points that are getting the point. A church doesn’t need to name itself the First Holy Apostolic Freewill United  Church of Temporary Insanity. According Thom Ranier new churches are keeping it simple and short, like a church outside of Greeley, Colorado I’m familiar with called “Grace River Church.” I kind of like that. Another one in Colorado Springs is called Hope Chapel. Short and easy to remember.

A couple of new churches that have begun recently are focused on verbs. One close to us is called “Thrive Church.” Sounds energetic! There’s another one named “Venture Fellowship!” Sounds like an entrepreneurial deal!

Here’s the thing! No matter how sophisticated or mission-focused, doctrinally-connected, or hip-sounding the church is named people won’t land there unless what happens in and through the congregation speaks to the spiritual yearning of the visitor. Sometimes the true environment of a church gives it a different name than the outside sign reads. There’s been a couple of Grace Churches that could better be named “Judgmental Fellowship.” A couple of places with peace in their name that get known more as the Church of Sunday Morning Fights. First Baptist might better be described as Bitter Baptist and First Presbyterian could be renamed “Peeved Presbyterian.”

Names are nice! They are even nicer if they are also the reality!

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, Christianity, Community, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Humor, Jesus, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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2 Comments on “Naming Churches”

  1. Marcia Powell Says:

    Just this morning Kathy & I walked past a church with the name The Fount on their sign.

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