?> What's in a name? | almost an M

What’s in a name?


iStock_000006851283XSmallIn Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene, Juliet shares that the name of an object is not what’s important, but the object itself.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sw
Romeo and Juliet Act II, Scene II

This is evident in Antioch where the people of the church were first called Christians. Today, these people refer to themselves by another name. This name, not stated here for security reasons, also identifies them with Christ. Why the change? The connotation for the word Christian has morphed into representing religion or an assortment of religions that have Christ as part of the story. In the view of the believers there, this is not representative of identifying with Christ as Savior and Lord in their culture. Being called by a name that represents religion as an activity is not, based on their actions, worthy of living for. While identifying with Christ as their Lord is worth dying for.

Similar in some ways, re-naming is  occurring across the U.S. Some existing churches that have a long history continue to hold onto the existing name. Others have re-branded themselves. New church plants are discontinuing the use of “First (denominational name) Church of (city)” or “(community description) (denominational name) Church.” Whether or not this shift in names is made depends on a few key aspects including the church members’ cultural understanding of their community. Does the current name identify the church in a way that allows the community to relate well with them? Or by changing the name would more goodwill result among the unchurched in the area?

In a previous post, Non Sequitur, I posed the question: “Is the church name to be: 1) descriptive of the sending of God; 2) a tool to bring people to God; or 3) nomenclature of the people that are being sent out that bear the image of God?” I believe that selecting a name that is well-received by the community is important and worthwhile. However, I firmly believe that the name by which a group of believers identify their local meeting of church cannot replace the Missio Dei and what he calls his disciples to be about. To choose a name that is not offensive is a good thing. If it appeals, even better. The stumbling block to which we point, however, must be the cross of Christ, not a name that we select and promote.

Name changes can be good. Selecting a good name for future church plants is a good thing as well. But embracing the idea that we can be attractive enough for people to want to come to us so they can pick up their cross daily to follow Christ is a bit optimistic at best. The majority of our time and energies will be well-spent in prayer as well as encouraging and challenging each other to be about making disciples as we go. Having relationship with the lost so that they can see the glory of Christ in how he has transformed our lives, our families, our relationships is of far greater worth than working with consultants to re-brand a building or location.

One final note is that this post is an elaboration of some ideas from two previous posts: Sequitur and Non Sequitur. Based on these and a post on Erik Reed’s Savage Generation, I hope that this is helpful to clarify some thoughts. It is my intent that this post not reflect negatively on either the Relevants or Reconstructionists, but would instead place emphasis on the focus that is to be the passion and call of every disciple and every church.

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  1. Thanks for clarifying. I made a comment on Savage Generation in an attempt to clarify what has been called Reconstructionists using the original source of the designation. Unfortunately, my comment was construed as arrogant, snippy, and overall as saying “I’m right and your wrong” which was never my intent. Then the rest of the comments went south quick.

    Our name (and methodology), Matthew’s Table, sticks out like a sore thumb here in on the buckle of the Bible Belt south. Our self-designation hopefully says something of the radical table fellowship Jesus practiced and his mission in the world rather than trying to be subversive or “attractive enough so people will come to us.”

  2. adminsmile says:

    Hey Michael, I always appreciate your honesty. It is a good thing. And there is a Greek maxim that fits this as well as all other character traits: “To every virtue, there is a vice.” I am confident that any tension this week was not your intent nor that of others. I hope and pray that you guys are moving forward in brotherly love and committed to doing all possible to reach your spheres of influence for Christ together where appropriate and independently with love and respect.

    I am not advocating right or wrong names for churches. My experience and observations indicate that something as simple as “house church” works as does Matthew’s Table or The Journey Church. When we start thinking or acting as though our name is the biggest key to having people be impacted by the gospel of Christ, we live in a state of discombobulation (a fun sounding word, but a sorry state to be in). Selecting a name can be a big discussion point as well as area to pay consultants to come and find the perfectly marketable name and image. There is a place for creativity. There is a place for making things look good. After all, we are doing it for the glory of God. But knowing that they will know we are Christians by our love for one another, we have a challenge before us. Knowing that the Son of Man did not come to serve but to be served, we have an example to follow. Knowing that the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost, we have a massive search that should be ongoing. Knowing that we are to make disciples as we go, we are to be ever mindful of who those disciples are and how they are coming along–and making disciples.

    My take is this. “Matthew’s Table” is a beautiful ideal. If it is lived out in a way that is consistent with the name, then it is going to be a healthy expression of the body of Christ. “The Journey” is a wonderful ideal that if it is lived out in a way that is consistent with the name, then it is going to be a healthy expression of the body of Christ. “House church” is a wonderful ideal that if lived out as the body of Christ impacting every aspect of a home and other homes surrounding it, then it is going to be a healthy expression of the body of Christ. The words church and disciple are denoted by something that is profound and life-changing. Living out an expression of either or both of these words will have lasting, profound, far-reaching impact.

  3. Scott Wood says:

    The prosperity gospel is alive an strong in the Seattle area where I am from. I am truly shocked that so many people maintain the baseless, Biblically, idea that God wants them to be rich monetarily. The richness I believe God wants to give each person is so much more valuable than silver or gold. Come to think of it there are so many ways He wants to make us rich: spiritually, relationally, emotionally and eternally just to mention a few.

    What seems to trip so many people up is that God’s riches come at what seems like a steep price. “Die to self.” I believe the greatest challenge is to discover we naturally see things upside down or backward (choose your favorite). Die to gain – is a bizarre concept until the Holy Spirit kicks in.

    Waiting for God to make you rich with diamonds and expensive toys is a dead end street leading to disillusionment and continued pride. I want the other riches, the ones God wants to give me through the pain and suffering brought up in this great post. James 1:2-4 may be one of the best verses bringing home this point from God’s perspective.

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