What’s in a name?By
In 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 sweet.
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.