Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Subdivisions, Craft Stores & Cults

I am reading a new book entitled Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. The five perspectives come from five authors (Mark Driscoll, John Burke, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt and Karen Ward). The purpose of this post is not to discuss the book but to discuss the names of the churches in which these five people serve.

They are respectively:

1. Mars Hill Church
2. Gateway Community Church
3. Vintage Faith Church
4. Solomon's Porch
5. Church of the Apostles

What happened to First (fill in the denomination) Church? Why has there been a shift in the names churches choose? Does the church make a statement with the name? If so, is the statement really being made if someone from the church has to explain the meaning of the church? I am a student of art and I have had similar questions about art. If someone has to explain the meaning of their "piece of art" why do we need art? If words have to be used to explain the art wouldn't a more effective way of communicating the meaning be through words? Similarly (and very loosely similarly), should the name of a church have to be explained?

I don't have the answer. I am just curious about the popular shift our culture has taken in making church names sound more like subdivisions, craft stores and cults.

What say ye?


Josh said...

I have heard Driscoll (#1) above apologize for the name of his church... He says he picked it when he was young, and it sounds like a cult..

I think churches are getting away from the denomination names because it classifies them too narrowly at least in some people's eyes.

I suspect that there are many folks in the church that I attend that don't subscribe to all of the teachings of the denomination. To put the denomination as our central identifier would detract from the mission of reaching people for Christ.

Vince said...

Yes, I suppose I shouldn't have used the example of First (fill in the denomination) Church.

I am not a fan of labeling the church by the denomination. the church i attend does not use a denomination in the name. although that has proven unhelpful in our context because there are a few other churches and a hospital in town by the same name.

your dad said...

I guess it would be best to use some sort of Biblical name for a local church. Church of Christ, Christian Church, or Church of God would all be good. However, there are denominations by those names, so you would be automatically connected with them by association. Bride of Christ might be good, too.

It might be good to name a church after a location for convenience. "The Saints Who Meet on Main Street" would be a good name for a church.

I'm not much for gimmick names. I would find all of these acceptable for a church that meets on Main Street in River City:

River City Church
River City Church of Christ
River City Christian Church
River City Community Church
River City Saints Assembly
River City Christian Outreach
or substitute "Main Street" for "River City in any of the above. I think you get my idea.

In the NT, the writers addressed the churches as:
--beloved of God in Rome
--the church of God which is at Corinth
--the churches of Galatia
--the saints who are at Ephesus
--the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi
--the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae
--church of the Thessalonians
--to the church in your (Philemon's) house
--the church in Ephesus, Sardis, etc.

jonny5 said...

i'd like to name my church "the place where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came church"

jonny5 said...

i don't think there are any biblical names for churches. there are locations (e.g. corinth) and descriptions (e.g. body of Christ). however, it'd be a stretch to try and be biblical when naming a church. it's kinda' like church membership--it's not biblical; however, that doesn't make it antibiblical, and it can even be helpful in a culture of memberships and societies. seems to me to be a cultural fad to name churches. and perhaps a necessary one.

Bryan C. McWhite said...

I like the originality of these names. One of the reasons is that if a church name requires an explanation, then sometimes that is an automatic bridge into discussing things of importance with whoever is interested in the meaning of the meaning of the name.

Someone asking about Mars Hill church will hear about Paul's engagment in culture for the sake of the gospel in Acts 17. Someone asking about Solomon's Porch will hear about Acts 3-4. I don't know what Vintage Faith means, but I know what I would mean by it.

B-U-R-L-Y said...

Our church just left the Vineyard denomination and so we had to leave our name behind -- which I was, frankly, very glad to do so that we didn't have to be characterized as pomo or cooky. We changed it to Trinity Community Church, and I immediately thought of your church, because Trinity Church is nice and short, etc. I like it better in one sense. On the other hand ... I don't care too much. But I do think that there's a lot in a name. I told a friend that I wanted to name a church Re-creation church if I ever planted one ... then I thought of leaving out the dash and calling it center rather than church so that seekers would feel comfortable coming. So it would be the Recreation Center.