Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Go To The No Name Church

Everyone needs a name.  Even people with no names need names.  I know a man whose parents never gave him a name.  They just gave him a couple initials but no name.  He calls himself Jack because EVERYONE NEEDS A NAME.  Most people have two or three names.  It’s a matter of identification.  Their first names identify them as individuals.  Their last names (sir name) identify them with their families.

Churches are like that too.  For most of our history churches' names included something that had local or missional significance as well as a name that identified them with an association or denomination.  It’s a matter of identification.  And that’s a good thing.  There are doctrines, purposes, and practices that are often unique to denominations and some of us would prefer to know something about a church before entering. 

In recent years it has become popular to drop their denominational identifiers.  One church in our town dropped the denominational identifier from its name because they ceased being Baptists.  Another one recently dropped it because it didn’t want the community to know it was associated with its denomination.  But then they quickly reassured their members that they were still loyal to the denomination.  I wonder how that would work if a married woman told her husband, “Honey, I am dropping your last name because I don’t want people to know that we are married, but I still love you.”

Sometimes when I ask people, "what is your church’s denomination?" they will answer something like “we are non-denominational.”

So think about that statement.  From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we learn that the word “denomination” stems from the root, "nom" which means NAME.  So then a church that wants to be known as non-denominational is, in fact, a church whose name is No-Name.

Okay, I understand that most of them, for doctrinal or political reasons, do not want to, or can't be easily identified as Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and so on but by declaring themselves to be non-denominational, they have become part of a de facto denomination with NO NAME.  Kinda silly I think because most of them share common doctrines or practices with other no-name churches.  They think that we don't know, but we really do.

Everyone should have a name.  Of course, there are legitimate reasons to change your name (i.e. adoption, marriage, protection from personal danger) but I can’t think of any good reason to just not have one at all. And I can’t imagine a church without one either.  You may be thrilled with your church’s name but WHAT KIND OF A CHURCH IS IT?  For the record, I am a member of a church whose name declares its Baptist beliefs, polity, and practices.  It’s a matter of identification.


Pumice said...

Part of the issue is the church taking on the trappings of our current culture instead of being salt and light. The current generation likes to think of themselves as independent and free standing. They don't want to be tied down to anything that limits their liberty.

Have you noticed that they are also dropping the word "church" from their public peroona? Not they are fellowships and communities.

I am not sure God is pleased.

Grace and peace

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Pumice. Dropping the name "Church" is going to be one of my next blog topics. I think you're right about God not being pleased.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Would you be in favor or be critical of my choice for a new church plant, Westside Chapel, A Particular Baptist Church? No controversy here just interested in your opinion.

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Gregg, I don't normally get overly worked up over a church's choice of a name. The premise of my post is that when a church is deliberately non-descript or indefinite, strangers are left to discover what the church is.

The reason I wrote it is because a baptist church I attended for many years just changed its name and dropped the denominational designation. That gives reason to suspect a change in philosophy or polity.

If I were a new resident in your community, I think I might visit Westside Chapel. I would not consider attending a church with a name like Holy Spirit of Joy. I'm sure you get my drift.

By the way, the church I attend now occupies a facility that was formerly named Westside Church. If you make that plant, I have a great sign you might be able to use. Let me know.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Cool. Signs are expensive, they come in handy. I agree, I don't advocate change of biblical philospohy or doctrine either, with you on that one.

What I despise most is when being ashamed of being baptist is the motivation.