Gordon MacDonald told us a while back that the church he serves was considering changing its name. It has finally happened. His account of a 180-year-old congregation's year-long wrestling with its identity is amusing and instructive. Read on.
About a year ago I filled some of this space with comments about changing a church's name. At the time our New England congregation (Baptist in background) was thinking about exchanging its 180-year-old name for something more adaptable to the times. I invited comment from all my readers. And all four of you wrote to me. (Just fooling). Actually, there were a significant number of responses.
Many e-mails were thoughtful and gave evidence that people had done their homework and accumulated useful insight about how and why a church's public moniker ought to be reappraised occasionally and sometimes changed. One or two respondents trumped me by writing that if I prayed more, Jesus would provide the name since it is his church.
A name is important. It can say something about who you are or who you want to be.
There are name-changes throughout the Scriptures. Jesus renamed Simon Peter in order to map out his journey to maturity. The early church called Joseph of Cyprus Barnabas because he was a fountainhead of encouragement. And Saul of Tarsus became Paul in order to contextualize himself in the Greek-speaking world.
I'm one who believes a church name ought to arouse curiosity, reflect congregational character, or provide some sense of meaning as to why a church or organization exists. My opinion? First Baptist Church doesn't cut it any longer. And most of our people agreed - some enthusiastically; others with a compliant shrug of the shoulders.
Our people studied church names and the stories ...