On Nomenclature

Name changes — in the last twenty five years thousands of churches have changed names. Baptist, Methodist, AOG churches have dropped their denominational tags and adopted a more inclusive approach to naming their churches. Other churches like MOSAIC have dropped the tag “church” altogether.
We’re not the first to “play around” with nomenclature. Here’s a quote from the middle of the 16th century:

Let us drop these diabolical words, these party names, these factional, seditious terms – Lutheran, Huguenot, Papist – let us not change the name of Christian.

–Chancellor Michel De L’Hopital At The Opening of the Estates General of 1560

I guess the Chancellor was a nondenomination type of guy. Perhaps the time has come to not only rename churches but entire denominations. Rather than anchoring our clans to the past, let’s cast them out into the future.

Here’s an exercise for you. If you could rename your denomination, what name would you choose? NO OLD CLICHES LIKE The Frozen Chosen ALLOWED. These must be new names. Positive names. Something with cool, with style, with verve. Or, try this…of your favorite new names for churches [i.e. journey, sojourn, aqeous, spin, mosaic, etc), which names fit which denomination?

The more things change, the more they remain the same. But things do change.

See you in the Mystic…

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8 thoughts on “On Nomenclature

  1. There are a few churches I know for whom “THE PEW PRESERVATION SOCIETY” would seem appropriate. I think using metaphors as with Mosaic, Sojourn etc is the way to go because it seems to me that is what the NT itself does, The Way, The Family of God. The great challenge is then to find a metaphor that speaks in your culture. I am discovering in conversation with people who have no normal contact with church that “Mosaic” opens the door into significant discussion where Church of the Nazarene just provoked a look of terror as some poor unsuspecting soul thought they had come in contact with the latest off the wall sect.
    Right now I am trying to think of a way of expressing that I am church planter in a way that doesn’t make people think I want to press gang them for church but instead suggests a mission of transformation.
    Anybody any ideas?

  2. so James…if you could rename the Church of the Nazarene denomination, what name would you choose given their history, positive atttributes, trajectory, etc? Or if it’s easier to take a stab at another denomination, what would you rename them?

  3. I might rename baptists something like Immersion or Aqeous.
    I might rename the AOG something like Fuego or Fire Starters.
    How about something like Sojourners for the Methodists?

    Those of you who know the history, temperament or emphasis of different denominations would do far better than these.

  4. The disciples were called Christians, and later they took that name for themselves. As gatherings, some were called followers of the Way. Others were called by the house where they met (the group that meets in Alex’s house). Just descriptive terms. What if new churches stopped naming themselves anything but lived out something real and waited for others to identify them?

    Ever heard of people buying cool domain names and then trying to make a business model to fit them? Is that what it’s like when we give new churches hip names and then try to grow up into them?

    I love names, really. But names seem to be part of the virtual reality I’ve gotten used to.

  5. Alex in this country due to the openness to change of many of our congregations I would change from Church of the Nazarene to The Church Where Time Stands Still.
    Actually church of the Nazarene was an attempt by the founders (around the vicinity of your previous home in Pasadena) to identify the church with the “earthly” Jesus and his Kingdom mission, it was very much an attempt to return to what they saw as a primal expression of church.
    The heart of Wesleyanism is love and so I guess an name change would need to reconnect us to that core message, I’ll keep thinking and post if I have any inspired thoughts (it could be a while)

  6. Andy, brilliant.
    James, how about Sandals? I know a few churches that have taken on that name to portray a similiar kind of theings as the Nazarenes.

  7. Sandals … that’s a holiday company over here that specializes in expensive adults only resorts in the Caribbean, now I might join that!

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