What’s in a church name? Apparently, a lot if you are a member of the New Monmouth Baptist Church that is going through a “rebranding” of its name.
The church where I presently serve has been called New Monmouth Baptist Church since 1842, so why change the name now, some might ask.
That’s what I wanted to know, so recently I e-mailed a friend and church consultant who has been a mentor of mine as I have been undergoing training to become a church consultant.
My mentor, Dr. Bob Whitesel, who is a sought after speaker, church consultant and award winning writer of 14 books on missional leadership, holds two earned doctorates from Fuller Theological Seminary, so he has the back ground to address such questions as church name change.
In response to my question about name change, he has written an excellent article on the subject which you can access should you desire further information. You will find the link to his article below.
The idea of our changing the name of our church has unleashed a lot of strong emotions within our church family. “Why change the name now,” people ask? “We have been the New Monmouth Baptist Church since 1842.”
My response is that church names are important. They identify us. They help communicate our identity: what we believe, how we govern, how we worship.
Names are important in attracting people looking for a church.
There are many reasons for changing the name of a church, but the major one for many of us here in our church is our desire to reach our culture for Christ.
Plainly put, the word ‘Baptist’ has negative connotations for some people today. That is not to say that it doesn’t have some positive ones as well, for it does, especially if you live outside of the Baptist Belt, the area in the south where you will find a preponderance of large and vital Baptist churches.
However the Baptist church, like many denominations has been rocked by controversy of late and for many its image has been tarnished. For some, the word “Baptist” brings up the image of fire and brimstone preaching that many may not connect with who are in search of a church home.
While we call ourselves a Baptist church, we are presently non denominational. Twenty years ago, we left the Baptist denomination over our differences with some aspects of church government, however we continued to retain the name Baptist in our church name, even though we were no longer a Baptist church.
While we call ourselves the New Monmouth Baptist Church, we are no longer associated with the denomination, except for the fact that we do practice some Baptist beliefs-child dedication as opposed to infant baptism being one of the major ones.
Calling ourselves a Baptist Church when we are no longer a part of the Baptist denominations seems a little strange and confusing to me.
So why change now, one might ask? And the answer is because we desire to do what we can to attract unbelievers to Christ. We wish to eliminate any impediments that might prevent someone from walking through our doors and hearing the gospel that would change their lives.
Today’s younger culture generally reacts negatively to institutionalism, something that todays’ church denominations are quickly discovering. The majority of vibrant and fast growing churches in our country have eschewed their denominational identification and taken on names like Journey Church, The Point, Cornerstone, Crossroads, Calvary Chapel in order to eliminate denominational identification that might generate negative feelings for potential worshippers.
We want our church to be inviting, and while New Monmouth Church, the suggested new church name, may not be as exciting to some as some of the newer and more catchy church names, it presents a neutral identification that does not run the risk of creating negative reactions that would keep potential worshippers from stepping inside our church doors
It is true that many members have strong associations with their church name: “This is where I was baptized. This is where I met my wife, where my children came to know Christ, and where my life was changed. Because of these legitimate emotional ties, such people may harbor strong feelings when it comes to church name change.
But having said this, it is important to be reminded that as the church continues to struggle with a new and godless culture, we must be careful to do whatever we can to be as inviting and welcoming to the outside world, and that means we must be careful to eliminate any detriments for those looking to find a church home.
If changing the name of the church is done in the interest of reaching more people for Christ, I am in, and while I may have other names I would prefer, I will go along New Monmouth Church. I know the name is not catchy or flashy like some church names; in fact, it is pretty neutral, but it does represents who and what we are: a church located in New Monmouth.
As one of our pastoral staff reminds me, the early New Testament churches were called the Church at Philippi, the Church at Thessalonica, the Church in Colossae, and if it was good enough for these New Testament saints, it is good enough for me.
Maybe there are flashier names than New Monmouth Church, but as long as find Christ at the center, the church name will not cause me much concern.
For a more extensive and comprehensive perspective on church name change I would refer you to the following link written by my friend Dr Whitesel.
Yours in faith and friendship, Tom
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