One of the questions that others continue to ask and that I’m still unable to answer is, “What’s the name of your church?”
The reason I’m not able to answer this question goes back to a presentation I heard in seminary. This guy named Fred Harrell was talking about a church he had begun in San Francisco, about 15 years ago. Here’s my recollection of what fred said: He spoke of coming to San Francisco with few contacts in the city and the process of getting to know the people and the place. He spoke of the origin of the church’s name (City Church) which came out of a group of people who were drawn together and committed to establishing this church. Fred came up with a list of potential names and got the input of this group of Christians and then asked them to get feedback on the list from their non-Christian friends, and associates. Fred’s top pick for names (Redeemer) was a turn off for many because it had allusions of sin and the need to be rescued. There was a really positive response to City Church though as people said, they’d love to see a church that cared about the city.
I learned a couple different things from this. First, it was an example of sharing the ownership of the church from the outset. A church’s name is important and will usually last for a while, so it is good for those who are truly committed to have a say. There are ways in which I will significantly influence the shape of the church we’ll begin and involving others in the majority of decisions is an important way to remind myself and others that this church in Worcester is not mine. It belongs ultimately to Jesus, then to the people we are called to serve, and lastly to me.
Second, there is wisdom in listening to the people you are going to serve. Both redemption and caring for the city are themes of significance in the scriptures. If your first point of introduction can express biblical truth and resonate with those you serve, this is an awesome place to begin.
Third, it’s good to allow your core principles to filter through all that you do. My guess is that “community,” “shared leadership,” or something similar was one of Fred’s priorities for ministry. It is one of mine. I need to continually think how my founding principles can work out in all sorts of decisions.
Fourth, I don’t think I wold have thought of this idea myself. Hearing this story eight years helps me and I need to continue listening for wisdom that God will bring across my path.
Last, the approach we’re taking isn’t THE way to name a new church. In many areas of life, but particularly in the church it is easy to think that we’ve got the one way of doing it right. I have a friend planting a church in Worcester who, along with his wife, prayerfully considered the name of their church and I think God led them in an awesome direction.
Maybe I’m only doing this team approach because I don’t have any good ideas! I like Worcester Presbyterian Church but Hillary thinks it sounds a little stodgy. So we’ll see where this goes!