Arminian Today

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The Community Church Or Cool Church Name Phases

Not all “Community Church” churches are bad.  I want to begin there.  There have been many good churches that were community churches but I do want to rant a bit about cool church names and where did the phenomenon of community churches come from.  When I was first saved in 1992, most churches were easy to identify.  My friends went to Temple Baptist Church or Beulah Baptist Church whereas I went to Trinity Assembly of God.  One of my good buddies went to First Church of God (Anderson, IN) while another friend of mine went to West Columbia Bible Fellowship (loosely following Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and Dr. Tony Evans).  In college, my classmates attended churches such as Shandon Baptist Church or Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (PCA) or Christian Life Assembly (AG).

And then the seeker churches came.  First there was the mother of all seeker churches, Willow Creek Community Church and the craze was on.  When Rick Warren released his book, The Purpose Driven Church, churches begin to follow his pattern and name their churches like his, Saddleback Community Church.  The “community church” phase was on.  It didn’t matter if you were Baptist or Lutheran or Assemblies of God, you dropped the name of the denomination in favor of a hidden church, a welcoming church without all the denominational ties.  The church I was saved at, Trinity Assembly of God, became simply, Trinity Church.  In fact, in 1992 the following were the names of the Assembly of God churches in my area:

  • Christian Life Assembly
  • Trinity Assembly
  • Central Assembly of God
  • South Congaree Assembly of God
  • Airport Assembly of God
  • Capital City Assembly of God
  • Northeast Christian Assembly of God
  • New Life Assembly of God

Now let me give you the names of those same churches today:

  • Christian Life Church
  • Trinity Church (East Campus)
  • Central Assembly of God
  • South Congaree Assembly of God
  • Trinity Church (West Campus)
  • Capital City Church
  • Vive Church
  • New Life Community Church

Do you see a trend?

Now the explanation would be that denominations often hinder people from visiting a church.  For instance, a Baptist is likely not to visit an Assembly of God church but they would visit simply a church.  In fact, it might take a bit to actually realize that you are in a Pentecostal church in some of these cases.  When I was first saved, we had a charismatic Southern Baptist church named Forest Drive Baptist Church.  People would visit Forest Drive BC and would often get confused as the heard people speaking in tongues, laying hands on the sick, etc.  Today that same church is named: NorthStar Christian Center.  I believe they left the SBC a number of years ago now.  Either way, the days of denominational tags is gone it seems.

This is not all bad.  After all, Charles Spurgeon’s church was Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and it was, at the time of Spurgeon, the largest evangelical church in the world.  It was a Baptist church but without the Baptist title in the name.  Other famous churches that are without denominational tags but preaching the gospel would be Dr. John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church or Carter Conlon’s Times Square Church.  Neither have Baptist or Pentecostal in their names but both are sound churches.

Yet the phase seems to have really caught on.  The move today is to be a cool name such as Hydro Church, Elevation Church, New Spring Church, Solomon’s Porch, The Potter’s House, Electric Church, Friend Church, etc (all these are real names by the way).  Today’s churches are either just name with church such as Trinity Church or a cool name such as The Plank or a community church such as Wellspring Community Church.  I would like to see a church named “The Only True Church” or “NIV Only Church” or “Seeker Church” or “Confused Church.”

I know I can hear you saying, “What is the big deal?  Who cares what the name of the church is so long as the gospel is being preached?”  I would agree.  And yet I fear that much of the move toward these names has to do more with chasing a method above the gospel.  Sadly, most churches today seem to be driven by money and not the glory of God.  Money makes the church go round and round.  Money means more clergy.  Money means more programs and better equipment.  Money means bigger and better programs than the church down the street.  In my city, we have thousands of churches.  They are all sadly competing with one another for the same several thousand people (despite the fact that thousands upon thousands are unmoved by the titles of the churches or by their programs).  This church down the street is trying to out do that church down the street and so forth and so on.  Money is the goal.

Now this is not true of all.  Again, I am being general here.  Yet I fear that the emphasis is not on the gospel.  If the gospel were the focus, who cares about the name?  Why drop your denomination tag if in fact you are boldly preaching the gospel?  Why go from Northeast Christian Assembly of God to Vive Church?

Thankfully Jesus only has one church.  He is building it and no clergy or denomination can stop that (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus is adding to His Church (Acts 2:47).  Our passion must never be for a church but for the Lord who is Lord of His Church (Colossians 1:15-20).  The true Church is hated by the world (John 15:18-25).  The true Church is not seeking popularity but the prize of Christ (Philippians 3:14-15).  Leonard Ravenhill said, “The early Church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”

A.W. Tozer wrote,

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf. So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Any objection to the carryings on of our present gold-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

May we get back to loving Jesus and preaching His truth no matter what it cost us.  There are some out there doing this but of far too many are so shallow, so full of hype, and so little with the power and presence of God.  Perhaps we should just name the next church: Ichabod Church (1 Samuel 4:21-22).

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/05/2013 at 12:38 PM

5 Responses

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  1. I’ve noticed this trend too. To their credit, the Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist church names are still pretty easy to identify. 🙂

    Kevin Jackson

    06/05/2013 at 2:01 PM

  2. As a side note, the local Assembly church here just changed their name to “Life Church”. 🙂

    Kevin Jackson

    06/05/2013 at 2:06 PM

  3. So true and so sad. I’m left breathless thinking about it. Blame on pastors being entrepreneurs and chasing the money, or maybe, blame on churchgoers who don’t want conviction, repentance, dedication, holiness but do want guilt alleviated and to feel saved and so make the opportunity for those entrepreneurs. Blame it on both, regardless, God help us, we need revival.

    stephenwinters

    06/05/2013 at 3:37 PM

  4. Some years ago it was proposed that the church that I attend follow the trend and change its name. A vote was held, I think in a business meeting, and the members voted to keep our name, Windsor Pentecostal Church. We still have that name and are doing our best to live up to it.

    Bob Hunter

    06/05/2013 at 11:18 PM


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