I notice as I toot around Greenville how the local Protestant churches are shifting away from honest self description. It used to be that they put out a sign stating just exactly who they were so you knew what you were getting when you went church shopping.
The old way was often friendly and inviting so churches were called: Friendship Baptist Church, Fellowship Baptist Church, Welcome to All Bible Church. Other church names were linked with a locality making it homey and easy: Pebble Creek Baptist or Pumpkintown Presbyterian or Silver Falls Church of God or Reedy Fork Methodist or Hudson Road Bible Church. Even the old names of First Baptist, Second Presbyterian or Hortonville United Methodist had clarity, integrity and honesty in advertising. Furthermore the churches looked like churches. They had a porch with pillars and a steeple on top. Even if they were inexpensive warehouse type buildings they plopped a steeple on top and put a cross on the front and made it look like a church.
You also had the churches named with quaint, but obscure Biblical references. These made you feel a little bit confused or perhaps a bit happy because you recognized the Biblical reference and felt you might be privileged enough to be on the inside. Thus, Beulah Baptist Church or Mount Pisgah Church of God or Bethany Baptist or Church of the Nazarene or Zion United Church or Mount Moriah Church of God Prophecy.
Then there were the thunder and lightning sort of church names you’d spot in a drive across the American South. These were the church names that spoke of hellfire and brimstone and prophecy and tongues and weeping and wailing and being slain in the Spirit and maybe a touch of snake handling…Four Square Church of the Apostolic Faith, or Tabernacle of God Prophecy or Redemption Church of the End Times Ministry or Faith Healing Cathedral of God or African Methodist Episcopal Church of the Prophet Elijah or Full Gospel Church of the Heavenly Vision or Jerusalem Temple of the Tribulation Refuge or Full Rapture Church of Divine Punishment or Come to Jesus Church or Get Saved or You are Going to Hell When You Die Church. Again–there was honesty in advertising. You knew what you were getting.
Not anymore. Now the church buildings are indistinguishable from a retail shopping strip or a warehouse or a movie theater. The names are totally misleading. What if you went looking for a church with one of these ‘creative’ names? It could be a church. It could be something else. Furthermore, they not only don’t call themselves a ‘church’ (that would be so alienating to the unchurched you know) they also don’t tell you what denomination they are. The local community church named ‘Heartrock’ or some such might be Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or most anything. This is because most Evangelical Protestant theology is now post-modern eclectic (which is another words for relativistic cafeterianism) But that’s the stuff of another post. Instead I’m observing the confusion that arises in their current penchant for creative groovy but goofy Protestant church names. Here’s a list of ‘community church’ names which could lead the consumer to something totally different.
- Marathon – turns out to be a store that sells running shoes
- CrossWind – sells charcoal tablets to ease flatulence
- NewWine – Liquor Store
- NewHorizons – Rock Climbing and hiking outdoor shop
- HeartStone – Sells fireplace stuff
- NewBirth – Gynecologist specializing in alternative birthing techniques
- CrossRoads – New GPS system for your car
- New Spring – Mattress Store
- BedRock – ditto (specializing in extra firm mattresses)
- RunningWater – Plumbing services
- SonLight – Solar electrical systems
- SonRise – Yeast manufacturer
- SonBurn – Ointment for post beach problems
- The Vineyard – a vineyard
- Eden.com – Gardening stuff and nursery
- HolyGround – Coffee Shop
Contributions of two words that have a space between the two words will not be accepted.