Name Calling, Calmly Considered

Names matter.

Yes, from a marketing perspective and a communication standpoint, but for us, as saints in Christ, from a biblical perspective.

When God called Abram, he gave him a new name.

When the angel bore witness to Mary about her son, he told her his name.

When Paul addressed churches such as Ephesus or Philippi, he called them a certain name.

As our local church embarks on a journey of faithfully praying and thinking through what our name will be, I’d like to ask you, fellow brother or sister, to make yourself ready through prayer, scripture, awareness of what certain names can represent in our times and how we can joyfully settle in on a name that can both honor our past and at the same time propel us into the next season of the life of this church that is actually, “His church.”

First, through prayer and scripture reading. Hear the words of Isaiah 43:1 over you in that God has called you by name and you are his. Settle in here. Marinate in this word, be in intimate prayer with God, thanking Him that he has called you by name and you are his.

God knows your name. Praise the Lord!

Additionally, if you are a child of God, you’ve called upon the name of the Lord and been saved. Your name is written in heaven and you have an inheritance guaranteed for you. This saving was not because you’ve made a name for yourself on earth, but because you are trusting in the name of Jesus.

You’ve called on God’s name. Praise the Lord!

Secondly, I want us to be aware that names carry weight and are always charged with a message, thus communicating something to the world. When scoffers sarcastically gave the name “methodist” to John Wesley and his holy club of friends it was because they were relentlessly devoted to following the “methods” of the Bible. The other nickname they received was “bible moths”, now that’s a catchy name for a church, “Nashville  Bible Moths Church”!

For us today, we should pause and be aware of what the name Methodist means now. Unfortunately, the name “Methodist” is no longer only tied to those folks who live according to the methods of the Bible or have the love of God shed abroad in their heart, as John Wesley described Methodist so long ago. The name has been used by groups that, I believe, with which John Wesley would be concerned.

For example, the name “Methodist” is tied to groups such as Liberation Methodist Connexion (LMX), who offer statements such as, “LMX theology is not written in stone because our human understanding continues to evolve as we deepen our personal and collective understandings of God.”

I struggle to share a name with a collective group that suggests theology is evolving, especially when the theological accent I speak with and live in is so richly Methodist. 

While I’m not advocating we drop the name “Methodist”, I do want all the saints at Nashville to be aware of what certain names represent in different places. Therefore, we should be constant in prayer and listening to the Lord concerning the name “Methodist”. Simply using this name, might not communicate what we think it does and it certainly does not communicate what it did 250 years ago.

Thirdly, years ago, generally speaking, especially in the Bible Belt, small towns had multiple churches and they were easily identifiable by the denominational name associated with the name. Therefore, when you came to Nashville, you did not “church shop” as is the custom today, you went to the church that spoke the Christian faith with the same accent you spoke with. If you were Methodist, you went to a Methodist church, end of story. Shopping was what you did at the mall, not what you do with different churches. 

I want to suggest that those days are almost over, but not fully. When guests come to our church it is a mixed bag of folks. Some, who are traditional UMC, have come because they know we are an evangelical orthodox United Methodist Church. Yet, there are also many who come because they heard we had vibrant children and youth ministries and our denomination name had nothing to do with their coming. Our denominational allegiance is important, but not everything.

Therefore, I want to suggest to my fellow brothers and sisters, to consider a both/and instead of an either/or. Could there be a name that continues to tell our community we are connected with the Global Methodist Church, not just “Methodist”? Could this name at the same time, be one that is inviting to a generation that does not have denominational allegiance like was so prevalent decades ago? 

I believe there is.

I believe there is a middle ground here. 

I believe there is an opportunity for a name that celebrates our heritage as an evangelical, sacramental, pentecostal, Bible believing, blood bought, born again, John Wesley quoting, children/youth welcoming, fun time having,praising the Lord, going on towards perfection preaching, mission trip bound, radically loving, passionately worshiping, relentlessly loving God and loving our neighbors church.

Lastly, our church has just held two historic votes with incredible unity, peace, and joy. What a gift from God this was! I pray this stays the same for our next vote and I call upon all my brothers and sisters to do their part in stirring up love and good works, to maintain unity and pursue joy! God has been so faithful as he always is, may we respond with gentleness and patience. May we listen to each other and when the vote is settled, with whatever name God gives to us, may we continue, as a joyful, joyful people, adoring God as we save the unsaved, guide the saved into sanctification and spread scriptural holiness over all the land.

Names matter. Our church name matters. But more, what ultimately will matter is that our names are written in the lamb’s book of life. 

No matter what our name ends up being – aren’t you glad your name is in that book?

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