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The Naming of a Church

17 Dec

Yesterday, I read this post by Joe Thorn and it reminded me of the thought process we went through in naming Rolleston Baptist Church.

I am convinced that much of this discussion is contextual and therefore is not easily transferable to other settings. Thorn hints at that in his post. So this isn’t a response to his post, it is just that his post reminded me of our process.

One will search in vain to find any prescriptive Biblical teaching on church names! So when it comes to planting a new church one has the opportunity to do something (actually a lot of things) that is not a “normal” ministry experiences when in an established church – pick a name!

This can be rather terrifying, in that, you are establishing a name to a church that will, Lord willing, outlive you! In today’s world, web address as registered, FaceBook pages setup, etc. all with this name. The name of the church takes on significance long before you have an physical location, sign, etc.

In our setting I found this to be rather simple… I was driving around town with two other men from Grace Baptist Church in Christchurch on my first visit to Rolleston and we began to discuss the name.

For me, I considered the following:

  1. Church – we are a church. We are not just a fellowship, and certainly not a club, or just a community organisation. I am committed to having the word “church” in our name.
  2. Rolleston – we desire to be a local church, established in and actively reaching Rolleston for Christ. I like the idea of having “Rolleston” in our name.
  3. Baptist – I’m a Baptist (a Confessional Baptist). I am not uncomfortable with this and make no apologies for holding to Baptist convictions. In our context, where we have a Presbyterian Church in town, and are surrounded by Anglican churches, I think Baptist in the name helps folks to immediately recognise who we are as compared to others.
    • I must add here, I have many friends in area Presbyterian, Anglican, and Reformed Churches. They are dear brothers and sisters-in-Christ. In the big gospel game, we are on the same team. Yet we hold differing doctrinal distinctives.
  4. Reformed – I am a Confessional Baptist (I’m happy to affirm the 1689, London Baptist Confession of Faith). We require our elders at RBC to affirm the 1689, Long Baptist Confession of Faith. Generally this would classify us as a “Reformed Baptist Church”. However, in our context we opted not to include the word “reformed” in the church name:
    • We do not require members to affirm the 1689, London Baptist Confession. In other words, we are quite happy with gospel diversity at the membership level.
    • The word “reformed” in New Zealand (at least in church names) has been so historically recognised as “belonging” to the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, it just seemed like a point of confusion which would constantly need explanation.

The result of this, rather simple process, was the name Rolleston Baptist Church. We are a church, holding to historically recognised Baptist distinctives of doctrine and practice, seeking to reach the community of Rolleston with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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