This week I am visiting a partnering church in Melbourne, Australia. I wish I could tell you where I am visiting, but they don’t actually have a name! I jokingly call it “The Church Formerly known as ‘C3 Whitehorse’”. Quickly chuckles erupt as we reminisce about a quirky pop star who changed his name to a symbol and became known as “The artist formerly known as ‘Prince’”.
The reason they don’t have a name is that they are going through a name change after leaving their former church movement and want a new name which reflects the church culture and passion. At some point I am sure they will come up with one, but for the time being it is kind of odd to refer to them.
Many people have previously commented to me that they are confused by the names of our ministries in Cambodia. Some know us as Words of Life, some Antioch Institute, some Imparting Smiles, Asia for Jesus, and even fewer know us by the Association of Autonomous Congregations of Cambodia. All are legal entities, and they are all one ministry with one central office. I actually have a policy with the hundreds of churches we help start: I forbid the congregations to use any of our names as theirs. I have no desire to see a First Antioch Church, or Words of Life Phnom Penh, Words of Life Poipet. I want their names, or lack of names, to reflect the culture of their congregations. Most of our churches have no name at all and none of them even have a sign board. My desire is that they reflect Jesus and not me.
Recently I met a person who had an idea for a prayer ministry. I was impressed with their passion, but after talking to them I became concerned. They had not yet started their prayer ministry, yet they had an impressive name. They had business cards with a catchy logo. They had a website. They had brochures which highlighted their ‘ministry’ focus in full color! Very professional indeed! The only problem was, as I enquired deeper, was they hadn’t actually started praying yet. They had no real ministry, only a concept and promotional materials. I hope, eventually, they will get busy with the ministry and less focused on appearance.
Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). I think this is a good reminder for us. We should not be known by names or promotional information, but we should seek to be known by our actions. I hope our identity reflects loving others; helping others; and making a real difference in the community. Hopefully, people will see the source behind our lives: JESUS and not the façade of a logo or church building. Maybe we should all strive to be “The Church formerly known as ______” and just be known as “Followers of Jesus”.
The senior leader of “The Church Formerly Known as C3 Whitehorse”, Peter McHugh, has just started a blog and you may be interested in the journey they are on which he is writing about. His blog can be found at: http://peterjohnmchugh.wordpress.com/