By Jim Nieman
Church names aren’t what they used to be.
Today’s church planters are choosing names that signify movement, evoke an emotion or a feeling, and capture the imagination. Even long-established churches are eschewing “old-style” church names in favor of names that convey something spiritual or otherwise meaningful.
We wrote to ministers of a number of uniquely named churches across the country and invited them to tell us how and when their church decided on its name. We asked, “Why did you name your church what you did?”
We also welcomed hearing interesting anecdotes about their church name.
Eight church leaders shared their stories.
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Canvas Christian Church
Stan Percival, lead pastor
We relocated the church three years ago, and with that, we wanted to move away from First Christian Church (it’s not like there aren’t enough of those). I wanted a unique name and logo . . . something that would cause people to stop and ask, “Is that a church?”
We are Canvas Christian Church, where “every life is a canvas and every life matters to God.” Our take on that is simple: Everyone is a masterpiece from God, and God can create beautiful things within you. You were made by God, and he wants to work in your life. He is never done with you.
I love the name and the logo that we came up with. It took months.
The other side of the story is that people thought we were an art building or art supplies store. We bought a strip mall, and it does not look like a traditional church building (we didn’t want that either). We wanted a smaller building so we could put more money into people and not buildings. Buildings don’t go to Heaven, people do.
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Darren Walter, lead pastor
We were Grace Christian Church for many years. We were often confused with other churches in the community that have “Grace” in their name.
The elders agreed to begin searching for a new name. After narrowing down the list, praying, and talking, we landed on Current—A Christian Church.
We wanted our name to communicate movement . . . that faith in God isn’t a stagnant relationship. We want people here to be moved by God and to keep moving in their walk with the Lord.
We launched the new name in May 2010. It coincided with development of the front of our property, including a cross and water feature that began at the base of the cross and moved out toward the community. It is a visual reminder that the current of God’s love and grace begins at the cross and flows out to those around us.
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Steve Carr, founding elder
As a church plant in 2005, we didn’t want a geographic-based name, in case we were forced to change locations (which has happened twice). At the time, there was a trend of churches being named after metaphors, but nearly all those names were visual in nature. The Bible is full of instances where God speaks. The text that inspired us was Romans 10:16-18. If God wants our voice to go into all the world, we’re merely an echo of his voice. That’s how we came up with Echo Church.
Further, we consciously chose not to include a Restoration Movement modifier in our name. This wasn’t an attempt to be contemporary, but a reaction to our context.
We met first in a Disciples of Christ building. That congregation had a much more progressive theology than our own, so we felt we couldn’t call ourselves Echo Christian Church, lest people believe we shared a similar theology. And right down the street, in the building where we currently meet, was then an International Church of Christ that didn’t carry a great reputation in our community, so we felt we couldn’t call ourselves Echo Church of Christ. Finally, we were just two miles from Christ’s Church Cathedral, the headquarters of our city’s Episcopal Diocese, so we believed “Christ’s Church” was out of the question as well.
In the end, we decided to just stick with Echo Church. Though you can’t see it in our name, we’re committed to the Restoration plea.
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Impact Christian Church
Woodland Park, Colo.
Scott Park, lead minister
We were Woodland Park Christian Church for about three decades. We often went by WPCC in our small town in the mountains, just west of Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, there was another WPCC (Woodland Park Community Church) about a mile away.
Being the two largest churches in town and having the same initials led to confusion. We frequently received their mail (and vice versa). People would show up at random times looking to meet with so-and-so, or to attend this wedding or that funeral, but they were at the wrong church building. This is what initially prompted us to consider a name change.
But we decided a name change would be good for another reason. We wanted our church to be known for more than [its] geography; we wanted our name to signify what we are about.
We kicked around many options but landed on Impact Christian Church because we wanted to convey to our community that we are an active group that genuinely cares about people (rather than just being a “holy huddle”). We also wanted to convey to our church family what really matters.
Our vision—“Loving God, Loving Others, and Changing Lives”—flows downstream from our name. . . .
We have been Impact Christian Church for about eight years now, doing our best to impact the people of Woodland Park and Teller County with the love and gospel of Jesus!
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Josh Tandy, lead pastor
I remember being cautioned to be careful about having too unique of a name. I thought I had taken that to heart, [but] early on I told someone we were going with “Movement Church,” and they replied, “Movement . . . like a bowel movement?”
The name is indicative of our pursuit of trying to move everyone closer to Jesus and his mission. No matter where you place yourself on a spiritual maturity scale, we all can take another step. It is also a reaction to some common conceptions of church being static, dull, or of no consequence. When I talk to people who are not engaged with following Jesus, I see far more feelings of apathy [than] hostility.
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Ormond Beach, Fla.
Robbie O’Brien, lead pastor
About 10 years ago, we went through a rebranding process. I collected all of the key words that helped describe or steer our ministry. In the process, we threw out everything that wasn’t critical, and the one thing that was nonnegotiable to me was the word salty.
We chose salty because of our unique beach culture. I often hear that people tell their friends, “My pastor wears flip-flops.”
So, due to our culture and proximity to the ocean, Matthew 5:13 becomes very relevant. If we are salt, it’s important that we stay salty. So salty is the one word that speaks of our culture, and it reminds us to stay relevant, as Jesus intended.
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Las Vegas, Nev.
Vince Antonucci, lead pastor
When I decided to start a church in Las Vegas, I wanted a name that would be a conversation starter. One that would get people to ask questions, and hopefully lead to getting to tell them about Jesus.
One of my mentors, Dean Trune, told me I couldn’t make the final decision without going and praying in Las Vegas. So, I flew out to Las Vegas to pray—not the reason most people go to Las Vegas. I walked up and down the Vegas Strip, praying for wisdom and discernment.
As I walked, I noticed just about everything seemed to have a one-word name. The clubs (Omnia, Intrigue, Hakkisan, Jewel, Marquee) and the shows (“Ka,” “Mystere,” “Absinthe,” “Zumanity”). I thought it would be cool to have a one-word church name. That way, when someone told a friend, “I go to [NAME]” the person might assume they meant a nightclub or show and ask, “What is that?” or “Where is that?” The person could then answer by talking about our church and God.
I went back to Virginia Beach. I was thinking about Jesus’ statement in John 10:10, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” I looked up life in a thesaurus. The first synonym was verve. I thought, That word sounds cool. What does it mean? I got out a dictionary (this was before Google searches were popular), and it indicated verve means enthusiastic, passionate life, or the life from which art emanates. I thought, That’s pretty cool too. So, I prayed about Verve, asked others what they thought of Verve, and finally decided on . . . Verve.
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Don Hamilton, senior pastor
We were Capital Area Christian Church [and] had debated changing our church name for a number of years. We felt it was outdated. When we started another campus that was not in the capital area, we felt it was the right time to change it.
We hired PlainJoe Studios to rebrand our church. . . . PlainJoe worked with a large number of leaders and influencers in our church . . . and eventually [led us] to consider five names. We believe Vibrant best describes who we are. . . . We later hired PlainJoe to create a new master plan for our 53-acre campus. . . . The Vibrant theme is being carried throughout the new structures.
People in the community consider the name unusual, but they really like it. Last week one of my staff members was talking with someone from our community who inquired about our church. When [he shared] the name Vibrant, the person stated that this was the “coolest” name for a church they had ever heard. We think so too!
The name is also memorable, which was one of the goals we were trying to achieve. Our philosophy is that if Christianity is not vibrant, something is wrong.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.