Barry Cameron wrote this essay about church names in 1989 while he was serving with First Christian Church in Port Charlotte, Florida. Cameron started with First Christian, now called New Day Christian Church, in 1980.
In 1992, Cameron became senior pastor with Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he continues to serve.
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“We’re Not the Only Christians . . . But We’re Christians Only”
By Barry L. Cameron
April 23, 1989; p. 15
“We’re not the only Christians . . . but we’re Christians only.” I heard that statement for the first time when I was studying for the ministry at Ozark Christian College. Back then I’m sure I didn’t fully understand what all that meant. But I think I’m getting a pretty good idea now.
One of our members handed me a flyer this past week announcing the beginning of a new Presbyterian church in our area. As best as I can tell, that makes four Presbyterian churches here in Charlotte County.
Imagine the predicament of an unsaved person here in our community. Does he go to the Presbyterian church? And if he does go, which one does he go to?
Perhaps he should try the Baptist church. There are five different First Baptist churches listed in the phone book. And there are numerous other Baptist churches listed as Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, Missionary Baptists, Freewill Baptists, and American Baptists.
If someone looked on the church page in the local newspaper, he would find eight to ten churches advertised. But that’s only a “tithe” of the more than 110 churches here in our area. How would someone know where to go? If they open the phone book, they’re in for a big surprise!
There’s the Anglican Church of St. Paul, Believers Bible Fellowship, Calvary Assembly of God, or the Church of God of Prophecy. There’s also the Church of the Living God, Church of the Good Shepherd, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Lutheran Church of the Living Waters, or Faith Lutheran, Peace Lutheran, and even Hope Lutheran.
You could also go to Saint James, Saint Charles, Saint Andrews, or even Our Lady of Mercy Chapel . . . and that’s not all!
Where did all these names come from? Some are obvious, others are not. Lutherans are named after Martin Luther. As great a man as he was, he never intended for a denomination to be named after him.
The “Saint” churches all derive their names from people designated “saints” by the Catholic church hierarchy in Rome. The Catholic church also claims the apostle Peter was their first “pope” although Peter never considered himself as such. In 1 Peter 5:1 he wrote, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder.”*
I listened intently a while back as a preacher on television explained where Baptists got their name. He said their denomination was named after John the Baptist. And that the Baptist church was preparing the way for the Lord to come again just like John the Baptist prepared the way the first time our Lord came.
Jesus did say that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of woman. But as great as he was, John even said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” It’s hard to believe that John would have wanted a denomination named after him rather than Jesus.
Now, I’m not questioning the faith or sincerity of anyone associated with any of the churches I’ve mentioned. What I am questioning is, “Why all the different names?”
I’ve never been a Lutheran, a charismatic, a Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, or Baptist. Nor do I ever plan on being one. The only “name” I’ve ever worn is the “name” of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I’ve worn His name proudly!
I love the songs that magnify His name. Songs like: “Jesus, Name Above All Names,” “There Is a Name I Love to Hear . . . I Love to Sing Its Worth,” and “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There’s Just Something About That Name.”
Peter, who was committed to building the Lord’s church and not one of his own, said this: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
When it comes to denominations, labels, and names, I think I’ll just stick with the name of Jesus Christ. And I’ll be the first to admit; “We’re not the only Christians . . . but we’re Christians only.”
Barry L. Cameron ministers with First Christian Church, Port Charlotte, Florida.
*Scripture quotations are from New International Version.