Monday, April 4, 2011

How the other half lives II

Speaking of weird stuff in the American Evangelical world. . . a word must be added about the bizarre things churches get named these days.

Not too far down from the best gyros in St. Louis, for example, is "the gathering" (like e.e. cummings, get it? Too cool for capitals). This always sounds like a horror movie to me. In the next town over is Mosaic - which is meant to appeal, if I decipher the adverts correctly, to people who listen to NPR and wear squarish black framed glasses.

In the Evangelicalized wing of the Missouri Synod you can find both 1C (which means whatever you want it to mean. I am not making this up: "Often the name of a church isn't personal. 1C can mean: 1Creator, 1Christ, 1Counselor, 1Creed, 1st Commandment, 1Church...Determine what 1C means to you! It always prompts a question." Um, yes it does.) and C2.

But the weirdest, oddest, awkward-Midwestiest has got to be the iWorshipCenter. From the pastor's bio: "Mac or PC? PC (also iPad and iPhone)." Right.

I admit, there is a bit of the rubbernecker fascination in this for me. I find it hard to stifle a laugh every time I head up to Springfield and pass the iWorshipCenter. But that is a failing in me. This is a real phenomenon among real live Christians, so I do not want to slip into mean-spiritedness. I have larger theological fish to fry with most of the churches above - let them call themselves what they like. It does me no harm.

But to those of my own tradition going after this fad I do mean to express my honest bewilderment and perhaps point out something that they may not be thinking about: when you seek to draw people in with a certain sort of panache you are also unwittingly seeking to push people out. That is, the demographics game is a two edged sword. There is a sort of person who will be intrigued by a church name that sounds like an app or that intentionally means nothing. And then again, there will be people who find it all rather silly - at the very least, fads change. One must admit, I think, that Mosaic, Epic, C2, etc., will probably sound a little more dated than "St. Matthew's" another decade or two down the road.

But whatever. Like I said, call your church whatever you want. Indeed, this is rather helpful. It makes it easier to find an LCMS church in the town you'll be vacationing in this summer. If it is named for a letter, number, or sounds like it might be a hip sushi bar, they probably won't be dishing out the Lutheran Mass.



  1. Whether be iWorship (I believe the pastor there is former LCMS) and my favorite in Detroit 30 years ago- Full Gospel Missionary Baptist True Rock Church of God in Christ- I agree that there are definitely bigger theological fish to fry, but there seems to be a parallel between churches with unusual names and poor theology... not that traditionally named churches have their problems, also.

  2. I missed the word "don't" in the last sentence. I beg your indulgence. No pun intended.

  3. Right down from my place we have "Rooftop" Community Church. I thought that might be cool if they Worshipep upon a rooftop each week, but that is just not the case apparently.

    And Mark, I do not think there "seems" to be a parallel, let us just be truthful and say their IS a breakdown and jellyfish-like quality to the Theology in these churches. The primary problem, in my opinion, is that even the Pastor has no idea why the hell he goes to church in the first place. Of course, this automatically means WE must have a good and common answer to the question, "why do I/we go to church?" as well.

  4. I like crave's "Peace, Coffee, More" slogan. You are right Fr. Curtis, what about the people who are tea drinkers? Is that the more? How about good bourbon? I want one of these churches to actually run a full liquor bar. Then they'd get the people. Oops, I gave them another idea. Coming soon...

  5. Where I am, in Grand Rapids, we're pretty close to where they held the trial of Orestes for killing both his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, as recorded in Aeschylus' 458 B.C. classic, "The Eumenides."

  6. "People who listen to NPR and wear squarish black framed glasses." Hey, I resemble that remark (although my glasses, though squarish, are lacking the requisite black frames). And my parish is Gloria Dei, one of the few Latin Lutheran names in Chicagoland, now that St. Martini (which is an awesome name) is gone.

  7. In NE Indiana, we have The Bridge, Promise Ministries, Common Ground, Grace Gatherings, The Liquid Church, Jacobs Well, Come to Go, and Grace Point. Two are LCMS, two are affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, one is Methodist, and one is Campus Life lite for adults who never made it beyond high school youth group. I can’t recall what camp/stripe the other two are. However, one does have a liquor license and is able to sell spirits as it doubles as a church and a dance hall/night club. We’re in a new millennia and the name of that tune is MARKETING.

  8. We aren't in a new millennium -- marketing is the tune that good old Finney wanted us to be dancing too since 1830. It's just that 160 years ago Missouri had the good sense to consistently reject the "New Measures", and even convinced others (like Ohio) to do so as well.

    It's all nothing but recycled Finneyism with a 2011 sheen... and then a 2012 sheen, and then a 2013, as we constantly spend our time trying to be hip instead of spending our time in contemplation of the Word.

  9. Pastor D-
    wow, I guess I am behind. They already have the liquor idea figured out.


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