by Richard Mansel managing editor
An elder stands in the pulpit and tells the congregation that they have decided that they must remove the “Church of Christ” from their name and sign, if they ever hope to grow. They have polled some in the community and decided that the name brings a negative connotation to mind. They must seek a more positive approach.
My mind brims with thoughts when I consider this topic. I wish to share a few.
First of all, these articles are not dealing with the issues that some have with whether the church ought to have a name. We are discussing those who remove the name Church of Christ because of public perception. That should be of keen interest to us because of its implications.
First, man reacts, rather than acts. Instead of trying to rebuild our image, we trash the name and start over. In the process, we lead others to overreact and, in the process, make matters worse.
Second, brethren have had unnecessary fights through the years over silly matters. We have divided over petty issues, dragging our fights into the streets. We must repent of these sins and stop committing them by becoming more Christ like. Accordingly, some have developed a bad impression, because of the weaknesses of a few brethren.
The errors of men, however, do not dictate the actions of God. Nothing has changed about God’s will because we sin (Psalm 119:89). The Lord has not changed anything about his Church because of us (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). By overreacting, we make more of something than is necessary.
Third, every aspect of humanity suffers from negative associations. The fights, division and problems we have had in Churches of Christ through the years exist in every religious group in America. Governments at every level suffer because of acrimony. Every social club experiences serious dissension. Fights at boards of education have resulted in people moving out of districts and led to changes in leadership. Fights and conflicts have ripped untold numbers of families apart.
Almost none of them have changed their names. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have an image problem among a multitude of people in the United States because of their ubiquitous literature. Do we hear of efforts in their fellowship to change their name?
People who bear our family name have committed crimes, been racists, etc. Yet, we do not change our names.
The United States has an ugly past when it comes to slavery, racism and barbarity towards the innocents among us. However, we still bear our name. We apologize and move on from our sins and seek to do better. We cannot control the feelings of those who cannot do so.
One church I preached at had a racist label. Decades before, a man barred Blacks from admittance into the building. Time and people had changed and the congregation had integrated, but some older people in the community still held a grudge. We have no way of forcing people to change. We just have to move on and change one person and family at a time.
People have negative feelings toward religion. Yet, we are still religious. Many folks in our society hate Scripture, but we still study and proclaim it. They hate God, the Holy Spirit and Christ. Nevertheless, we still follow and love them.
I wonder if there is not much more to this effort to change the names of congregations than meets the eye.
by Richard Mansel managing editor