One peculiarity here in our great state of Utah is its widespread collection of inscrutably bizarre baby names. Sure, there will always be people anywhere who will name their children Zippity-do-dah or some fool thing, but I'm telling you, it's downright epidemic here behind the Zion Curtain. I would wager that there is no other state where you will find a girl whose name is pronounced "Absiddy" (spelled "Abcde," as in, the first five letters of the alphabet.) It gets worse. And this being Utah, there are of course a lot of names that come from the Book of Mormon, which has its own share of bizarre names (Zeezrom, Coriantumr, etc.) Now, when Lord of the Rings came out, it was no big surprise that there would be lots of girls being named Arwen and Eowyn and boys named Legolas and Aragorn. Of course, most Lord of the Rings fans presumably know that these names are fictitious. But the poor kids going around with Book of Mormon names fully believe that they bear historical monikers. (Note to all you guys out there named "Nephi": If you happen to have a more conventional middle name like William or Matthew, or even HIJKLMNOP, I suggest you go by that when outside of Utah.)
I would probably give the same advice to many other people in Utah with, shall we say, non-standard names. For instance, if your parents are brain-damaged enough to name you something like Zaragrunudgeyon (an actual name, I kid you not), or Nightrain Lane (likewise), then you've certainly got a case for suing them for being an accomplice to assault, 'cause you're going to get beat up a lot on the playground.
Oh, and the Utah Baby Names list doesn't end there. There's a whole host of names that sound like they came from a Klingon dictionary, or were inspired by the periodic table of elements. (Chlorina?) If you ever want an amusing slice of Green Jell-o (local speak for "Utah culture"), check out the Utah Baby Namer link on the list of links on the right, and when you get there, select the "Cream of the Crop."
Anyway, it's a far cry from the way names were arrived at in biblical times. The Bible has its fair share of unusual names, but they nonetheless had meaning. Names were important. They communicated something much deeper than fashion or creativity (or, in the case of Utah names, cruelty and stupidity). And whenever a name is changed in the Bible, there's always an intriguing story behind it. Abram became Abraham, Simon became Peter, Saul became Paul. These all came about when God changed something very fundamental about the person who bore that name.
Well, I've been thinking a lot about names, because our little church, too, is undergoing a similar transformation, and we are adopting a new name, as well.
The idea of changing our name has come up from time to time ever since I moved here, but it never really gained any traction until now. The thing that triggered discussion of a name change this time around was the fact that the video ministry, when it separated from the church, insisted on retaining the name "Living Hope Ministries." We allowed them to do this, expecting that communication on their part would minimize the potential confusion. We were wrong. In fact, it has caused much more confusion and difficulty than we had anticipated, for us anyway.
Since we had already agreed to let them use the "Living Hope" name, we began to realize that the only way we could really draw a clear line of distinction between the church and the new organization, and to begin to put the confusion to rest, was for us to change our name.
At first glance, this seems like kind of a sorry reason to change a name. But after we considered the problems that precipitated this solution, something very different began to emerge in the whole idea of changing our name. It was a sense that God was re-making us, and forming a new identity for us, and a name change--quite apart from any of the "issues" with the video ministry--was almost inevitable. So changing the name wasn't simply a response to a problem, but rather, an outward expression of a fundamental change and growth that God was working in us as a church body.
I've mentioned in a previous entry how so much of what we had based our identity upon was being swept away. The name "Living Hope" around here is a pretty charged name. It's a name that carried weight (or baggage, depending on how you looked at it). It was always a temptation for us to revel in our notoriety. Whether you loved us or hated us, we were undeniably "known" in the state of Utah. So part of what I believe God has been doing is setting us free from the trappings of our notoriety, so that he can grow us in new ways.
With that in mind, we began to pray about what God was re-naming us. We didn't want to just adopt a name that sounded cool or clever or trendy. We wanted a name that communicated the essence of what God was doing in our church. Which actually got us asking a lot of very good questions...like what is God doing in us? What is He calling us to? To make a long story short, the name that emerged from our prayers and discussion was Main Street Church.
Main Street Church? Isn't that a little...plain? Well, yes, and deliberately so. It's uncomplicated, unpretentious, and unreligious. In other words, it's counter-culture, at least here in Utah. No sermons embedded in the name. It's not modern or trendy. But it does communicate, in a very concrete way, what God has been doing in and through us. We are, after all, a church on Main Street. We're in a high traffic area, and it's no mistake that God has placed us there. We are awakening to the many possibilities for ministry precisely because of our location on Main Street. We want to be approachable and engaged with our community, which we think this name communicates. We are growing in our passion to be salt and light, and to find practical ways to extend the love of Jesus to a town of very needy people--most of whom don't even have a concept of their need.
So...Main Street Church of Brigham City is our new name. We figure that we're in good company with the New Testament churches--church congregations were commonly known by their location. The church in Corinth. The church in Ephesus. The church that meets at so-and-so's house.
And then there's us. A little church on Main Street. A group of forgiven sinners, quirky, every last one of us, imperfect vessels seeking to serve a perfectly awesome God. It's been quite an adventure thus far; we're anxious to see where it goes from here!
Check out some pictures of Main Street Church's ongoing "facelift"...still a lot of work to do but it's coming.
PS: God willing, I'm leaving on Saturday for Portugal with my family (a nice early Christmas present from my parents!) and will be gone for the rest of the month. I don't know what the Internet situation will be like where we'll be, or if I'll have time to do any blog updating. At the very least I'll give you an update when I get back in October, and if I catch a few quiet moments with an Internet connection, maybe even something mid-trip.