Naming a Church

I’ve received a number of inquiries over the last few months asking how Cornerstone Presbyterian Church got its name. In one sense, this is an impossible question to answer, because it was a tremendous work of the Spirit leading and confirming every step. In another sense, it’s an easy question to answer, because it was a very intentional, step by step process.

One things for sure, naming a church, like naming a child, is tricky business. Remember how you worked through the lists of baby names and tried them out on your spouse, “What about James or maybe Jethro.” And your spouse exclaims, “Jethro! No way! I knew a Jethro in second grade, and he was the meanest boy in school.” Scratch that one. It’s not all that different with church names. Because we all have history with churches, we often have strong reactions to church names. Some of the reactions are positive and others are negative. To appreciate these reactions without pandering to them, we decided that having a plan for naming that takes the decision out of the realm of the personal, while giving serious consideration to objective criteria would be the wisest course of action. Here were the criteria the leadership of Cornerstone decided were most important to us as we weighed suggested names.

1. Name should be Biblically considerate (“names matter” or “mean something”)

  • Consistent with Scripture

2. Name should be consistent with the vision/mission of the church   

  • Theologically resonate with ministry emphasis, person & work of Christ, the gospel

3. Name should be consistent with core commitments/values of the church 

  • Who we are, what we’re called to be–parish, community,

4. Name should be considerate of cultural context while being timeless

  • Should resonate with the culture and understanding of the constituency of the church. Should carry appropriate meaning in the times in which we live, and where we live

5. Name should express the church’s spirit/character (“fitting” and descriptive)

  • Should make it relatively easy for someone to have a sense of the church even before visiting. Should make our philosophy of ministry clear

6. Name should be clear (“not ambiguous”)

  • Clarity so as to not be confused, misinterpreted, or misleading. Especially important to consider with short names that may have multiple connotations

6. Name should be easy to use

  • Not difficult to say or spell. Vernacular language but historically rooted. Not too long or complicated

7. Name should be aesthetically pleasing

  • Beautiful, majestic, solid

8. Name should be considerate of theological or ecclesial connections that would be commonly understood in our denomination and the broader evangelical community

  • Be aware of the common links between who we are, our priorities, ministry focus, and theological position with the way a name is commonly understood and used in other spheres (i.e. movements, denominations, networks, associations, etc.)

The most important ingredient, if I can put it that way, was prayer and patience. Not getting into a rush, and submitting everything to the Lord, waiting on Him to confirm and lead, brought significant consensus and unity to the leadership, which had a leavening influence in the congregation. A beautiful thing to behold.

One thing I would add having now moved through the process is to think about domain names for websites, twitter, etc. We didn’t consider this till after the fact, and we found out that most of the obvious domain and twitter names were taken. This may not be a “deal breaker” for a name, but it’s something wise to consider as a part of the process.

For those of you walking through a similar process, I hope you find these helpful, make them better, and add to them. I’d love to hear how the Lord leads you.

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