Our team at Church Answers is following closely the trend of churches dropping the denominational label in their name in the post-COVID era. Though it is by no means a new trend, we do think it is good to see where the issue lies today. Indeed, it is a topic of frequent discussion in our community at Church Answers.
Our research is subjective at this point, but we do think it reflects the reality of what many church leaders are thinking. Here are the eight most common issues discussed today on this topic:
1. More leaders than ever are considering dropping the label. The post-COVID world for church leaders has been a time of introspection and evaluation. Though dropping the denominational label is not at the top of their priorities, it is certainly an issue discussed more often than anytime I can recall.
2. Leaders who are considering making the change say there is less resistance to it than in the pre-COVID era. A lot of church members know that change must take place in their churches. In this post-COVID era, there is a level of receptivity to change in general.
3. “Baptist” is still mentioned as the most negative denominational label. When we did an objective study of this issue several years ago, the results were the same. Apparently, the negative connotation has deepened.
4. The most common objection to dropping the label is a concern of misleading people. Indeed, a number of church leaders use the word “deceptive” or the phrase “bait and switch” when they voice their opposition.
5. The second most common objection is that the denominational label identifies the church’s doctrines. These leaders say that transparency of doctrine in a church is vitally important, and that the church name best reflects that transparency.
6. The third most common objection is that changing the church name can be perceived to be a quick fix to the church’s problems and challenges. A pastor in the Church Answers community called it “putting lipstick on a pig.” Most churches, he argued, have bigger problems than their names.
7. A number of church leaders see the denominational label and denominations themselves as increasingly irrelevant. They would argue for changing the name because the label has no meaning or, even worse, the label is greatly misunderstood.
8. Some churches are removing the denominational label as a part of a full name change. The fastest-growing trend we see is a new name that best reflects the community or neighborhood in which the church is located. Thus, “First Baptist Church” becomes “The Church at Franklin,” if “Franklin” is the name of the neighborhood or community.
I am interested in your thoughts and perceptions about this issue. I would particularly love to hear the different arguments for or against removing the denominational label.
Let me hear from you.
Posted on May 23, 2022
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
Interesting that churches are doing it to be more pleasing to the world; it’s as if these Christians are worried about how the world will perceive us.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 15:18-19 NKJV
The worldly influences are evermore creeping into the church and we’re ashamed to be the church. And many of these local church splits and denominational splits seem to be rooted in LGBTQIA2+ issues. Can we not recognize the handiwork of the Prince of this world in the church?
I want to know if the church is seeking to please the world or is it seeking to be pleasing to God. There are many denominations I believe stray from the Bible on some pretty major issues and I want to know what I’m walking into when I enter a church. I travel rather frequently and it’s getting harder to recognize the churches that have a Biblical view of the world rather than a worldly view of the Bible. Even looking at the websites of many churches, it’s really difficult to determine where they stand Biblically and denominationaly. It’s sad that so many Christians and churches are ashamed of their Christian beliefs and of their historical roots. Getting good practice for what is to come?
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Luke 9:26 NKJV
We are called to be bold, not wishy-washy (i.e. Lukewarm – check out Revelation 3:15–16).
praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:18-20 NKJV
Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—
II Corinthians 3:12 NKJV
We’re no longer willing to abide.
Old English word signifying progressively to “await,” “remain,” “lodge,” “sojourn,” “dwell,” “continue,” “endure”; represented richly in Old Testament (King James Version) by 12 Hebrew and in New Testament by as many Greek words. In the Revised Version (British and American) displaced often by words meaning “to sojourn,” “dwell,” “encamp.” The Hebrew and Greek originals in most frequent use are yashabh, “to dwell”; meno, “to remain.” “Abide (sit or tarry) ye here” (Genesis 22:5); “The earth abide (continueth) forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4); “Who can abide (bear or endure) the day?” (Malachi 3:2); “Afflictions abide (await) me” (Acts 20:23). The past tense abode, in frequent use, has the same meaning. “His bow abide (remained) in strength” (Genesis 49:24); “There he abide” (dwelt) (John 10:40).
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
I John 2:15-29 NKJV
I look for a bold church that is not ashamed of Christ, the Gospel, or its own roots. So much shallowness has crept into the church, we’re ashamed of the Gospel and of our roots…we seek to be more pleasing to the world. And the churches are preaching a “gospel” of what can God do for ME, how can He serve ME and MY needs; it’s all about me, me, me, me, I, I, I, I, when WE should be worshiping HIM, not the other way around. What makes me feel GOOD? What strokes me ego and pride? The music is often a self-focused performance (not God-focused), which neither worships nor glorifies God, followed by a very shallow message-because we don’t want to offend anyone. It’s about our feelings and how this affects us and “our truth,” rather than THE TRUTH. Truth is absolute, it isn’t a sliding gray scale.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV
And why does the church think people should just walk into our doors; the lost should come to us? God commands us to “GO,” not to sit and wait for people to come to US.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:15 NKJV
This doesn’t have to be a far off land, this applies to our neighbors.
We make more programs for ourselves and for our families within our own church walls, isolating us from the lost world. We’re getting evermore comfortable and we’re not willing to step outside of our own comfort zone and get hot, sweaty, dirty, or uncomfortable for reaching the lost. How many endeavors in our churches are focused within the four walls with making things more comfortable and cenjoyable for us versus focused outward at reaching the lost community around us? How are we serving our community? How are we reflecting Christ in our everyday walk amongst the lost? Are they seeing something different? Are they seeing peace, joy? Do they see something they lack; something they desire? Are we forming relationships with the lost? Are we pursuing self-interests or God’s interests? Lost people are reached through relationships. They learn to connect to God (a relationship) through forming relationships with believers who reflect the image of Jesus to them. Give them something to desire! The lost aren’t going to just walk into our doors because we change our name. There is a much bigger problem, and name changes and dropping the denominational affiliation whether in name or in practice is not the problem or the solution.
ABIDE. BE BOLD. GO.