“Church” ~ By Any Other Name . . .

Shakespeare’s Juliet declared to Romeo that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” indicating that it was not his name that granted him the qualities that she loved. True as that may have been for her, names do tend to have influence over expectations, and that trend didn’t die with Shakespeare. Names are often designed to foster preconceived notions regarding the qualities inherent in the item bearing them, and they can be quite helpful that way, but not always. For instance, if one were to try to figure out what “church” is all about these days simply by perusing a list of the names of institutions claiming to be one, it would be hard not to come away incredibly confused. There is every kind of cultural, racial, ethnic, denominational, ideological, theological, doctrinal, social class, and special interest group imaginable identifying itself as a “church.” The term has been expanded to serve as a descriptor of buildings, procedures, rituals, agencies, institutions, and religious movements, and in one form or another, is said to hold a significant place in the lives of millions of Americans.

A Bit of Clarification ~
Because of its extensive and often unqualified application, the simple term, “church,” needs some clarification; thus, the mind-numbing array of names chosen in an effort to distinguish one group’s “church” from its surrounding neighbors. Whether some of those names successfully unveil a church’s vital characteristics appears to be open for further debate. For instance, consider what might be suggested by this minute sampling I ran across in my research:

  • Original Church of God, Number 2
  • No Hope United Methodist Church
  • Accident Baptist Church
  • Waterproof Baptist Church
  • James Bond United Community Church
  • Lover’s Lane Episcopal Church
  • Hell For Certain Church
  • First Church of the Last Chance World on Fire Revival and Military Academy

For those looking for something with a more modern sounding appellation, there’s the rapidly growing list of more trendy church names popping up these days, like Elevation, Inspiration, Revolution, Restoration, Renovation, EnCompass, Mosaic, Resonate, Epiphany Station, and Radiance … Church. Beyond that, there are those groups that decide to take a commonplace word like “point” and give it a cosmopolitan flair by adding the very classy “e.” Thus, the parade of names like Cross Pointe, Center Pointe, Harvest Pointe, and of course, North, South, East, and West Pointe. Needless to say, there are plenty of options from which to choose and lots of room for subjective guesswork about what they really mean.

An Intriguing Name ~
Some church names provoke more intriguing reflection than others. My wife and I were privileged to encounter one such example recently, a Baptist church called “God’s Storehouse.” It was interesting and different, so I began to contemplate what might be suggested by such a name. The term was not without Biblical references, but they were not abundant. The Prophet Malachi admonished God’s people to Bring all the tithes into the storehouse… (Malachi 3:10a NKJV), and Paul made what some consider to be a similar “storehouse” reference when he said,

On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (I Corinthians 16:2 NKJV)

But I wondered, “Is that what Jesus intended the “church” to be? Did He want it to be a place to store supplies up for people who need them? And if so, what kinds of items would He store there, how would they be stored, and how would the stored resources be dispensed?”

A foundational consideration in answering those questions is the realization that the “church” is not a building. Jesus didn’t send His followers into the world to engage in real estate investment or the construction business. We weren’t commissioned to build buildings and store up stuff for distribution like some government welfare program. That’s not to say that churches don’t help people in need. They do, and they do a wonderful job of that, but that isn’t the priority, nor does it define what a church is, or ought to be. Quite simply, the “Church” that Jesus founded is not composed of inanimate materials. The “Church” is people — people who are connected with each other in a matrix of relationships, beginning with a personal relationship with the One each person recognizes as his or her individual Savior, and then expanding to become a spiritual “family” of interpersonal relationships.

What Would God Store?
But if God were to consider the Church as a means of distributing things to those in need, what kinds of things might He store there? Clearly, He would not want to accumulate things that are freely available everywhere else in the world, and He wouldn’t waste the space on trivial things that are of no consequence. He would want to store up things that are vital to our welfare and that are in dangerously short supply. A few such commodities leap to mind.

Truth, for instance, would be high on God’s list of vital items. The most destructive and pernicious weapon of the archenemy of God and humanity is the lie. It is not surprising, then, to find that “progressive,” anti-Christian, academia has fostered a growing tendency to deny that absolute truth exists, especially in the moral arena. That belief places a question mark behind every assertion, and creates an atmosphere of unparalleled anxiety, distrust, fear, and anger. The Church should definitely be a “storehouse” for dependable, reliable, unshakeable truth.

Love would be another vital, signature item that God would always keep in stock, but it would not be the off-brand, knock-off counterfeits that fill the land. It would be the unmistakably distinctive kind of love that Jesus demonstrated, love that is other-centered, sacrificial, fulfilling, edifying, and enduring.

God’s Design for Storage ~
A church declaring itself to be “God’s Storehouse” should be filled with other priceless items the world desperately needs, like life-transforming faith, victorious hope, uplifting joy, and peace that transcends circumstances. But questions go beyond a storehouse inventory list. If the Church isn’t a building, and since the items on this list couldn’t be placed on a shelf and dispensed in plastic bag, how would God store them?

The answer is quite simple. He would store them for distribution in the only “house” the Church of Jesus Christ has ever really had–the hearts and minds of the people who follow Him, into whom He pours all those priceless qualities He died to make available. He dispenses those desperately needed resources now just as He did then–through the people in whom He dwells and through whom He works. In that regard, “God’s Storehouse” might fit His idea for what His Church is about, regardless of whatever else we might choose to call it.

“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

  • The #Church wasn’t “commissioned to build buildings and store up stuff for distribution like some #GovernmentWelfareProgram.” @GallaghersPen quote. Let us know what you think. (Click HERE to Tweet)
  • Jesus demonstrates through his people an unmistakably distinctive kind of “love that is other-centered, sacrificial, fulfilling, edifying, and enduring.” @GallaghersPen quote. (Click HERE to Tweet)
  • God stores the priceless resources His Son died to make available … “in the only ‘house’ the #ChurchOfJesusChrist has ever really had — the hearts and minds of those who follow Him.” @GallaghersPen quote. (Click HERE to Tweet)
  • “It is not surprising to find that progressive, #anti-Christian, academia has fostered a growing tendency to deny that #AbsoluteTruth exists, especially in the moral arena.” @GallaghersPen quote. (Click HERE to Tweet)

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About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World." For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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4 Responses to “Church” ~ By Any Other Name . . .

  1. I love the concept of our souls and bodies being God’s living, breathing, loving storehouses. Sure puts a whole new spin on the true meaning of “church.”
    Blessings, Ron!

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    • Hi Martha– medical stuff has really gotten my schedule off track, but I am always grateful for the bright spot in my day that your comments always bring. It’s wonderful to have reminders that we aren’t in this battle alone, and I continue to pray that God will make you fruitful in your efforts for Him.

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  2. I always learn so much from you, Ron! When I became a Christian after hearing Billy Graham on TV, I was very confused by all the denominations and church names. You are so right that Jesus’ church lives within the hearts and minds of His people.

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    • I’m so sorry, Sherry–had some medical stuff going on and missed responding to your gracious comment. Please forgive me for being so tardy. I am deeply grateful for the encouragement and pray that God will continue to bless your efforts to keep His truth alive in this challenging culture.

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