Truth in Advertising

I notice as I toot around Greenville how the local Protestant churches are shifting away from honest self description. It used to be that they put out a sign stating just exactly who they were so you knew what you were getting when you went church shopping.

The old way was often friendly and inviting so churches were called: Friendship Baptist Church, Fellowship Baptist Church, Welcome to All Bible Church. Other church names were linked with a locality making it homey and easy: Pebble Creek Baptist or Pumpkintown Presbyterian or Silver Falls Church of God or Reedy Fork Methodist or Hudson Road Bible Church. Even the old names of First Baptist, Second Presbyterian or Hortonville United Methodist had clarity, integrity and honesty in advertising. Furthermore the churches looked like churches. They had a porch with pillars and a steeple on top. Even if they were inexpensive warehouse type buildings they plopped a steeple on top and put a cross on the front and made it look like a church.

You also had the churches named with quaint, but obscure Biblical references. These made you feel a little bit confused or perhaps a bit happy because you recognized the Biblical reference and felt you might be privileged enough to be on the inside. Thus, Beulah Baptist Church or Mount Pisgah Church of God or Bethany Baptist or Church of the Nazarene or Zion United Church or Mount Moriah Church of God Prophecy.

Then there were the thunder and lightning sort of church names you’d spot in a drive across the American South. These were the church names that spoke of hellfire and brimstone and prophecy and tongues and weeping and wailing and being slain in the Spirit and maybe a touch of snake handling…Four Square Church of the Apostolic Faith, or Tabernacle of God Prophecy or Redemption Church of the End Times Ministry or Faith Healing Cathedral of God or African Methodist Episcopal Church of the Prophet Elijah or Full Gospel Church of the Heavenly Vision or Jerusalem Temple of the Tribulation Refuge or Full Rapture Church of Divine Punishment or Come to Jesus Church or Get Saved or You are Going to Hell When You Die Church. Again–there was honesty in advertising. You knew what you were getting.

Not anymore. Now the church buildings are indistinguishable from a retail shopping strip or a warehouse or a movie theater. The names are totally misleading. What if you went looking for a church with one of these ‘creative’ names? It could be a church. It could be something else. Furthermore, they not only don’t call themselves a ‘church’ (that would be so alienating to the unchurched you know) they also don’t tell you what denomination they are. The local community church named ‘Heartrock’ or some such might be Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or most anything. This is because most Evangelical Protestant theology is now post-modern eclectic (which is another words for relativistic cafeterianism) But that’s the stuff of another post. Instead I’m observing the confusion that arises in their current penchant for creative groovy but goofy Protestant church names. Here’s a list of ‘community church’ names which could lead the consumer to something totally different.

  • Marathon – turns out to be a store that sells running shoes
  • CrossWind –  sells charcoal tablets to ease flatulence
  • NewWine – Liquor Store
  • NewHorizons – Rock Climbing and hiking outdoor shop
  • HeartStone – Sells fireplace stuff
  • NewBirth – Gynecologist specializing in alternative birthing techniques
  • CrossRoads – New GPS system for your car
  • New Spring – Mattress Store
  • BedRock – ditto (specializing in extra firm mattresses)
  • RunningWater – Plumbing services
  • SonLight –  Solar electrical systems
  • SonRise – Yeast manufacturer
  • SonBurn – Ointment for post beach problems
  • The Vineyard – a vineyard
  • Eden.com – Gardening stuff and nursery
  • HolyGround   – Coffee Shop
Enough of those: maybe the Catholic Church should jump on the bandwagon, (or should I say ‘brand wagon’?) and re-brand ourselves. We could take existing church names and make them more groovy and with it and thereby bring in large crowds. I guess we would have to add large screens, stage lighting, dry ice machines and attractive dancing girls, but that would not be too hard as we have a history of stained glass windows (which is sort of a medieval version of big screen TV), incense for smoke and good looking altar servers.
So here’s a list of re-branded Catholic Churches:
St Peter’s Church – The Rock
St Paul’s – SwordPlay
St Mary’s – EveX2
St Therese of Lisieux – SteelMagnolia
Prince of Peace – Prince of Peace
St Mary Magdalene – Lady in Red
Holy Apostles – TheTwelve
St Stephen’s – We Will Rock You
Our Lady of the Rosary – Beads.com
Our Lady Star of the Sea – StarFish
St Matthew’s – DoorMatt
St Mark’s – RoadMarker
Any other re-branded Catholic Church titles to the combox please.

Contributions of two words that have a space between the two words will not be accepted.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09851295792702162861 hank_F_M

    Our lady of Humility- Mykidisanhonorstuudent.A related questionIf one denominates their denomination non-denominatonal don't they have a denomination denomanated non-denominatonal.The teaching being as clear as that last sentence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18076215213828545013 Jam

    This reminds me of college. My first week on campus, someone invited me to "Intervarsity". "Oh!" I said. "I don't play sports." I got a very strange and uncomfortable stare but the girl changed the subject and we all moved on.A couple of days later someone else invited me to come to "Intervarsity". I told him I wasn't a sporty person, and he laughed. "It's not a sport thing!" "So what is it?" "It's, uh, it's kind of a student group, it's like, we discuss things…" Progress but I still couldn't get a read on what this thing was.Now, all of the new students had to attend, within their first month, a series of presentations in various categories like School Traditions, Safety, Good Study Habits, Health and Wellbeing, etc. You could choose what to attend, so for my Diversity credit I went to a presentation by a group of students who had gone to Egypt over the summer. The university facilitator got up to introduce the students and mentioned that they were part of "Intervarsity". AHA! Finally we were going to get some answers!The first student got up to give the background of the trip but other than logistics she only said that this trip had been organized by Intervarsity in order to serve the locals and talk to them. So I stuck my hand up and asked, "What IS Intervarsity?" "It's a national organization with chapters on lots of college campuses, we meet every week to discuss the bible and worship…" "OH! So it's a church.""No. Well, we're a Christian group but it's open to everyone! And we play games and discuss current events…""Yeah, but it's a church. Right? I mean, animal – mineral – plant – church, it's a church?"That is the point at which the people on stage were looking at me so strangely that I just said thank you and sat back down.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    Yes, and there is news this week that the classic Evangelical group Campus Crusade For Christ is dropping 'Christ' from their name.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13879501981487394073 Cheryl

    Sadly, I've seen a few Catholic churches change their name from one commemorating a saint to something a bit less descriptive; sometimes they almost sound like an interdenominational church. If the people don't know about the saint to which the church is named after, I wish the church would take the time to educate them on its history, its patron saint and why the church founders originally chose that name.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04137051756147544296 Sharon

    Two come to mind (and I hope I'm not too irreverent–I may have to go to confession after this):1. St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception: WhosYourDaddy. Actually I think "Stainless" would be more accurate.2. St. Mary of the Assumption: ImOuttaHere

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16141414361291882691 Augustine

    Honestly, I actually think that the tradition of truth in advertisement by Protestant churches continues. With names, ahem, brands like those, you do know what you're getting into: man-made concoctions of a watered down Gospel with a pinch, nay, a truckload of narcissism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12858120820470784593 Anneg

    St Andrew the Apostle: XFactorIs that too obscure?

  • http://jenniferfitz.wordpress.com/ jenniferfitz

    St. Martin of Tours – RentGarmentIgnatius of Loyola – SpiritXSt. John of the Cross – DarkNightSt. Lawrence – FireBrandSt. Ignatius of Antioch – LionsMouthIncarnation – FleshPointSt. Simeon the Stylite – The Pillar

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07092256598496712295 tihald

    Actually shouldn't St Mary's be Eve 2.0?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06227550684669006165 LeeAnn Balbirona

    I was at a local town festival today and a hipster dude dressed in a dress coat, hat and retro glasses had a hand printed cloth pinned to the back of his coat that read: "JESUS LESSONS – JUST ASK – MIDNIGHT CRY CHURCH" and some contact info. At least it had the word Church in it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02294057859963145663 Ian Joseph Riñon

    I think this would be corny, but I'll share this St. Francis: Brother Wolf's Pet Store St. Nicholas: Boxing Gym

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05469033520001541448 Lagniappe

    Fr. Longenecker, I wholeheartedly agree with your blog. Today's, non-Catholic churches mask what they really are (in a sense of Baptist, Church of God, etc) and, in so doing, are almost seeking to get the crowd without sounding to traditional. It is a way of misleading those who visit as to doctrine many times (e.g., Calvinist, non-Trinitarian, etc). Your years of study and especially being in the UK surely made you aware of Charles Spurgeon (19th century Baptist in London). He stood against those who watered down the gospel and then later withstood the fierce attack during the Downgrade Controversy. But he is well known for a comment that stands to this day about the church names or ways to get a crowd; 'EITHER YOU ARE FEEDING THE SHEEP OR ENTERTAINING THE GOATS."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15190084186083358518 xavier217

    Our Lady of Perpetual Help-OperatorsAreStandingBy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18365079712115497355 Shakespeare’s Cobbler

    Here in Cincinnati, the Protestant and Catholic churches have their usual names… but the architecture… office buildings with modern art woven into the design. I go by several of each regularly; they're always across the street from each other like there's some sort of standoff, yet they look almost identical. It's hard; I want to bow as I pass, Christ in the Eucharist and all, but only the Greek Orthodox one stands out as being made of stone (or at least looking like it), having stained glass, being shaped like a Church, having a visible icon (or something that looks like one; I know they're picky about the setting and setup necessary to constitute a proper icon), in short being obviously a church I wouldn't have to hunt around for the sign denoting its denomination and then for which building is actually the church. Really, I can't tell for sure which building/building-segment is the actual church where Christ would be with most of the Catholic ones, there are so many amorphous and/or non-church-looking buildings and no distinctively church-looking building. Just one of the Catholic churches I can see the sanctuary light if I'm looking for it ahead of time; I also once mistook a factory (I think) for this one though. Did I mention the Greek Orthodox alone seem to have an actual churchlike building? (It looks like it was suddenly dropped here out of the middle ages.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09508033779758406137 Sue

    So true!!! I had to laugh when I saw your reference to Prince of Peace, because that was the first Catholic church I ever set foot in. My sister got married there to her cradle Catholic husband (I was the 8 year old flower girl). I also went to Mass there with my sister at least once, and all I remember is being shocked by the fact that I was the only girl in a dress – everyone else was in cut-offs and flip-flops!Anyway, a few years after they got married they decided to start going to a Baptist church (my sister was raised United Methodist, so I guess it was a compromise?) – the first one actually looked like one (Pebble Creek). Now they go to Brookwood Church, which is supposedly Baptist, and meets in a gigantic warehouse type building, complete with stage, opening band with dry ice for effect, and beepers for those of us who were so unfortunate to have shown up with our children (so we can go get them if they cry). The one time I went there with my sister's family, two toddlers in tow, I left with nothing but a headache. All that to say, I know exactly of what you speak!I haven't seen too much of that here in Japan, but since most of the Protestantism here comes straight from the US… I'll give it 10-20 years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01678341854029479678 Old Bob

    St. Thomas Aquinas: DeepThoughtSt. Patrick: WormDriveSt. John Vianney: CuréCurerSt. Edith Stein: OyJesusSt. Louis of France: RoiRoi!Our Lady of Lourdes: WaterLilySt. Augustine: HippoGuy….. I've got to stop; too much fun! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11740482509910163332 Gail F

    Shakespeare's Cobbler: Oh no they don't. I live in Cincinnati and there is a LifeSpring Church up the street from me. And don't forget The Vineyard! One of the prototypical megachurches.It's funny, but even the Protestant friends I have asked about it don't seem to mind these names or find them vague. They all believe that these places are set up for the "unchurched," so however you "get them in" is good (I'm paraphrasing here). I just find that bizarre. But it is pretty common, just as Protestants tend to move around from denomination to denomination and don't see why they shouldn't. Probably the same reason Campus Crusade for Christ dropped the words "Campus," "Crusade," and "Christ" from its name!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09015745990344837357 Nârwen

    There used to be a sign around here for "The New Apostolic Church". Every time I passed it, I couldn't help but think, "Make up your mind !"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07961183796915363873 M. Jordan Lichens

    I know I'm late, but might we call all Campus Newman Centres something like "Catholic Campus New-persons Centres.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11283123400540587033 Steve Hayes

    Could you change the colour scheme to make your blog easier to read?Black text on a dark-brown background is not exactly legible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04107139908026866920 fear_not

    St. Joseph of Cupertino: FlyBoiOur Lady of Czestochowa: CrimsonTearSt. Augustine: NotYet

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12652899961505979969 littlehouse36

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Will

    I think that there’s some mileage in a Boanerges Church.

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ Christian

    Not only are the non-denom names vague, but the pastors look more like personal trainers than, you know, pastors. In contrast, I expect you get what’s advertised at a Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God.

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ Christian

    Hey I forgot, we have a Water of Life church here….they must distill usquebaugh on the side. You know- whiskey.

  • Debval2008

    We have a church that just opened up called The Gathering…the same name as a horror movie ;). Incarnation – nosexneeded, Holy Trinity – Bargain, Padre Pio – Here and There, St.Jerome – biblewelcome

  • Amy H.

    St. Thomas the Apostle-Doubter’sAnonymous

  • Rusty

    My parish, St. Joan of Arc = Burning Love.

  • JCD

    Christ The King – Monarch

  • Bearing

    My fave non-denominational church name around here is (all lowercase) “jacob’s well.”

    I keep wanting to say — “why would you go there if you want LIVING water?”

  • JB

    St Lawrence: Captain Cooked

  • Cassi

    I find this wonderfully amusing, largely because a Bible bookstore I enjoyed in my Baptist days had an attached coffee shop called. . . Holy Grounds. :)

  • Tim S.

    That’s interesting because under Canon Law, once a church is dedicated, it’s Title cannot be changed without special permission of the Vatican. The name of the parish can be changed, but not the church.

  • JDH

    Wow, I wish I had gotten in on this when this post was new! There is an Evangelical church up the road from me called The Point. I know some people who used to go there. Best I can tell, the point of The Point is to get people to ask, “What is The Point?” when members can respond “Jesus is the point!” It’s all a bit like a knock-knock joke.

  • WSquared

    “…attractive dancing girls”

    I thought we already had those. In some places, they’re called “liturgical dancers.”