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What’s in a name?

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On Nov. 24, the Jameson family named their newborn baby girl Hashtag, after Twitter’s use of the (#) symbol.

The year before, an Egyptian man named his son Facebook, and in 2011 an Israeli couple named their baby Like.

These babies join celebrities’ babies Spec Wildhorse Mellencamp, Moxie Crimefighter Jillette, Pilot Inspecktor Lee and Audio Science Clayton, which makes Apple Blythe Alison Martin sound almost traditional as a baby name.
I think people’s names say much more about the parents than about the child. Naming your kid Moxie Crimefighter is setting him up to be pushed into lockers in middle school.

Then there are church names.

I’ve always wondered about churches with “First” in their names - First Baptist, First Presbyterian. I guess they want everyone to know they were there first.

When I lived in Portland, Me., for a few years I went to First Baptist Church in Portland. A sign out front read: “First Baptist Church-Jesus Never Fails.” My friend Terry, who grew up in Portland, said she used to walk by the church on her way to school and always thought the sign meant that it was the first Baptist church Jesus never failed ó as if he had failed all the other Baptist churches.

Two churches in Texas are named Divide Baptist Church and Petty United Methodist Church. There’s also a Boring United Methodist Church and a Half Way Baptist Church.

Canada may have the longest-named church: St. Francis National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith Archdiocese of Canada, or “St. Francis N.E.S.B.F. Archdiocese of Canada” for short.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be embarrassed to invite someone to come with me to Hot Rod Church for Sinners or Scum of the Earth Church, although there’s no doubt what they believe about the state of humanity.

What if you invited someone to go to Sandals or Matthew’s Party or even The Salvage Yard—what would they think?

On the flipside—there’s actually a church called Flipside, “turning the world upside down for Jesus.”

The trend for new churches today is one- or two-word ambiguous names such as Resonate, Revolution, Radiance, Redeemer, Mosaic, Encompass, Journey, Legacy, Celebration, Elevation, Mars Hill, Urban Refuge, The Well, The Pursuit, The Orchard, The Brook.

When I hear names like these I picture loud guitars and a very young, very hip pastor wearing skinny jeans and salmon-colored sneakers, sitting on a high stool, sipping coffee as he preaches.
I also picture lots of young people bringing their kids to church, and I like that.

Maybe it’s the names that draw them; I don’t know.

This past weekend my husband and I went out for a drive and as we took some back roads we passed a church called Faithful Few Ministries. That’s what got me thinking about church names.

I was (and still am) curious about how they came to call themselves Faithful Few.

The church looked old, which doesn’t mean anything. Old on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean stale on the inside. Neither does new and trendy on the outside mean the members don’t cling to lifeless theology.

You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a church by its building, but sometimes you can get an idea of a church’s identity or personality by its name.

If that’s true, then the people who chose that name see themselves as Faithful Few, which, in my opinion, reeks of arrogance and self-righteousness (and yes, I’m fully aware that my pointing that out reeks of arrogance and self-righteousness even more).

It sounds biblical and humble, but calling yourself Faithful Few is mostly prideful and presumptuous. It says, “We are the faithful few—and you’re probably not.”

God is the faithful one.

When it comes to church names, maybe the best one is this: The Gathering Place For Sinners Who Know They Can’t Get Any Better By Their Own Efforts So They Run To Jesus For Mercy and To Be Covered With His Righteousness By Grace Alone Through Faith Alone.

Or maybe just #grace.  
  
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.