[This article was written by Mark Terry.]
I’ve always been interested in church names.
Some churches are named for a place, like Fisherville Baptist Church in Kentucky. Others are named for a road, like Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Some are named for people, like Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, which is named for the Southern Baptist missionary martyr, Bill Wallace. There is a Mabel White Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. I don’t know how the church got its name. Some churches have spiritual names like Grace Baptist Church or Faith Baptist Church.
I’ve noticed that churches that began because of a church split are often called Harmony. I guess the members want to experience harmony in the future. When I was a missionary in the Philippines, I learned to think twice if I was invited to preach at a church called Hilltop. That always meant a hike up a mountain (something to consider in the tropics). Some churches have names that puzzle me. Once we were driving through eastern Tennessee, and I saw a sign directing folks to Boanerges Baptist Church. Of course, other churches use Bible names, like Bethlehem Baptist Church or Gethsemane. In the Louisville area we had a Little Flock Baptist Church, which grew to be a large church. They did not change the name, though. At present I’m a member at Central Baptist Church in Crandall, Texas. We’ve been beset by an invasion of crickets, so I suggested we change the name to Cricket Baptist Church. For sure, it describes who we are (at least right now), but the deacons have not responded to my suggestion.
Many SBC churches now omit “Baptist” from their church names. For example, Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, where Ronnie Floyd is the pastor, was formerly the First Baptist Church of Springdale. Years ago, Dr. Al Mohler held that SBC churches should include Baptist in their names until his friend, James Merritt, planted Cross Pointe Church and left Baptist out of the name. Really, it is all the same to me. When I teach North American church planting, I tell the students to choose a name that will appeal to the community. In the South “Baptist” might prove advantageous; while in the North, it would not. In Louisville Dr. Ed Stetzer worked with a church plant in the eastern part of the county. The church plant failed because the church planter left, but I told Ed that it failed because of the name they chose—River Oaks Church. I had suggested Eastside Baptist Tabernacle, but my suggestion fell on deaf ears.
Well, dear readers, what do you think? Should a Baptist church include “Baptist” in its name? And, what are some interesting names that you’ve seen?
[Emphases added by William]