SO YOU WANT TO START YOUR OWN CHURCH

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized

Congratulations!  You are about to embark on a noble and eminently-worthwhile endeavor in which Christians have been engaged since Jesus ascended into heaven and something I myself used to think about doing from time to time.

Other people might be impressed by massive churches or cathedrals in which richy-apparelled ministers perform beautiful and elaborate liturgies for the glory of God and the edification of the people.  I am too.  But I am also moved by little storefront Pentecostal churches, affiliated with no one, who preach the Word in season and out of season.

You may have a perfectly valid motivation for wanting to begin your own church, either inside a particular tradition or outside it.  You and your conservative Anglican friends may live in a place where the nearest Anglican Church in North America parish is 500 miles away.  You and some of your Baptist friends may feel yourselves drawn towards liturgical traditions and might feel more comfortable starting some kind of intermediate “church” prior to becoming Roman Catholics or Orthodox Christians.

And there are many other reasons.  While, as I said, I’ve considered the idea, I’ve never actually started a church myself.  But I since I run one of these blog deals that all the kids are into these days, my opinion matters more than yours does.  So if you’re contemplating starting your own church, here are a few factors to consider:

(1) Don’t reinvent the wheel. – Do you think worship should be beautiful?  Roman Catholics do a kickass liturgy and if the beauty of Rachmaninov’s setting of the Russian Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom doesn’t scare you to death, then I hate to break it to you but you’re deaf.

Or maybe you’d prefer worship that was less liturgical and more directly focused on the Word of God.  Maybe you think the pulpit should be in the middle of the church rather than the altar, so to speak, in which case, the Southern Baptists, the Presbyterians and other Reformed Protestants have you covered.

Maybe you’d like to consider yourself “spiritual” without having to believe anything in particular, in which case the Unitarians, if you’re low-church, or the Episcopalians, if you love a good show, are possibilities.  Or perhaps you’d prefer a more high-octane, pedal-to-the-metal, emotional worship in which case your Pentecostal friend could probably hook you up.  But if you can’t work your way around these issues, you might want to ask yourself why you want to start a church in the first place.

(2) Since it tells the world about you, be very careful about your church’s name. – Ever wondered why people name their individual parishes the way they do?  While there are exceptions, there seem, for the most part, to be two different naming conventions among Christians.  One, found mainly in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican traditions,  is to name your parish after some person in the Bible (Christ the King, Good Shepherd, Mary Queen of Peace, St.  John the Baptist, St. Paul’s, etc), some Biblical event (Annunciation, Holy Communion, Resurrection, Ascension, etc) or some saint.

The other, found mainly in the Reformed traditions, is to simply declare to the world who you are and where you are located (Kirkwood Methodist Church, Harrison Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, Old Orchard Presbyterian Church and so on).  To me, both these approaches communicate the same message.

This isn’t about us.  It’s about Him.

Contrast that with a new church here called The Gathering, which seems to be affiliated with the Methodists.  I should say up front that I know nothing about that church or who attends it other than to observe that I first found out about from advertising yard signs the church puts up from time to time.  For all I know, the people who attend it may be better disciples of the Lord than I am or ever will be.

But that might be the single worst church name I’ve ever seen.  Leaving aside its cultish feel, it communicates absolutely nothing.   A gathering?  A gathering of who?  And what are they gathering for?  As I said before, these people may be on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ.  But if one of them ever invited me to attend church at something called The Gathering, I’m going to take a rain check that I probably won’t ever cash in.  Which brings us to…

(3) Timeless good; meaningful…BAD. – Do you know why people still listen to and care about Bach, Mozart or Beethoven while no longer giving much of crap about the Ohio Express, Wishbone Ash or Pacific Gas & Electric?  Because the first three wrote for the ages and the last three only got into music to pull the birds, as the British put it.

Why do even non-Catholics like me enjoy Gregorian chant?  Why do I love listening to such simple hymns as “It is Well with My Soul” or “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There” but can’t think of a single modern Christian song that moves me in any way?

Why do singers like Mahalia JacksonThomas Dorsey, Willie Mae Ford Smith and Blind Willie Johnson still have a power that no modern Christian artist can remotely approach?  If my apartment was ever on fire, why would I grab my lectern Bible, the three CD’s I own by this artist* and let all my other possessions burn?

If you genuinely don’t know, I feel sorry for you.

Let’s put it this way.  You might start a “church” whose “hymns” consist of singing along to recordings of Bruce Springsteen, U2, BonJovi, Sting or other soon-to-be has-been artists and you might find such “worship” incredibly “meaningful.”

You might even make a going concern out of such a “church.”  But I’ll bet the rest of my inheritance on this: fifteen years or so down the road, your kids will bitch at you every single Sunday morning until they go to college, eventually throwing in with the Roman Catholics, for making them sit through that elevator music you inexplicably like so much.  And finally…

(4) Pick a side. – I’ve had this persistent, hacking cough for at least two months straight so I see two doctors about it.  One of them gives me a quick, cursory examination and tells me that there’s nothing wrong, that the cough will clear up by itself.

The other does a far more extensive examination, sends me to a specialist who prescribes all manner of tests and who finally informs me that I have advanced-stage lung cancer.

Which one of the two is the better doctor?

It’s like this.  You can tell the culture whatever the culture wants to hear in order to keep the Young PeopleTM on board, forgetting that the Young PeopleTM eventually become the Old PeopleTM who have actually thought things through.

Or you can tell the truth right from the start.  Might cost you a few bodies in the seats now but it will pay dividends down the road.

*Seriously.  If you ever find one of this woman’s CD’s, buy it immediately.  You’ll thank me later.  As scary good as the Russian Orthodox recording I linked to above is, she is as good or even better.

61 Comments to SO YOU WANT TO START YOUR OWN CHURCH

ann r
April 22, 2013

Robert Jourdain wrote a book titled “Music, the
Brain, and Ecstasy” (1997), and claimed all popular music is generational. A large percentage of each generation prefers the music of their youth, while the next generation can’t stand it. He has a lot to say about how music affects the brain, stuff that liturgists really should read.
Mahalia Jackson sings with such depth of feeling and conviction. Not many are so convincing with song.
As for church names, my husband’s uncle was pastor of Country Club Christian, which I thought was a rather unfortunate name for a church. The one I currently attend is named St. Gilbert’s; apparently a fellow named Gilbert gave a lot of money to build it.

Ad Orientem
April 23, 2013

Sergey Rachmaninov: Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 31

http://youtu.be/1PUy3-j5CAw

Whitestone
April 23, 2013
Donald R. McClarey
April 23, 2013

“Lareveillere Lepaux, a member of the French Directory, invented a new religion of Theo-philanthropy which seems in fact to have been an organized Rousseauism. He wished to impose it on France but finding that in spite of his passionate endeavours he made but little progress he sought the advice of Talleyrand. “I am not surprised” said Talleyrand “at the difficulty you experience. It is no easy matter to introduce a new religion. But I will tell you what I recommend you to do. I recommend you to be crucified and to rise again on the third day.”"

Katherine
April 23, 2013

:-) Donald.

There’s a church here which my neighbor investigated and then went elsewhere. It’s called the Journey Church. Their website hits you immediately with a stage and electric guitars. Thanks, but no thanks.

The person I feel sorry for is Pope Francis, who is, he says, tone deaf.

SC Blu Cat Lady
April 23, 2013

This isn’t about us. It’s about Him. TOTALLY Agreed. I hate naming churches after a large donor. Also there is the “numerical” naming system. First Baptist, Third Presbyterian or Fourth Pres. etc. I always wondered why there is never a Second _______.

Therese Z
April 23, 2013

In Chicago, we have a Seventeenth Church of Christ. http://www.christiansciencechicago.org/

I always figured that was just showing off.

gppp
April 23, 2013

I’d be happy enough hearing that you’ve not been socked with advanced-stage lung cancer. Really.

[...] So You Want to Start a Church – M.C.J. [...]

Ed the Roman
April 23, 2013

I had not even THOUGHT of Wishbone Ash in thirty years. THank you. :-)

Anne B.
April 23, 2013

Hey Therese, I’ve been by that church lots of times. Have never gone in, though.

I always thought that “Seventeenth Church of Christ Scientist” just meant that it was the 17th one to be established, and that numbers 1 through 16 were elsewhere (New England, probably). If anyone knows better, please inform.

As for that letter-to-the-church-from-my-generation stuff, it takes a LOT of presumption to say that you’re speaking for anyone more than yourself and your immediate family. I was born smack in the middle of the Baby Boom, but God knows that I don’t share what’s supposed to be the Boomer mentality.

Paula Loughlin
April 23, 2013

You forgot the popular usage of a Biblical place name as a church name. Here Zion, Bethany, Mt. Olive and Calvary are popular.

There is also the use of adjectives that can be plunked in front of any denomination such as Missionary, Holiness, and Gospel. These can denote actual denominations as well. Then we have the finishing touch; sort of a mission statement, usually this follows the word “of” Common ones are “God”, “Prophecy” “The King”, “The Spirit”, “Deliverance”.

In this part of the Country you can pretty much take one from column A, one from column B, and one from column C and name your church. Insert “Church of” name between your column B & C selections. Try it. For added points you can add any of these words where you please, Community, Fellowship, Assembly. Put Inc. or international at the end so we know you mean it!

A: Mt. Sinai, Mt. Olive, Zion, Bethany, Calvary.
B: Holiness, Missionary, Gospel, Apostolic,Evangelical.
C: God, Christ, The King, Deliverance, Prophecy.

My pick is “Mt Olive Community Apostolic Church of Prophecy, Inc.” .

chris (not our esteemed host)
April 23, 2013

i had gotten the impression that the numbering for Christian Science churches had to do with the order in which they were opened in a particular city or town. Nearly every town i’ve been in had a “First Church of Christ, Scientist.” Larger ones had “Second” “Third” etc.

Seventeenth? That’s a lot of Christian Scientists in one town…

Charlie
April 23, 2013

Ann R, Wikipedia lists three different St Gilberts. One founded a religious order, the Gilbertines, one was a bishop of Caithness in Scotland, and the third was a bishop in Meaux, France. They were all, apparently RC, although some Presbyterian churches are named after Scots saints. So perhaps your St Gilbert’s was not named after a benefactor, but has as its patron saint one of these three St Gilberts.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Gilbert

The Little Myrmidon
April 23, 2013

Yes, there were actually 20 CS churches in Chicago at one time. This website lists all the Christian Scientist churches and societies in Illinois.

http://www.christianscienceusa.com/il.html

Apparently, after CS’s upswing in the latter years of the 19th C. and the early 20th C., the membership dropped off steadily. Many of the buildings are now vacant. Some of the congregations have moved to smaller buildings or disbanded completely.

Allen Lewis
April 23, 2013

I hope the person who wrote that “Open Letter to the Church” saves it and reads it five or six years from now. If that person is not slightly embarrassed by this little missive then that person is just beyond hope for now. Can you say “Narcissism, boys and girls?”

FW Ken
April 23, 2013

I work in a predominently African-American part of town and there are any number of “Missionary Baptist Churches”. They have names like St. Paul, True Vine, Rising Star, Saintsville, and some others. There is even a St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church. Hispanic churches around here tend to be things like La Casa de Fe.

One of my favorite places is a tiny building called The Servant’s House. They have a motto: Small things are Big with God in Them”. Then there is Turn-Around Ministries. The preacher is a great guy who works with our felons and laughs that the store that occupied his building sold beer out the front and crack out the back.

Thank God for this world full of beauty and goodness. And God bless those Orthodox bishops, as well.

FW Ken
April 23, 2013

And that doesn’t even start on the Church of God in Christ, who tend to be beautiful brothers and sisters and have interesting parish names.

Ed the Roman
April 23, 2013

One around here is led by Bishop (insert man’s name) and Apostle (insert woman’s name) who in an astonishing coincidence are married. Named for (man’s last name), of course.

Dale Matson
April 23, 2013

I heard enough of the audio from “The Gathering” to compare the free from chatter to topical stuff on in our adult forum. The lectionary is a blessing because it forces the priest to address the issues in the readings, not wax eloquent about this or that bit of peripheral piffle.

Dale Matson
April 23, 2013

It should be “free form chatter” sorry.

JFKAR
April 23, 2013

Why start a mere church when you could start a cult? It’s easier and there’s more money in it. Maybe.

Just Passing Through
April 23, 2013

Every time I see “The Gathering,” I think of the Fox show “The Following” with Kevin Bacon. Which makes me think of The Crossroads Church back in my college town (it was pretty much regarded as a cult in the 1980s). Which makes me think of the Mississippi blues and meeting the devil. Which makes me think of those who keep trying to tell us that the Church only needs to be like the modern world. Which reminds me of Open Letters to the Church. Which leads to the Gathering…

dwstroudmd+
April 23, 2013

My personal all-time favorite organizational/denominational name for a gathering is the Two-Seed in the Spirit Double-Predestinarian Baptist Church.

That one just puts it all on the line at once: one seed to eternal bliss and one seed to eternal damnation as the central core doctrine for belief from all eternity in the absolute will of God.

For your favorite or to avoid a charge of the tired old mundane,check here to avoid previously utilized terminology:
http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Denominations-United-States-Edition/dp/1426700482/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366744226&sr=8-1&keywords=handbook+of+denominations

Katherine
April 23, 2013

I frequently pass Christ’s Holy Sanctified Church. All the others aren’t sanctified, evidently.

Confessor
April 23, 2013

Surprisingly, I discovered the Original Apostolics Church is located on FL Hwy 255 just south of Interstate 10 near the Suwannee River. Its building, a small mobile home, has seen better days.

Looks like the current Apostles have migrated to this location and fallen hard times.

FW Ken
April 23, 2013

We have CHSC congregations here on the eastside of Fort Worth. It took me awhile to find out what CHSC stands for, but they are, in fact, a free-standing Pentecostal denomination.

http://www.chschurch.org/about/history/

Little churches are all over this poverty area, and I pray for them as I drive by. I’m not sure why they give me such delight, but I suspect some great saints have worshipped and sought God in those little buildings.

Paula Loughlin
April 23, 2013

Just Passing Through, did you go to college in Gainesville, Florida?

Elkanah
April 23, 2013

“name your parish after some person in the Bible (Christ the King, Good Shepherd, Mary Queen of Peace…”

Where is the name “Mary Queen of Peace” mentioned in the Bible? (Hint: it isn’t.) Somebody just made that up. It is non-biblical, un-biblical, extra-biblical, anti-biblical, etc.

Paula Loughlin
April 23, 2013

Mary is not named in the Bible? News to me.

trespinos
April 23, 2013

Prominently placed signs in the community where I used to live advertised Sunday services for “The Vineyard”. Say what? “The Vineyard” tells me about as much as “The Gathering” would. No, hold that, the vineyard might the gathering place of local winos, so it is a tad more specific, to be sure.

midwestnorwegian
April 23, 2013

Two Christian Scientist brothers in Lincoln, NE put me to work for them through four years of my undergraduate degree. I never believed their religion was “Christian”, yet I would work for both of these two inspirational men and their business all over again…and without a second thought.

Twin brothers – who opened a flower shop in downtown Lincoln in 1929 and built it into a very successful business. They treated customers right. They treated employees even better. They never missed a day of work (that I recall) and they treated me like a son. I will forever be grateful to them.

Bob and Art Danielson.

Katherine
April 23, 2013

She’s not in the Bible as “Queen of Peace.” Or “Queen of Heaven,” for that matter, unless there’s something in Revelation, and if there is I’m sure someone here will set me straight.

FW Ken, the CHSC near me is in a lovely brick building with tall entrance pillars in an upscale neighborhood. These must be their upper-class cousins.

CarolynP
April 23, 2013

Paula,
where do you see “Mary Queen of Peace” in the bible?

Miss Sippi
April 23, 2013

chris (not. . .), Therese Z. etc. I was reared in Christian Science, and as a freshman and sophomore at Northwestern, actually attended 17th. Chris is correct, the churches are numbered in order of founding. A town too small to have a church has a “Christian Science Society” instead.
I left CS and became Episcopalian many years ago, and am now Orthodox. Ironically, my church in McComb MS was originally a Christian Science church. Talk about your full circle.

FW Ken
April 23, 2013

One of the CHSC congregations here is a nice brick buildingI the other is run down. I actually know very little about the denomination. That link was the first I read.

Christopher Johnson
April 23, 2013

Mary is, though. I just grabbed the name of a church in my hometown.

This has nothing to do with churches but as long as we’re speaking of odd names of places that have numbers in them, can anyone explain to me why there is a multi-state institution called the Fifth Third Bank?

Daniel Muller
April 23, 2013

One around here is led by Bishop (insert man’s name) and Apostle (insert woman’s name) who in an astonishing coincidence are married.

I have to say that I was nonplussed the other day to see a shiny (Eagle’s Nest Cathedral? Maybe not.) church van with “Pastor Y Last_name” and “First Lady X Last_name” on it.

Daniel Muller
April 23, 2013

In a nutshell.

I had to find out myself after visiting Louisville.

Paula Loughlin
April 23, 2013

Well our esteemed host did write “…to name your parish after some person in the Bible” He made no claims regarding any title applied to the name. I don’t believe the Apostle are given the title “Saint” anywhere in the Bible either.

Bob the Ape
April 23, 2013

Funny you should ask – I looked them up recently because my current car loan is from them. The answer is here.

I like the legend that it was supposed to be the Third Fifth Bank, but fear of Prohibitionist sentiment (the merger was in 1908) caused them to reverse the order.

Paula Loughlin
April 23, 2013

Not so, they reversed the order because they did not want a lot of Episcopalians cluttering up the lobby.

FW Ken
April 23, 2013

I used to have the business card of “Sister …., Prophetess anointed by God.” She was a funny, cheerful, delightful person upon our one meeting.

Galletta
April 23, 2013

I saw a church with the name “New Breed Baptist Church”.

Katherine
April 23, 2013

Fifth Third has amused me for years.

FW Ken
April 23, 2013

One more name story: my uncle and Aunt left First Baptist over something or another. Anyway, they took to meeting in the old video store out on the highway. Casting about for a name, someone noticed the old New Releases billboard, and they all decided that they were released from the old congregation, so they became New Release Baptist Church.

[...] From the Department of Rhetorical Questions: Do you know why people still listen to and care about Bach, Mozart or Beethoven and no longer give much of [a] crap about the Ohio Express, Wishbone Ash or Pacific Gas & Electric? Because the first three wrote for the ages and the last three got into music to pull the birds, as the British put it. [...]

Peyton
April 23, 2013

Fifth Third Bank, eh? Let’s see,

Once upon a time, Cincinnati had at least seven national banks — restricted by Ohio law to operating in Hamilton County. There was also Provident Bank and The Union Trust Company. Fifth National merged with Third National, Fifth being the larger institution. The combined banks bought out Fourth National, First National bought out Second National, Fifth Third merged with Union Trust Company to become The Fifth-Third Union Trust Company, which mouthful is now 5/3. First National and Provident are now part of USBank and PNC Bank,not necessarily in that order. Somewhere in the process, Ohio banking spilled across county lines and then went viral. 5/3 survives, as do several small banks in Hamilton County.

Aren’t you glad you asked.

Then there’s Irving’s Bank in NYC!

Peyton

(I worked my way through college microfilming trust records from the various entities, in the basement of the former Western Bank and Trust Company — now a parking lot.)

Miss Sippi
April 23, 2013

“First Lady” is an honorific in many black churches, just means “pastor’s wife” – I guess that’s not too far afield from me calling my priest’s wife “Matushka.” (Kind of funny for a girl from Alabama, btw.) My matushka doesn’t get her name on any vehicles, though.

Therese Z
April 24, 2013

We call it the One and Two Thirds Bank.

Daniel Muller
April 24, 2013

“First Lady” is an honorific in many black churches, just means “pastor’s wife”

I supposed that that was what it meant, but I had never heard of it on this furthest fringe of the South. Then again, it still seems strange to me to have a churchfull of “pastors” rather than, e.g., “deacons.” As well as “bishops” and “cathedrals” rather liberally sprinkled about.

FW Ken
April 24, 2013

I’ve begun to hear “First Lady” among African-American Christians in the last few years. But forever, “bishop” is a title common among black pentecostals for the preacher heading a congregation, although the Church of God in Christ has bishops in charge of their own congregation and other local congregations headed by “Elders”. GetReligion has even had a couple of posts where a Baptist, non-pentecostal preacher was known as “bishop”.

When I was a kid, our Baptist preachers were “Brother Last Name”, although the habit of calling other church members brother and sister was largely gone.

Geosez
April 24, 2013

I’ll put my two cents (with inflation, about fourteen cents)worth in. (1) What about the ones named “Gathering”, “Vineyard”, or some such,then in little tiny letters on the sign it says “a United Methodist congregation” or “member of the SBC”. (2) I once spent a few afternoons in a missionary Baptist church (jazz ensemble rehearsal) and was impressed by their mission statement, posted prominently at the front, which ended with words to the effect that if they were ever unable to sustain their church/mission/calling, they would disband and join a larger church. (3)Allen Lewis, if you’re listening, Piedmont Bank and Trust in Davidson became a First Third. Daddy always called it “those interlopers from Charlotte”!

Geosez
April 24, 2013

I meant “Fifth Third” of course.

Kathy C
April 24, 2013

There used to be a Bank of Alex Brown in one of the little towns on the Sacramento River.

JFKAR
April 24, 2013

I’m still partial to Firesign Theater’s Powerhouse Church of the Presumptuous Assumption of the Blinding Light.

Micha Elyi
April 24, 2013

To answer Elkanah and CarolynP who wonder how Mary, Mother of God rightly has “Queen of Peace” among her many titles:

1.) Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
2.) Jesus is the Davidic King who reigns forever and ever.
3.) In the Davidic kingdom, the mother of the king is Queen.
4.) Mary is mother of Jesus.

Mary is the Queen of Peace. QED.

1-4 are in the Scriptures. If you have to ask where, I guess you really don’t know the Bible too well after all.

The Bible is a Catholic book.

LaVallette
April 24, 2013

In Christianity, this establishment of new churches has been going on since the Reformation and the rejection by the Protestants of anything resembling a Magisterium. It is based on the principle of “sola scriptura” (in its various manifestations with their inclusions and exclusions) ) and the claim that “if you can read it you also have the right to interpret it for yourself and reach your own conclusion”.

WannabeAnglican
April 25, 2013

Another bad church name – “Family First Church” Just down the street from my church. As a single, I reject that church as soon as I see the name. As a Christian, too. It’s God first, idiots.

An Episcopalian
April 27, 2013

Most interesting church name I ever saw was on a little storefront place named “Heaven or Hell Church of God in Christ” in Portland, Oregon back in the 1990s.

There is a whole denomination of Vineyard churches by the way. Started in SoCal in the late 60s/early 70s out of the Jesus People movement.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
April 28, 2013

If you like Soeur Marie, Mr. Johnson, give this a listen. It is absolutely eternal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwFYUJb03d0

(I hope that works)

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