Our church needs a new name. I’m on our church naming committee. I think they made a mistake. I’m not creative or inspired. I’m practical.
Scott and my friend, Lisa, can spend hours poring over logos, color schemes and themes for the Wrestling Club. They love the details, and they’re so good at it. I’m thankful for Lisa. Before she joined the Wrestling Club, Scott would ask me about colors, logos and themes. I could hardly even pretend to care. He wasn’t impressed.
For a while there was a suggestion box in the back of our church. Anyone could suggest a good idea for a new church name. I think there were four suggestions in one year.
Half of the suggestions in that box were from my children: The first was, “Poop”; signed by Eddie, actually written by Olivia, pretending to be Eddie. The other was “Brothers Understand The Truth Society”, or “Butts”, which was written by Eddie for real. And that’s the story of how you get elected (forced) on a committee when no one else volunteers. Thanks for the shenanigans, kids.
Right now the name of our church is, “Sauk Prairie Evangelical Free Church”. Really rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? That’s not a good name. It’s too long.
Our church isn’t the only one with a name problem. I’ve heard others. Some Catholic churches go out of their way to include every spiritual word they ever liked in their name.
Have you heard of, “St. Francis National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith”? That’s a Catholic church in Canada.
When I hear these super long names I want to say, “Can we all just calm down? Please. Let’s just calm down.”
Some of the other members of our name-changing committee are marketing gurus in real life. That’s what they do for a career. They talk at length about the implications of finding the right name. They talk about things that have never, and would never, occur to me.
If I was the only person on the name changing committee, we’d need one meeting. We would be quick about it. We’d choose something like, “The Brown Church”, “The Cool Church”, “The Not so Churchy Church”. I like things straight forward.
On vacation our family had a lot of time to kill in the van together, Scott and I started having some fun with this name changing challenge. The game started with me admitting I had no real talent for coming up with something clever. He wanted to help.
When we ran out of legitimate ideas, we started offering up names for the church based on whatever caught our eye:
Culver’s (That franchise started in our town. So it makes sense.)
Tubby’s Tavern (I can see some problems with this one)
Wow. Those were a lot funnier after ten hours of riding in a van together.
All the talk of church names led me to ask my family another question. This is the kind of question you can only ask your kids when they’re trapped, and can’t get away from you. I asked my family to describe their ideal church; their fantasy church. I said that I wanted to know what kind of church they would be excited to get up in the morning to attend.
Olivia said something about a place that handed out perfume samples and hot fudge sundaes during the service. I told her that isn’t exactly what I meant. Should I expect more from someone who suggested “Poop” as a church name? See, she looks sweet, but you gotta watch out for her.
I said, “Church is a place you go to connect with God in a meaningful way. Church is also a place to encourage and be encouraged by other people who believe the same things you do. Most importantly, a Christian church is not JUST a place to learn about the Bible. Church is a place to feel what the Bible teaches. Church is a place for people who have faith, and people who have lost their faith. If Church is right, then people who’s souls hurt can find relief there.” That’s what I said to my family. And then I added, “But perfume samples are a good idea too.”
I started thinking about my own fantasy church. Here it is: My fantasy church meets outside. Yeah. That wouldn’t work in Wisconsin, but we’re talking fantasy here. So, don’t bring me down.
I have always felt God’s presence more keenly in nature. Never one to wax poetic, but have you seen a sunrise lately? Have you seen the sun reflected on the water and smelled the air after it rains? Whenever I am in nature, my reflex is to thank God. Gratitude is a great way to start church.
At my fantasy church people wear what they want. If they like to dress fancy, they can dress fancy. If they want to wear sweat pants and no shoes, that’s good too. Nobody’s paying attention.
We’re heavy on the music at my fantasy church. God gave us nature and music. For so many of us these gifts put us in God’s presence like nothing else can. What can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up like music? Music leads me to a genuine state of worship. God asks us to worship. So, we’re going with lots of music in my fantasy.
After the music someone brings the Bible to life for us. They teach us what it says, what it means and how it’s relevant in 2014. Then, one person will share a story with us. They’ll tell us about a challenge they’re facing right now, and how God has spoken to them and helped them grow. That’s the God I want to hear about. The God I believe is alive in real time. The God I can talk to; who is affecting our lives. Right now.
We’re not big on rules at my fantasy church. We do have a few. One of our most important rules is: NO pretending aloud. Nobody does anything for the purpose of impressing others, got it? Everybody is authentic, sincere and says what they mean.
If you’re addicted to pain pills, scream at your kids too much, hate your mom, pour vodka in your morning coffee or are stealing money from your boss, it’s safe to say so at my fantasy church. They’re not surprised by that; they expect it. They know people are messed up. They know that’s why people need God.
It will feel good to share our troubles with people who love us at my fantasy church; they will listen and they will care. They will care enough to tell us the truth. The truth won’t always tickle our ears. The truth might make us do things that seem hard or even impossible: saying we’re sorry, confessing our secrets, practicing self discipline we don’t think we have, forgiving, trusting, letting go. At my fantasy church only the truth will be spoken. The truth will set people free.
I think that’s it. Oh, one more thing. No. Two more things. Nope. I guess I’ve got three more things. Hey, this putting a church together stuff is more complicated than I thought.
In my fantasy church you can’t be offended. Well, you can, but not for long. You can’t sit in the pew and feel sorry for yourself because you don’t like the music or the preaching. And you DEFINITELY can’t go home and complain to your family about it.
In my church, if you have an idea that could improve anything: the service, the music, a relationship, you go right to the person who can make it happen. You tell them your idea in a positive way. You become a part of the solution.
If I hear you’re nursing your offense, I’m gonna have to do something dramatic. I’m gonna hit the eject button. That’s right. In my fantasy church, you can get ejected right out of your pew for behavior like that. We don’t mess around.
We’re quick to laugh in my fantasy church too. God filled life with things that are funny; we appreciate that. Super serious people won’t like my fantasy church.
The last thing is that we’re not going to carry on all day at my fantasy church, okay? I’m sorry. This is my fantasy. My rules. At my church we cater to folks with the attention span of gnats (me). We let all those smart, note-taking, teacher’s pets (Scott) carry on after church to discuss things in greater detail. We’ll let them get the extra credit, while we chase butterflies.
If the person in the front is taking too long, guess what we’re gonna do? That’s right. Hit the eject button. Don’t worry. They land on a trampoline. It’s not like I’m mean.
Would you like my church? Some people would HATE it. I have a friend who told me she loves the formality at her church. Most of the service is sung in another language, and she says it soothes her soul.
Another friend told me he just wants to go put his time in at church, and then just get the heck out of there. He doesn’t want to make friends. He said he doesn’t want any more out of his church than credit for being there. That’s his fantasy church.
I can think of name for his church. I’d call it, “The Church for the Super Duper Lame People Church”. Wow. Maybe I’m better at coming up with names than I thought. That was just very clever. Now I have to ask for forgiveness.
God gave us all unique preferences. I prefer things that feel real. I don’t want a church name that sounds rigid or intimidating. I don’t want a church that feels that way either. I got some real life going on here. I need a “Church” that is going to help me through it. What does your fantasy church look like?
Here’s a song we’re definitely singing at my fantasy church: