“How did you get to that church name?” I’ve thought that in most cases when learning any congregation’s name. It’s not an inherent derision of the name, but just a question of curiosity. Some names are obvious because they speak to my own pastoral inclinations. Some names sound like they were conceived in suburban D.C (ahem, how many Crossway’s or Crossroad’s are there?). Other names remind us of the days of yore, where apostles were Saints, and they owned terrestrial property.
While there are ways we could poke fun at certain church names, and bemoan naming trends in certain strand of church planting ventures today, let me just speak to how we chose our name.
At the heart of our church was the Gospel. I wanted something that communicated the Gospel clearly and immediately in the name. If we’re cross-centered, I wanted our name to be cross centered.
In New England, while most people do not care about the Gospel (link previous article), their sense of church is infused with Roman Catholicism, or maybe more broadly, “High Church”. There are two ways to think about this: 1) Pick a name that’s definitely not Catholic (Journey Church, or something like that), or 2) Pick a name that pulls from that linguistic tradition. We did the latter. I chose King’s Cross more from our high church Anglican brothers. Having been raised in the UMC, I’ve always had a very formal, non-emotive soft spot for the Church of England, so this one was easy in some ways.
Given that Manchester specifically was founded on primarily French Canadian and Irish immigrants, Roman Catholicism is deep in it’s cultural ethos of how it thinks about church and religion. Now, I know that a church name won’t win somebody for Jesus, but I hope it would make them feel a little more familiar and comfortable to visit a church from their tradition (unspoken and unconscious though it be). A church name that sounded Roman Catholic was something I was willing to risk for the sake of people feeling comfortable with the existence of a new church which they’d hopefully visit.
Another factor under cultural considerations is that nobody, read this, nobody in New England cares about Sovereign Grace Churches. They do not know about any of our history, and do not care that we’re Gospel-centered. Thus, we’d gain nothing by putting our denomination in our name. Moreover, in a post-Christian world, denominations smack of an old, 1950’s crusade’s feel that may deter people. Moreover, “Sovereign Grace” would strike me as a bit confusing as a non-believer. What does “Sovereign” mean? We’re in New Hampshire you know, Live Free or Die. And why is Grace sovereign? And how does that relate to church? The title assumes too much Christian knowledge to be useful – in my opinion – in the post-Christian New England. (Which, by the way, is where you’re small town America will be in 20 years.)
I don’t want to take pot shots at other church plant names, but I will say this: I often wonder how a trendy church name will communicate in 50 years, and what that says for their longterm discipleship plan. Our log, font and color may change in 50 years, but I wanted a name that endured from generation to generation. By pulling from a “high church” or Catholic/Anglican pool, I was intentionally picking a name that would last. As we are gathered by Christ through the Gospel, so we expect more and more people to be saved through God’s work among us, which included our children. I think names that pull from an older linguistic day have more cache to last into the future. King’s Cross Church, or like names, have a name for the future of Gospel ministry here (and won’t sound dumb in 50 years). I think that honors the Gospel.
A Christ-Centered Noun
Theologically, the name pulls from the early church’s teaching about Christ “reigning over us from the cross”. It ay sound strange to talk about a king on a cross, but that’s the nature of the Gospel. The King on his throne, the cross. Baffling to angels and men, it is the only hope of the world.
Moreover, the name is a noun and only a noun. The church of Christ is not focused on our journey or conversation with Christ. The church is defined by Jesus dying on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and justification of God’s glory.
Thus, we landed on King’s Cross Church – The king of glory, who ascended to his throne of glory – the foolishness of men and offense to the world. But it is this King, on his Cross, that saves men and women into his Church.