As we continue to pray for God’s direction as we begin the process of starting a church. I ran across this email from a friend named Steve Jesmer. He is the pastor of The Dialogue Church in Worchester, MA. Here is his process of creating a name and identity for their church.
The Dialogue Church
a community in conversation
Why Not the Baptist Label
We discussed the reasons why we don’t want Baptist in the name (we don’t want to use words that form the wrong pictures in people’s minds). We feel that this particular label no longer communicates what is important about the mission of Jesus. The label has become self-defeating and positive only to those who already believe in “Baptist” doctrine. I don’t wish to further a label that tends to be seen in a negative light or carries so many connotations that need to be weeded through prior to a clear understanding of church and the gospel.
Labels Feed the Consumer Mindset
It feeds into the church consumer mindset, where we are creating connoisseurs of church; our labels instead of defining us for who we are, are defining us for who we are not.
Labels Disintegrate (and so do their original meanings/intent)
It is no longer possible to really understand what a church is all about by knowing its label. It is always necessary to reevaluate labels and to possibly come up with new ways of expressing the label or recycling the concept/truth behind it all together and creating a new word/label.
Labels Divide Community and Causes
I want to blur the lines of division in the church, to create a unified front on the things that matter most. Being divided sends a confusing signal to those in our community about the Christian church as a whole. What good is it really doing to uphold the “pre-adolescent” grudges against our brothers and sisters in
Christ (and even those beyond the family of God)? I don’t know how accurate the Baptist label would be of the Dialogue Church. We want to exist with no label other than the spiritual label of love that we cultivate over time within the community. We don’t want to market to the already convinced Baptists, they wouldn’t agree with what we are doing anyway. But we do want to associate with the history and faith traditions
of the past. For example, I don’t mind stating in our by laws where our core doctrines are stemming from (this will be multiple Christian groups through the centuries as stated in various creeds, Christian worship
practices and spiritual disciplines.
Labels Eliminate Dialogue
I don’t want anyone to be able nail us down with one word; that skips the whole process of dialogue which is the key to developing relational depth in the present and over time. Labels skip the relational. We see having no label as an incredible opportunity to open the pathways of discussion and learning. Without the label we are free to define ourselves instead of being at the mercy of the label’s meaning in the mind of the “onlooker”. I don’t mind being “baptistic” in doctrine if that is what we truly
Labels Elude the Mission
Ultimately, what makes an entity a church: the name, the sign, the label, the language? I believe it is the nature and the mission of the community that makes it a church. The nature is who we are in Christ, the mission is who we follow and what He has asked us to do (Great Commission through the Great
Commandment). We placed “The” in the name because it makes more sense rhythmically. It flows better off the tongue that way.
The Word dialogue is important because:
It speaks of core activity within our strategy and structure. It speaks of what all people truly yearn for: deep communication with God and others. At the heart of the gospel is “spiritual dialogue”; that is what communion with Christ is all about. Dialogue is more than an exchange of words; it is an exchange of
gifts to the point where we share our lives with one another. The Dialogue is a new spiritual community for the 21st Century.
“Dialogue” speaks of.
. Process . Patience
. not pushing or pulling but being
. Journey . Discovery
. A safe place to be yourself and express your thoughts alongside other journeymen.
Biblical Basis for “the dialogue” Name
dia logos (Greek) – through the word
Through the word, God spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1; Hebrews 11:3))
Through the Word becoming flesh we have salvation (John 1:14)
Through the Word life is sustained (Mat.4:4)
Through the Word we are made clean (John 15:3)
Through the word we are able to comfort one another (1 Thes.4:18)
The Dialogue – As a Church Name
A church name should say who you are. And I mean more than labels and which dialect of Christian language we speak. We want a name that accurately reflects who we are and also leaves
room for plenty of curiosity and conversation. Imagine a name that could clearly and succinctly define our
ministry activity. I want a name that formulates the right picture in people’s minds
of what church is like and about. I would rather have a name that helps us accomplish our purpose
than a name that helps people identify us as a church. Because really, what advantage does that give us today? If someone is looking for a church, would they look for
something with the name church in it?
I would like a name that right away says, “This place is different. Whatever I thought church was in the past, this could be something different and therefore I might just check it out.”