Changing the Christian Label ?

I was asked recently if labeling something anything other than Christian was misleading (if it has a Christian focus). I dont think it is, in part due to my study, but also, the head banging of being behind the scenes when www.christianforums.com changed to www.foru.ms. It was not a trivial, nor easy call, and although the name changed back when the site was sold, I still firmly believe the name change was the right one at the time. The Godtube folks likely also struggled with this, when they changed to their name to Tangle.

3 reasons why Christian may not be an appropriate title/label:

1. The title Christian creates expectations, ie orthodoxy, but usually as defined by individual members, and that does cause conflict, as very few folks agree. In another case, member expectations, ie how can a Christian message board not allow me to use scripture anyway I want, including to bash and flame others? How can anything other than sugar coated G family friendly topics be discussed? How can you allow crude or sometimes explicit language to be used? How can you allow folks to express anger at God? How can you allow a Jewish person or a Muslim to share their faith, and why they believe what they believe?

2. The title Christian for hurting individuals often carries negative connotations, ie bashing and hypocrisy are the most common, but in some cases, there is so much focus on politics, guns, flags, homosexuality and abortion, that Jesus and the Gospel gets missed almost entirely.There is also the issue of outreach. Ie In talking with folks who outreach to Muslim’s, if you say you are Christian, they often will ignore you and walk away, if you talk about following Jesus, there is a bridge to the Qur’an.

3. The title Christian can be a marketing hijack… Ie, folks come, because its Christian… not because it necessarily exhibits the fruits of the spirit, or even that the Gospel is present.  Sadly, the label far too often results in putting a lampshade over ones faith, and hiding away from the world, rather than engaging the world. In other ways, its preaching to the choir. (not that there isn’t room for that, nor that such is improper, it can be a good thing). One of the concepts of foru.ms was that google was indexing topics… you want to know of redemption, google would bring you to foru.ms. You are looking for a recovery group for those previously in the sex industry, google would bring you to foru,ms. And if you were looking for Christian, there would be so much of a Christ focus, that google would bring you to foru.ms. The intent in part was foru.ms would exhibit the fruits of the spirit, and rely on the love of its members to bring folks, not the title.

To counter this…
The use of a Christian title upholds us to higher standards. Ie, if its Bobs forum, and it goes south, its just Bobs reputation. If its named after or includes Jesus…. pretty much bad stuff tends to make Jesus not look so good. From a pragmatic pov… using the word Christian is not cool. From an idealistic pov… using the word Christian, and upholding Him in all things is pretty cool.

5 thoughts on “Changing the Christian Label ?

  1. I totally agree. We need to lighten up, do our bit & leave the rest to God. Not being ashamed of the name of Jesus, but not being threatened by new ways of connecting. Hard to introduce people to Jesus unless you connect with them first. You explained it better! A

  2. I have to say I don’t really understand the changing the name thing. Yes there’s baggage. But it won’t be long before Christians with the new name start being obnoxious…and what are we going to do, change our name again until we stop being obnoxious?

  3. @anita
    Thank you for the very kind comment 🙂

    @pastorjoelle
    On a global level, its unlikely for any specific ministry to gain a following such that its name would get hijacked, but its possible. Ie if Saddleback went obnoxious… thats a huge problem.

    In part though, I think the entry you wrote on dysfunctional congregations ties into this. The name change, and the ripples it created, ripped the dysfunction to shreds, and in some ways, it was like starting over, but in hindsight, likely not quite enough. Tangle seemed to have weathered the storm a lot better than we did… albeit they had pretty big funding, and a lot more resources to draw upon to manage the transition.

  4. Ron,
    Well put. Thanks for this article. It’s more of this kind of contemplation that we need to think about. Very cool!

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