Why Our Church Changed Its Name

Until recently, I’ve never taken much stock in names. I know the importance of names all throughout Scripture, but being a 21st-century American, I had lost so much appreciation for the power and importance of a name.

I remember the process renaming the band I was part of many years ago. Eventually, after going through dozens of name options, I suggested to the other guys in the band that we just put some words in a hat, pull a couple out and see what we got. We landed on Monochromatic—a name I loved but a name I hoped was actually the opposite of who we really were musically.

The church I help lead started as the 20s ministry of Discovery Church in Orlando, Fla., in 2003.

I’m not sure of the process the early leaders went through in choosing the name, but they landed on STATUS. Not caring much about names, and loving the legacy that name now carries, changing our name wasn’t important to me or the rest of us in leadership for quite a while.

But as God brought us to a new place in ministry, where we were ready to launch out from under the wing of Discovery, it seemed like it was time.

There were a few reasons for this.

1. STATUS had become known as a 20s ministry.

It was difficult to get away from the excellent name recognition that had come from being an active part of our community for almost a decade. Of course, this was a tradeoff but one we felt was important as we launched into a full-fledged, intergenerational expression of the local church.

2. The possible cultural implications of the word STATUS.

We recognized the word STATUS was—at best—ambiguous in its meaning as the name of a church community. Is it a ministry? Is it a church? Is it a nightclub? The name STATUS had actually become more culturally relevant in the decade we had been using it, but still, it had no meaning in defining who we were.

3. A name has the opportunity to express who we are and who God is shaping us to become.

This is the most important one. The two reasons above are significantly less important than this third reason. A name can be a prophetic expression of the role God is identifying for us to play in our context and in the global Church.

We selected a group of people to go away and pray, talk, brainstorm and engage in the process of renaming us. Our initial conversation involved them asking, “Who are we?” and, “What do we hope this name says about us?” and, “Use some words to describe how you see us.”

I remember saying at the end of that initial conversation, “I know there is a process you all are used to when it comes to branding things, but you’ve been selected for this task to be artists; to be prophetic; to ask God who He says we are and bring that name to us to live into.”

Soon after that conversation, the name of the team changed from “Branding Team” to “Identity Team.” Sure, this was to be our “brand”—who we are and what our unique contribution is. But more than that, it was to be our identity—our Divine nomenclature.

After about 10 months, the team proposed one idea: City Beautiful Church. It was so exciting. The words, the philosophy and the visuals all reflected who God was calling us to be. An amazing reality but even more meaningful and significant when you know Orlando’s tagline is “The City Beautiful.”

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Cole NeSmith
Cole NeSmith is the pastor of City Beautiful Church in Orlando, FL. He also creates interactive art and experiences through his creative collective, Uncover the Color (uncoverthecolor.com). He blogs at colenesmith.com and is on Twitter at @colenesmith