BY THE REV. DAVID MERRITT |
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. – I John 3
The initial stage of Christianity was often referred to as The Way, a descriptive way to distinguish following Jesus in opposition to the other sects of Judaism. Our church, the Moravian Church, has a descriptive name as well in that our legal name has often been different over the many years of its existence. So, what will be the name of your congregation in the coming years?
May I suggest that we might want to think differently about church life in the coming year based on how we have changed internally to meet the challenge of the pandemic and racial divisions in our world. Perhaps our name may become more inclusive…Open Door Moravian? Maybe our digital presence should be celebrated…Livestream Moravian – a virtual and physical community of faith? For churches that have biblical or generic names, a different approach might be additional information; such as…loving all children of God, meeting here but living our faith, mission incubator, or even faithful followers!
If you are reluctant to change your name, that’s OK but thinking about our life as believers may need some lively discussion by our boards, our church school program, and our standing committees. Congregations, according to our understanding of Scripture, should be about the business of being light, salt, leaven (the good kind), charity, hospitality, boldness, and compassionate sharing. Perhaps our vision for a New Way might include language that supports the call to be engaged in this world as laborers, anglers, builders, and not merely “hearers only” as the New Testament suggests.
I will confess that this way of thinking is not what I anticipated as our biggest challenge even a few years ago. Yet, there is power in naming a problem or even a solution. The Old Testament practice of renaming a place or a person because of God’s action might be a good way to understand our current situation. The followers of Jesus garnered their name as a matter of distinction. “Look, those are followers of Christ – they’re Christians.” The early years of the Moravian Church had many names attributed to the beginning of a movement of reform, renewal, and cultural/political change. So names change as we change. We change because we respond to the work of the Holy Spirit, as believers who listen, hear, act, and respond to the commands of Jesus.
So, perhaps A New Way is not really new…is it? It is the call to follow Jesus into the world that is already poised to embrace the way of our Good Shepherd, the Lamb who we follow!
About the Author
The Rev. David Merritt is a retired Pastor, former Dean, Outreach Director, and Chaplain, but he’s “papa” according to his grandkids. David loves God, Laurel Ridge, and his family. He has enough sense to get out of the rain but prefers raindrops anyway.