You may not know this, but I go by my second name. Yep! My full name is Arvin Randall Myers. However, my parents have called me “Randy” from the get-go. You may ask, who would call their newborn “Arvin?” Part of the reason is that my dad was trying to follow a family tradition in which my initials were to be A.R.M. They thought of Allan, but Allan Randall sounded too close to the same name. I ended up with Arvin as my first name! So goes the story.
I share that to talk about another name – “Evangelical.” Since our beginnings with Jacob Albright, we have had the word Evangelical as part of our name. Then we were known as the “Evangelical Association” (1816). When we merged with the United Brethren in 1946, we were called the “E.U.B.s” – The Evangelical United Brethren. And when we didn’t join the Methodists in 1968, we incorporated as the “The Evangelical Church of North America.”
The name “evangelical” runs deep in our group and many of our local churches have it as part of their church name. Now, I don’t want to offend anyone, but I think we all should consider dropping “evangelical” from our name. When I pastored in Bend we were first called the “Bend Evangelical Church.” Then, it was changed to “New Hope Evangelical Church.” However, we soon dropped the “evangelical” and became known simply as “New Hope Church.” Why did we do that? Here are three reasons it may be appropriate to consider it for our group.
Our name is often misunderstood. The word has lost its meaning. Most people don’t know what “evangelical” means. That’s even true of people attending our churches. What does it mean? It comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” The evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation through Jesus Christ as declared in God’s Word, the Bible.
Our name is often mispronounced. Maybe it’s not a big deal, but some just can’t pronounce the word. “Ee -van’-gal-i-cal” is one that I hear from time to time. It is simply not a commonly used word in the English language.
Our name is often misapplied. Our culture has highjacked the word “evangelical”. According to scholar Ryan Burge, “the term has now morphed into a social, cultural, and political term that stretches far beyond the boundaries of Christianity.” When people describe themselves as evangelicals, many associate it more with a political position than spiritual beliefs.
BEFORE YOU GO
Someone said changing our name isn’t that important. It’s like painting a barn; it may look better, but we still need to repair the barn! But if something this simple can help, why wouldn’t we go ahead and paint the barn?!?
So what do you think? Should we consider changing our local churches’ names? Our Conference? Our Denomination? I’d love to hear your reasons for and against dropping “evangelical” in our name?