So, what’s in a name?

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.”

Let’s Talk

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?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Rachael says:

    I hear what you’re saying and that makes sense to me too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Folmer Strunk says:

    Thank you Supt. A. Randy. Yes, my experience over the years is the same as yours when it comes to the term evangelical. I understand the term, so it has never bothered me if it was in the local church name.
    However, it does not bother me one whit if it is not part of the name of the local church or of the conference or denomination. The term “evangelical” has been so distorted by so many through the years that it would probably be wise to make a change whether or not we were to become part of another denomination.
    Folmer

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your perspective on this. I agree.

    Like

  4. leann miller says:

    I absolutely agree that it is time to drop the name Evangelical. Society has co-opted and changed the meaning of the name to the point where it has become a barrier. People hear the word, “evangelical” and they stop listening to anything we might have to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. William Harold Vermillion says:

    I have taken some time to contemplate how to respond since I taught a course on “Who is an Evangelical” and then have been in the course in Korea on 20th & 21st century Evangelicalism taught by Dr Purinton with his doctorate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). You have raised this before and you do a good job here of presenting the bIblical roots and the denominational historical roots all having to do with The Good News, the Gospel of Jesus. You undoubtedly know that groups like World Evangelical Assocation (WEA) and the National Evangelical Association (NAE) have explored this in-depth for themselves and decided to keep the term. I know for Portland Seminary they felt the term evangelical identified them with a spectrum which was too narrow. I disagreed then and still do but acknowledge that there are certainly misunderstandings about the term. I see the lack of understanding what the name evangelical means or even problems pronouncing it as fantastic opportunity for teaching winsomely and have done so on planes, in stores and even in the church. I often cite the British Scholar Bebbington. Historian David Bebbington provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:
    1. Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a lifelong process of following Jesus .
    2. Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts.
    3. Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority.
    4. Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity
    These distinctives and theological convictions define us — not political, social or cultural trends. In fact, many evangelicals rarely use the term “evangelical” to describe themselves, focusing simply on the core convictions of the triune God, the Bible, faith, Jesus, salvation, evangelism and discipleship. So I will continue to use and support the term evangelical. If we give up the term let us be sure we do not give up the core convictions.

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    1. Dr. Bill, you make a strong case. I agree that the word “evangelical” has significant meaning and consequences for us. It is unfortunate that it has been misused and distorted by our culture. I view this as an American (USA) challenge expressly. I recently talked with a pastor in Scotland who told me that the word “evangelical” has no political overtones in Britain. In fact, they deliberately include “evangelical” in their church name. It helps distinguish who they are as a church, especially among immigrants and international students.

      Like

  6. Bill Vermillion says:

    I have taken some time to contemplate how to respond since I taught a course on “Who is an Evangelical” and then have been in the course in Korea on 20th & 21st century Evangelicalism taught by Dr Purinton with his doctorate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). You have raised this before and you do a good job here of presenting the Biblical roots and the denominational historical roots all having to do with The Good News, the Gospel of Jesus. You undoubtedly know that groups like World Evangelical Association (WEA) and the National Evangelical Association (NAE) have explored this in-depth for themselves and decided to keep the term. I know for Portland Seminary they felt the term evangelical identified them with a spectrum which was too narrow. I disagreed then and still do but acknowledge that there are certainly misunderstandings about the term. I see the lack of understanding what the name evangelical means or even problems pronouncing it as fantastic opportunity for teaching winsomely and have done so on planes, in stores and even in the church. I often cite the British Scholar Bebbington. Historian David Bebbington provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism: 1. Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a lifelong process of following Jesus . 2. Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts. 3. Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority. 4. Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity These distinctives and theological convictions define us — not political, social or cultural trends. In fact, many evangelicals rarely use the term “evangelical” to describe themselves, focusing simply on the core convictions of the triune God, the Bible, faith, Jesus, salvation, evangelism and discipleship. So I will continue to use and support the term evangelical. If we give up the term let us be sure we do not give up the core convictions.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. I Peter 1:3-5 NASB Bill Bill Vermillion 1441 S Ivy St. Unit 503 Canby Or 97013 Cell 503 453-7146, home 503 266 9337

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dr. Bill, you make a strong case. I agree that the word “evangelical” has significant meaning and consequences for us. It is unfortunate that it has been misused and distorted by our culture. I view this as an American (USA) challenge expressly. I recently talked with a pastor in Scotland who told me that the word “evangelical” has no political overtones in Britain. In fact, they deliberately include “evangelical” in their church name. It helps distinguish who they are as a church, especially among immigrants and international students.

    Like

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