The Journey

Is anyone tired of hearing about "The Journey"?

Do this for me... Google "Journey Church". How many different journey churches are there? I lost count. Did God lead all of them to name their church Journey? Or "Journey (insert denomination here)"? Or "Journey (insert city here)"? Did they not know that 100 other churches named themselves that? Maybe every church should be called Journey? It seems pretty silly, doesn't it?

Is there such a thing as Journeyism? Or Journification? Are you a Journist? Have you been Journified? Maybe we should create a Journian Denomination? (the spell checker is going haywire right now.)

What a long, strange Journey it's been...

Other church name copycats: Gathering, Mosaic, Life... can you name a few?

So what is the motivation for all this copycat behavior? Is there nothing wrong with copying church names? I'm not saying there is, apart from the fact that it annoys me, but why should it annoy me? I guess because it seems fake to me. Does it seem fake to you?

"What is in a name?" Is it identity? Branding? Vision? Mission? If so, is it okay to borrow that and build upon it? Maybe yes. Or are we watering down the important ideas that words like journey, mosaic, life, community, and gathering represent? Do they somehow mean less now that they seem commercialized and overused?

Let's speak candidly... is there something popular about these names? Something trendy? What percentage of churches named Journey chose that name prior to 1990? Who were the first church to describe themselves as a "community of faith"? Did Erwin Mcmanus invent the idea of Mosaic as a church name? If not, who was first? And how long ago was that? Are these new names?

So more broadly, what is the value of newness? Why is having a new name important? Does the newness of the name somehow trump the value that the name itself implies? Is naming your church Journey really about having a passion and focus for the journey, or is it more about sounding new? When you first heard the name Journey, did you think "That's meaningful" or "That's a cool name"?

Now what do you think?


David Golden said...

It's a question worth raising, but not get too worked up about. It's certainly nothing new: start counting all the "First ... Church" and "Trinity ... Church" that you can find. Coming from an old established denomination such as Methodist, I find myself getting annoyed at all the churches who try to update their image by presenting their name in a new way: "Christ Church / A Ministry of the United Methodist Church." As important as names are we seem to have done a poor job of it through the centuries. Even denominational names such as Methodist and Episcopal refer to organizational structure rather than what the church is supposed to be all about. So anyway, if a new generation of churches tend to copy each others' names, that's nothing new.

My annoyance lies with the overuse and decreasing meaning of the description "emerging." Is a church "emerging" when it sings praise songs from the 1980s and 90s and the latest CCM hits? Is it emerging if its worship looks just like any other of thousands of churches? Is it emerging if it targets young adults? "Emerging" has become a kind of buzzword to appeal to people who also like words such as "extreme" and "radical." It sounds edgy, but what does it really mean? When can a worshiper or church say that they have finally "emerged." Or is "emerging" a more authentic state to be in, just as we all want to be on the "journey," but it's no fun to say we now worship at "Destination Church."
Now, I'm not at all criticizing the name of your blog, because whatever IS emerging is going to come from discussions like this! And I have visited or seen websites for many churches (uh... faith communities) that I would describe as "emerging," although many of them would never use that label to describe themselves... they are simply there to worship!

Ken said...

I agree. Emerging is in the eye of the beholder. There's a pastor here in the Portland area that describes it this way.

"It seems everywhere I go and speak these days people ask me the same question. It is, in some form or another, a version of this: Are you part of the emerging church? If they ask it another way it may be are you Emerging or Emergent? The letter “T” has become very important to them.

My common reply is; We seem to get put in the camp of Emerging, so I suppose we are.

Then the questions move to what the Emerging church believes about this or that. To which I reply the same things Baptists believe about it.

They scratch their head, think about what I have said and then ask, Which Baptist?

To which I reply, “exactly”."

I love that. I don't think it has anything to do with worship style. It is more a description of a set of values. And each person or church that identifies in some way with the emerging movement has adopted a set of values that they think are emerging. Words like missional, postmodern, and the like get thrown around. But its more than that. Its also partially a new hermeneutic, or a rethinking of hermeneutics. It is really undefinable at this point.

But I don't mind church names that describe a denomination coupled with a location (Greenburg Presbyterian). At least that is somewhat useful.

Anonymous said...

Ken, as one who walks with a community who bears the moniker "Journey", I appreciate your conversation and your prodding. I encourage you to continue to challenge those who serve the One True Lord. The only thing I caution you with is to be careful not to trample on those who God has called to walk alongside you, albeit with a different zip code. The name of a church really is irrelevant. What does matter most is the name that it lifts up. Regardless of the name a particular "church" has, if it exalts it's own name, then it is by nature idolatrous.

Again, thank you for sparking this conversation.

Ken said...

I enjoy sparking conversation. I'm not trying to trample on anyone. I would love to hear the story behind how your church chose its name. It would be enlightening. How would you describe your church's vision and mission? Would you say that the journey is the focus?

I'm not sure that I agree that the name of a church is irrelevant. To be sure its not as important as Jesus' name... but irrelevant? Shouldn't it be important?

Tony Myles said...

Maybe it's less about the words we use and more about why we chose to use them. For some, The Journey means they've copied a church in New York. For others, The Journey means something personal and organic from their own pilgrimage.

I'd personally like to be a part of the second church, although you'd probably read more in the newspaper about the first.

Ken said...

Yes Tony, exactly! That's what I'm getting at. If there is a meaningful story that led to choosing that name, I'm all for it! It's the copying (or at least the appearance of it), that seems superficial.

Anonymous said...

What is the meaning with Our Place? Any connections back to Indianapolis?

Ken said...

It comes out of Psalm 90:1, "Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations." It is meant to convey a sense of home, of family, of destination... "Hey, come on over to Our Place". It also creates a sense of ownership among those who are a part of Our Place. The church is not meant to be owned or ruled by the professional pastors and paid staff, but the ministry of the church truly belongs to all, it is all Ours. The church is Our Place. And our identity is found in the Lord. Our place is found in God. People of all generations searching for their place, their way to fit in, to participate, to live... They can find all that and more in the Lord, in relationship with Him and with others. Our Place is found in Him. He is Our Place!