Shakespeare's character, Juliet, asks a good question: "What's in a name?" Would Romeo be any different to her if his name were Steve? Would she love him less? When we think about church names, we really ought to ask that question.
Biblically churches were identified by a lose nomenclature. For example, in Acts 13:1 the church meeting in Antioch is called the church in Antioch. In Paul's letter to the Romans he mentions Phoebe who was a servant of the church at Cenchreae. This is simple. Many churches still name themselves by their general location. Maybe the name of the church is the street their building is located on. Or maybe it's a regional thing.
The Bible doesn't dictate that names have to be geographical, however. In some cases, this would be really difficult. So some churches take names from other significance. Living Stones Church is an example that comes from 1 Peter 2:4-5. A friend of mine named the church he planted Taproot Church because the taproot is the strong root that grows deep down and anchors the tree. Some churches just select catchy words like Velocity or Amazing or some other buzzword. Some churches go with Greek or Latin names. Or maybe the church is named after a saint of the past.
Theology often makes an appearance in church names. Many churches attempt to draw distinctions by including theological words like grace or faith or free will. Or if it's not a theological distinction, it may be a practical one. To indicate something about a church they may add Bible or community or evangelical to their name. And of course many churches at one time held the denominational distinction in their name. First Baptist. Some Church Presbyterian.
A lot goes into a name, but in the end, the church may actually be the same if it's called the Romeo Church or Steve Church. The local church is a gathered group of disciples who have covenanted together to be a local church. Who they are will say much more about the church than the name. A bad name can be problematic, but a good name really will only be a good church if the people are good, Jesus loving people in strong unity.
Jared Jenkins and I discuss this in greater detail as well as give some examples, make jokes, and share personal naming stories on this episode of Salty Believer Unscripted.
*Photo taken by Romana Klee is registered under a creative commons license.