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A Rose By Any Other Name

On the day that I turned 21, I got in my car and drove strait to Beverages & More, the upscalish liquor emporium up the street from my house.  As a slid my bottle of banana-flavored schnapps the checker apologetically looked at my bearded face and asked to see my ID. It was the first and last time I was ever carded. I think about that moment every time I drive past the store, now renamed along with the rest of the chain as BevMo. Granted, the new name is much easier to say, but other than convenience of pronunciation there was nothing to warrant such a re-branding. The store is exactly the same on the inside, right down to the color scheme. That’s fine by me and I will bet that most people who shop there don’t even remember the original name.

Churches love re-branding. The current “missional” churches claim to focus on going out into the world and being relevant to non-church folks. Just like the “seeker-sensitive” churches did that they replaced and now eschew. I can’t feel bad for the seeker churches either, because they simply did it to the churches we just call “traditional” now, with the source of all ecclesiastical tradition dating back to the ancient days of the mid-1950’s. LarkNews.com recently posted the best piece of satire on the subject I have read. I wish I knew who the author was so that I could give him credit, it may be Joel Kilpatrick, who holds the rights to the site. Here it is, a report on a new “edgy” church.

Edgy church breaks old rules, insists on new ones

ROCHESTER, Minn. — At The Circle, a young, innovative church which meets in a renovated bus depot, there is no pulpit, platform or pastor, as such. The congregation rejects the labels “Christian” and “congregation,” preferring “followers of Jesus” and “friendship community.”
There are no ushers, but rather “helpers.”
There is no worship team, but rather “God artists.”
And woe to anyone who affixes traditional church labels to any of it.
“God’s doing a new thing here,” says Mitch Townsend, the leader of the church. He shuns the “pastor” label and insists people call him, “Hey, man,” or simply “Dude.” If someone slips and calls him “pastor,” he bristles and gently rebukes them.
“We got rid of all those old labels,” he says. “There’s no going back.”
At the church office, which they never call a church office but rather “the Hub,” secretaries, or “community action facilitators” as they are called here, tap-tap on computers (which they still call computers) and take calls.
When a visitor slips up and refers to The Circle’s “sanctuary,” Dude Townsend cuts him short.
“Listen, it’s not a sanctuary, it’s a meeting place, a gathering place,” he says, flushing red.
“Sorry, pastor,” the visitor says.
“Not pastor,” says Townsend. “Dude, or friend. Or just hey, Mitch.”
“Sorry, Dude Mitch,” the visitor says uncomfortably, and slinks away. Mitch quickly goes to him and hugs him.
“We’re all about love and freedom here,” he says. “I know it’s hard to get used to.”
At a Sunday morning “gathering,” as services must be called, people sit in chairs arranged in circle around a “focal point” (not a platform) and listen to the team of God-artists play instruments and sing “songs of adoration and devotion to the Creator,” as opposed to praise and worship music. The gathered “posse of Jesus followers” is free to sing along and to express themselves in any way that seems “real and authentic.”
“We strive to be genuine here,” says non-pastor “Hey, Jim” Richards, who in another setting might be called an associate pastor. “It’s about being who you are, not fitting into a pre-determined box.”
Before Dude Mitch’s personal sharing time (which markedly resembles a sermon), one visitor raises her hand and says, “Is there going to be an altar call? Because I really want to give my life to Jesus today.”
Dude Mitch answers quickly, “We don’t have altar calls here; we have ‘God moments’ or ‘Creator re-connects.’ And we don’t say ‘give your life to Jesus,’ but you may begin a lifelong love relationship with the Creator-Friend, if you like. But please wait until we are done with sharing time.”
After the service, “new friends” join in the “kick-back hall” for refreshments and conversation with the Dudes and other Hub personnel. They may also join a mid-week “hang-out crew” of 10-12 people which meets in a home, and which is steadfastly not referred to as a “small group.”
“Anyone who wants a break from normal, rigid church life is welcome at The Circle,” says Townsend.

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