What’s In A Name

Grace Christian Assembly.

That’s the name we came up with several years ago.  We were meeting as a body of believers and were preparing to file our charter with the State of Tennessee.  So, we needed a name.  But, that name has also caused a bit of confusion.  Some folk have seen our sign or ads in the paper and thought that we were perhaps affiliated with the Assemblies of God.  We are not.

In an effort to make our theological affinities clear, we added the phrase “A Sovereign Grace Fellowship” to our name and logo.

But, let me tell you why we settled on the name Grace Christian Assembly.  When the time came to establish ourselves as a non-profit church organization, I walked up to a chalkboard and wrote the word “Grace,” saying, “Whatever else we say about ourselves, or however we define our purpose, the grace of God is the centerpiece of what we teach and preach.”  The members agreed.  “Grace” had to be part of our name.

Now, most churches include a reference to their denominational affiliation somewhere in the name, like “Smyrna First Presbyterian,” “Holy Cross Lutheran,” or “Nashville First Baptist.”  But, Sovereign Grace Churches are normally autonomous congregations that are not connected to a central presbytery or council.  While we do share a fellowship and often meet in conference with other grace churches, “Sovereign Grace” is not a denomination, per se.  So, when people ask me what denomination I am, I say, “Christian.”

So, I wrote that on the chalkboard – “Grace Christian.”  That summed us up quite well, I thought.  But, it begged for a third word to answer the question, “Grace Christian what?”  And, the standard answer would be, “Grace Christian Church.”

But, I’m a stickler for detail.

The word translated “church” in the New Testament is the Greek “ekklesia.”  It is composed of the little word “ek,” or “out of,” and “klesis,” meaning “a calling.”  The emphasis, though, of “ekklesia” is on the people being “called out” – they are “out called ones.”

Now, the English word “church,” handed down to us from the Celtic “kirke,” has similar roots.  The most probable etymology of “kirke” comes from “kuriakos,” which means “the Lord’s.”  But, over time the word “church” has come to represent the building where the Lord’s people meet, as opposed to designating the people themselves.  And, the best word-for-word translation of “ekklesia” is actually “assembly,” putting the emphasis back where it belongs – on the people who are called by God.

When people walk into our building, the only sign we have in the foyer is a picture of a tulip with the words “The Church is a people.  This is the building where the Church meets.”  We want to drive home that distinction.  The Church is not a building, despite the popular misuse of that word.

I wrote “Grace Christian Assembly” on the chalkboard.  And, someone asked, “Will people think that we’re Assembly of God?”  We pondered it.  But, as I’ve said repeatedly, the cure for wrong use is not no use.  The cure for wrong use is right use.  Just because one denomination has rightly used the term “assembly” shouldn’t stop us from also using it.  And, we were agreed.

So, our name suitably portrays who we are.  We are Christian people, called-out by God, assembled under His name and authority, and saved by His grace.  And, as noted, we added the line “A Sovereign Grace Fellowship” to quell any confusion.

And, to be honest, I like the name.  GCA is like no other church I’ve ever been a member of.  God has blessed us abundantly and we abound in His grace.

And that’s what Christianity is all about.