It doesn't take many clues to know a lot about a church. I can usually tell you when a church was founded, where it is located in the town, and its demographic just by hearing the church name.
In Baptist life if the church is a First church it is usually very old, dating back to the 19th or even 18th century depending on the region. First Churches are usually downtown and usually have an older, white-collar demographic. First churches are also generally more liberal and intellectual in their theology.
Then in the early 20th century, there was a trend to name churches for biblical places or markers like Ebenezer, Calvary or Zion. These churches tend to be out of the town and have an older, blue-collar crowd, and the preaching is what I call "good ole gospel."
When the 1950s and '60s came along naming a church for the road it was on was the trend. So, you see churches like Thomas Road Baptist Church, or Whitesburg Baptist Church popping up. This era of new churches was trying to find a middle ground between the liberalism of the downtown church, and the fundamentalism of the blue-collar church. These churches tend to be program-driven and are focused on ministering to the whole family.
In the 1990s contemporary churches were all the rage. So, you saw a lot of contemporary churches named something like Crosspointe, or Northpointe. They are generally more "seeker friendly" and are a reaction to the "busy-ness" of the program-driven church. The contemporary churches are staff- or elder-led and fall into a "simple church" model, focusing their ministry on the working family.
Recently, the trend in church names is what I call "hardcore adjectives." Churches that have been planted in the past five years are usually named something like Journey, Elevation, or Ignite. Hardcore adjective churches do a good job reaching the younger generations, 35 and younger; and being new churches they tend to meet in schools, gyms and even skating rinks.
All of these different types of churches, when they started were trying to be relevant and were on the cutting edge of reaching people. Eventually, they all fell or will fall into a comfort zone and develop their own methodology and traditions.
I gave you this brief history lesson on the American church because I want to give you a little background on my vision for First Baptist in Covington.
When I was in seminary and was observing the different eras and different types of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention it was always discouraging to me. The church of our Lord was so divided by music, preaching style, and age demographics.
It seemed like churches that had a heart for reaching the young and unchurched were all young. They had very little age and experience in their church body. Then the churches that had any measure of adults 60 and older had a void of youth and energy.
I began to ask, "What if a church could be both?" What if there was a church where the older and more mature believers had a heart to reach the young, the edgy, and un-churched; and were willing to get out their comfort zone to do so? What if there was a church where the young respected their more mature brothers and sisters and learned to lean on them for wisdom and strength? What if there was a church where people weren't separated by age but united in one accord for the sake of the Gospel?
That was my hope coming out of seminary and is still my hope today. That is my vision for First Baptist, that we could all realize that we are a part of a body that works together for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ.
The local church is a picture of the Kingdom of Christ at First Baptist and I pray at your church that picture is becoming crystal clear. For the glory of Christ, Amen.
Jason Dees is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Covington. He can be reached at 770-786-9031 or www.firstbaptistcovington.com or www.facebook.com/jasondees.