What do you think of the name of my church: “Faith Church”? I checked the historical records we have on file, and they begin in 1968 after the name of the church was already decided. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a transcript of the discussion that led to our name “Faith”? Why did whoever picked the name “Faith” go with that name? There are other churches in our denomination with the name “Faith.” In fact, sometimes the postal service delivers mail to my Faith Church, but addressed to the pastors of those other Faith Churches. There’s one in Harrisburg and another in Temple, PA. Each of those are older than my Faith Church, so maybe the group of people who started Faith Church just picked what was a common name for churches in that era. Nowadays churches can be quite intentionally creative with their names. Some might say that “Faith” is a boring name for a church, when compared to names like “Burning Hearts” or “Journey.” There’s nothing wrong with those names, but I would like to propose that “Faith” is an excellent name for a church.
The problem is that the concept of “faith” is not as straightforward as it might seem. What is faith? “Faith” is often understood as “religion.” The Christian faith. The Catholic faith. The Muslim faith. Used that way, “faith” refers to a set of beliefs. So when attached to our church, is that what we mean by “Faith Church”? Are we referring to a set of beliefs? Yes…and no. We certainly hold to beliefs. In fact, the official name of our church refers to those beliefs.
Our full name is “Faith Evangelical Congregational Church.” Evangelical Congregational (EC) is the name of our denomination, the group that planted Faith Church in 1968 as a daughter church of Grace EC which was located nearby in the City of Lancaster. Faith Church and the EC Church do not use “evangelical” in our name because we agree with the politicized contemporary meaning of “evangelical.” Instead we hold to the biblical, historical meaning of “evangelical.” “Evangelical” is a Greek word that means “to proclaim good news,” a word which the earliest Christians used to refer to preaching the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, our central belief. 2000 years later, we agree!
Next “congregational” refers not to the congregationalism of New England, but to the idea that each local congregation owns its own property and decides on its governance structure. In other words, the denomination does not own our property, and EC leaders have no authority over the governance of our church. We do, however, voluntarily connect to the denomination because we believe it is important to be part of an accountable relationship, and we do agree with the doctrinal beliefs of the denomination. We hold to the EC Church’s articulation of biblical teaching as summarized in the EC Church’s 25 Articles of Faith and book of order called The Discipline.
But “faith” is so much more than beliefs and doctrines. I would go so far as to suggest that if we understand the concept of faith as simply beliefs, then we have misunderstood and misappropriated our faith. If our faith is just our opinions about biblical teaching, then I don’t believe we have faith. Because the writer of Hebrews says, “without faith, it is impossible to please God,” it is important that we answer the question: what is faith? As we will learn this coming Sunday, faith, as it is commonly held, is insufficient to please God. We need faith that is more than faith. How can faith be more than faith?
In our continuing series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we are learning to walk in step with the Spirit, which means growing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We’ve learned about growing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and this coming week we’ll study what it means to grow…faithfulness.