A recent post highlighted in stark detail evangelicals’ poor reputation to those outside the faith. I wonder if it’s time to change adjectives.

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. I first noticed the trend many years ago when I read about this pastor in Southern California, Rick Warren. He started Saddleback Valley Community Church in 1980. Hmmm. I wondered what “flavor” it was, since there was no denomination in the name. Turns out: Southern Baptist. Rick figured it would be tough enough planting an evangelical church in this increasingly secular part of the world, so it was best to leave Southern Baptist off the sign.  Now, I think that says more about the brand than the target audience. Nonetheless, this model continues to this day, with many denominational churches hiding their affiliations.

The latest trend: dropping Church. For example, what was once First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fl is now just “First Orlando.” Sounds like a bank. A representative told me the name is now easier to find via social media. Typing two words instead of four IS easier.  What does it say, though, when a church decides to stop branding itself as, well, a church? Could it be that the word is not inviting enough? Yikes. That’s not a good sign, pardon the pun.

Well, could Evangelical be the next name dumping victim? It’s among the most powerful words in our faith. It’s derived from the Greek word that means “gospel” or “good news”. A simple definition: Someone who emphasizes the authority of Scripture and a personal conversion and rebirth through faith in Christ.

Rev. Corenna Hoyt, Senior Pastor of the formerly named Evangelical Covenant Church in Riverside, Rhode Island told me the church dropped “Evangelical” from the title years before she came on board because of the polarizing nature of the name. Her church is now called Riverside Covenant Church. She believes the former leaders did the right thing, recalling that in her former position doing outreach ministry, “Every single unchurched person I knew thought evangelical meant you’re judging me. You think I’m bad. I’m going to hell. I have to jump through hoops and obey a bunch of rules before you’ll be kind to me.” She also says political polarization doesn’t help the brand. “A lot of it is political, but the name change pre-dated Trump.”

Now, the fact is Jesus IS demanding. A good example, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) One of the key themes of the Bible as it relates to faith in Christ: We are to lay down ME to follow THEE. That said, we must remember that effectively witnessing always focuses on the importance of HOW the gospel is shared. The troubling trend—-Pew Research reports one out of three non evangelicals has an unfavorable view of evangelicals—means we are falling far short when it comes to living as salt and light.

Like those who feel making disciples is easier done by dumping troubling names like Baptist  and Church, maybe we should just drop Evangelical and call ourselves, Christ followers. You’ll noticed I didn’t say Christian. That name has been so watered down, it means little positive to a lost and hurting world.