This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Actions speak louder

What is a church to do when it is convinced the surrounding community is interested in Mennonite and Anabaptist beliefs but turned off by a Mennonite and Anabaptist name? Two Nebraska congregations from different denominations are the latest to answer a question churches have asked for decades.

Pastors of what has become Living Hope Church in Henderson and what will become Summit Street Church in Beatrice claim removing “Mennonite” from the name is not about removing Mennonite beliefs but removing a confusing barrier to sharing Christ.

“I’m not interested in any change that isn’t oriented to following Jesus,” said Pastor Tim Amor of Beatrice Mennonite Church. “If the name’s in the way, change the name.”

Actions will ultimately speak louder than words on a sign, especially in a small town where strangers are few. No matter what it is called — a name change, rebrand or relaunch — shrinking congregations in need of reinvention or revitalization must dig deeper than a new coat of paint if they want to share distinctive Christianity with people looking in on Anabaptism from the outside.

A church may be known to passers-by through its building and sign. But the actual church — its culture and spirit and mission — is found in its people. If a church truly wants to better connect with its community, especially in a small town, a change must start with those people instead of an updated name.

Now might be the window of opportunity. Although COVID-19 restrictions have delayed the Beatrice relaunch, Amor believes this time of upheaval is an opportunity to embrace flexibility and change that has been resisted.

“The truth is, unless we do something physical, it has to be big enough and different,” he said. “And still we’ll need the Spirit to move and people to invite to get people to come.”

Mennonites know actions matter. Like the song says, “they will know we are Christians by our love,” not our name.

Tim Huber

Tim Huber is associate editor at Anabaptist World. He worked at Mennonite World Review since 2011. A graduate of Tabor College, Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!