Category Archives: Classic Posts

Celebrate the Passages in their Lives

I think of myself as being sentimental, without being a sentimentalist.  If that sounds a bit like double-talk, perhaps it is.  I don’t want to be one of those sappy, teary-eyed parents who commemorate every14-birthday-trip.jpg single milestone in a kid’s life as if it were some gigantic cosmic moment worthy of a request to make time stand still.  At the same time, there are certain moments that I think are worthy of reflection, celebration and commemoration.  What those exact moments might be are perfectly open to debate.

I had a cathartic experience seventeen years ago in Washington, D.C.  I was there taking a summer symposium as I was completing work on my doctorate with Nova University.  Part of my doctoral studies demanded of me a grueling week-long session of seminars and lectures from educators coming from institutions that ran the gamut from Harvard to Cornell to USC and more.  My wife, a “retired” history teacher who loves, (I mean LOVES) Washington, DC, accompanied me with our at-the-time 15-month-old, and then only child.  If I was busy, she was a whirlwind.  Generally she was up before I was – heading off to a museum, tour or site-seeing expedition and would often come in at night after I had been released for the day.  This was pre-cell phone days, so I had no way of keeping up with her, but she was having a blast.

One afternoon, the administrators of the program had mercy on us and gave us the rest of the day off.  Julie and I decided to take a cruise up the Potomac River to Mount Vernon to see George Washington’s estate.  It was a beautiful day for a long, leisurely cruise and the boat wasn’t particularly crowded.  Sitting in the air-conditioning, a young teen-aged boy came by our table and took a particular interest in Nathan, who was just an engaging toddler.  There weren’t any other teens on board and so the boy soon started talking up a streak with us.

During the course of the conversation, I discovered that the boy had just turned thirteen.  He was Jewish.  He was on a trip with his dad who was a big-time lawyer from Los Angeles.  This trip was a gift (turns out a bar mitzvah gift) from his dad upon turning thirteen.  He could chose to go anywhere in the country he wanted to go with his dad.  Oddly, we actually bumped into this kid and his dad twice more during our trip to Washington…something that had almost insurmountable odds of occurring.  Each time, he would come over and “update” us on his trip and his dad would come over as well and we’d engage in some small talk.  I could tell they were having an awesome time.

I vowed that I would do the same with Nathan and any other kids we were to have.

It didn’t take long for the years to roll by and Nathan turned thirteen.  I presented him with a “gift certificate” explaining the trip and giving him “options” and “suggestions.”  At first, he seemed a little non-plussed and I felt disappointed.  But as he began debating where he’d like to go, what all we would do, things we could see, he became more excited and so did I.  He finally chose California.

So I cashed in my frequent flyer miles and polished up my credit card and off we took.  It started off with a bang when we landed in San Diego and got upgraded to a red Camaro convertible for free!  We tore off our shirts and went “cruising” like a couple of rubes – which we were.  (Actually, it worked out quite well for me, I was able to take Nate on the trip of a lifetime and have my own mid-life crisis adventure at the same time.)  We traveled the state from Tijuana to San Diego to LA to Yosemite to San Francisco in eight days.  It was a blast.  We laughed.  We fought.  We hiked.  We goofed off.  We talked.  We debated.  We just had a great father and son time. 

I14-roller-coaster.jpg’m still paying off the credit card bill, I do believe.  Since then, Julie has taken Megan (“coincidentally” their trip was to Washington, DC) and Katie (Cruise around the Caribbean) while I had an incredible trip to the Grand Canyon and Southern California a year and a half ago as we finished the ritual celebration of all four of our kids.   As I look back upon it, I must say that this “rite of passage” trip we enjoyed may well be one of the most important times we ever had together.  The benefits have paid off for years and years as we’ve relived and re-discussed those care-free days together.

I’ve seen other “rites of passage” ideas since then.  I know of one guy who made a scrapbook of letters and counsel for his son.  Another guy I read about had different friends of his meet his son for a long hike during which they took turns passing on advice to him as they walked together.  Yet another idea was a “tribute” dinner where everyone offered “toasts of counsel” to the guest of honor.  I still like the idea I got from that little kid on the boat and his dad the best.  The boy is now in his late thirties and I have no idea whatever became of him.  But a brief interaction with this boy and his dad nearly two decades ago sure did a lot to enrich my relationship with my own children.

Having a rite of passage event or two for any child may be something worthy of consideration.  It’s a great time to talk about values, principles, goals and future plans.  It’sfather-and-son-walking-jpg.jpg also a great time to talk about nothing, just hang out, make a few memories, and pose for a handful of pictures – all of which may bond your relationship for some future moments of stress or trial.

Now two of my kids are out of the nest.  One of them is married to an awesome guy and they will present us with our first grandchild in a few weeks.  My remaining two are in their final years of living under our roof.  A different phase of life for us is just around the country.  At this point, I have more to look back upon than to which I am looking forward in terms of being a parent.  But in my mind, memory and heart, I cherish those days we spent together celebrating the passages of adolescence and young adulthood.

I hope you’ll consider a few planned special trips, days and celebrations as your children grow up and make a plan to transfer spiritual values, family heritage and privileges of maturity as they get closer to the days when they too will be parents traversing the pains and pleasures of rearing children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Weird Sermons I’ve Heard — (Now tell me yours…)

preacher-460×360.jpg

I wrote this post over 3 years ago and someone brought it back to my attention recently, so I thought I’d repost it to bring a little levity to Monday.  Enjoy and share your favorite “Weirdo Sermon” for the rest of us to enjoy!

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From 2008

I estimate that in my 47 years of life, I’ve listened to (or listened to myself preaching) somewhere just over 12,000 sermons.  That’s about 5 per week and considering all the revival services, conferences, school chapels, etc… I’ve sat through over the years in addition to the regular schedule of Sunday morning, Sunday school, Sunday night and Wednesday night services, I think I’m being very conservative in my count.  Let’s just agree that I’m not being hyperbolic with  my count.

In that dozen-to-the-power-of-a-thousand number, I’ve heard some powerful messages filled with depth, inspiration and spiritual meat.  But, I’ve also heard some stunning clunkers, odd-and-I-mean-ODD stuff and a few out-n-out heretical junk.

I thought I’d share my weirdest ones and then ask you for yours (which is why I am really writing this list.)

1. The Washcloth Sermon

When I was a kid, my pastor was once preaching on I-don’t-know-what, but he went off on a tangent about washclothes and sissy men and said that “Washclothes have a rough side and a smooth side and real men use the rough side to wash and only sissies use the smooth side.”  This thoroughly traumatized me as not only had I not noticed the differences in sides (not exactly observant, was I?), but I highly suspected that I had been using the smooth side which made me a total Nancy Pants.

2. The WEIRDEST Internet Sermon EVER

This freakazoid has been making the rounds all over the internet and is a YouTube sensation.  He preaches on a verse from the KJV that uses a coarse term for urinating in the most twisted way you could ever imagine.  At first, I thought it was a parady, but I’ve heard from others that this guy is for real — and I use “real” in the broadest sense of the word I know.  You’ll find it HERE.

3. Anti-Wire-Rim-Glasses Sermon

I once heard a guy preach against Wire-Rims because they were worn by hippies and hippies believed in revolution and free love and promiscuity.  Sadly, this was during the 1980′s and he was about 25 years too late.  Poor Benjamin Franklin, he never really had a chance.

4. The “Don’t Part-Your-Hair-Down-the-Middle” Sermon

According to this one, those who parted their hair down the middle were closet gays.  If your hair was long and parted down the middle, well you might as well wear a tutu and wave a rainbow flag.  Real Christian men wore their hair high and tight — like in the military.  I always wondered what this guy said when a lot of gay guys started cutting their hair real short.  (Interestingly, this guy was later revealed to be one of the most immoral guys to ever stand behind a pulpit.)

5. The Pink Shirt Sermon

During college, an entire chapel service was dedicated to the topic of guys who dared to wear lavender or pink shirts — a hot new fashion trend in the early 1980′s.  To make the matter even more offensive, the preacher lambasted a simultaneous trend that was taking place — wearing a knit “sock” tie (I don’t know why they called them that) which one wore tucked into the top of the pants.  Apparently, the tucking it in at the top of the pants was somehow suggestive.  My friend snorted when he heard that and asked if they were going to outlaw the girls wearing necklaces next.  Of course, guess what I was wearing that day?  Yep…a pink shirt with a gray knit tie neatly tucked into the top of my pants.  (Does anyone notice the preoccupation with sexual subthemes here?)

6. Satan Claus Sermon

I’ve actually heard multiple sermons about Satan vs. Santa — both cause people to lie, both wear red (Not sure about the theological basis of Satan wearing red), both have the same letters in their names, both from the “north”, etc…, etc…  Variations have included preaching against the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Christmas Trees and Halloween.  (I’m actually in agreement with some of the points raised about turning cultural icons and traditions into mini-idols, but just don’t know that the topic is worthy of an ENTIRE sermon.)

7.  Date Setting of the Rapture

I’ve heard some real whacky prophecy preachers set some general dates for the rapture that have included the years 1976, 1981 (Planets were aligning), 1988, 1989, 1993, 2000, 2007 and so on.  Some even used urban legends to bolster their claims like that the vultures in the Middle East were laying more eggs than usual in order to eat the leftover carcasses of those killed at Armeggedon.  I’ve always been curious as to how cats dropped from ladders always land on their feet and how prophecy gurus who consistently misinterpret current events in light of eschatological Scripture passages still have any credibility at all, let alone maintain an audience.

8. Health Food Sermons

Our little church had a pastor that went through a health food kick and who insisted on preaching on the topic every sermon for MONTHS.  It culminated in a bus load of “believers” going to the city to have some quack analyze their spit and map the blood vessels in their eyes.  (I think they may have had to sacrifice a goat too…JUST KIDDING!)  One of our old deacons who lived into his nineties muttered — “I’ve been eating a bowl of ice cream every night before I go to bed for the last 30 years and I’m not about to stop now.”

9. Sit-Close-to-Your-Husband-While-You-Are-in-the-Car Sermon Tangent

This was actually a rabbit trail on a larger sermon on the topic of romance. I heard a guy wax on about how you shouldn’t own a car with bucket seats and that real Godly wives always sat right next to their husbands while they were driving.  (Shall we all pause to roll our eyes right now?)

10. Square-Dancing-is-of-the-Devil Sermon

Apparently, for some, wildly skipping in geometric patterns while boomeranging a partner with nearly enough force to cause a concusion while working up a sweat that would make an NFL running back in Miami during summer training look like he’s chillaxin’ can lead to wicked thoughts, fornication and possible evil concupiscence.  I can’t help wondering, however, if I’d learned to square dance when I was younger if I might still be able to see my feet.

So what your favorite “sermons”, tangents and illustration that made for memorable moments during your pew-sitting experiences?  Feel free to share them in the comment section and have a great Monday!

A Church Name by Any Other Name….

I thought I’d post a “Best of….” article this morning.  We were talking to some friends last night about different styles of churches and our “adventure” of trying to find a church near our new home where we fit.  It reminded me of this article where I discuss church names.  Feel free to add your thoughts at the conclusion and please, don’t take me (t00) seriously….

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Recently, I was asked to “weigh in” on the topic of Baptist Churches who, for a variety of reasons, don’t actually put the word “Baptist” in their church name.  For some, this is a pragmatic concession to avoiding doors where there should be windows in a church’s public image.  For example, use the term “Baptist” in many areas of the Northeast and you might as well be saying “cult” or “racist” or “Latter-Day Saints”.  Others are less noble and practice a sort of religious “bait-n-switch” moniker assignment which is intended to get people to give them a try who might have had some sort of negative “Baptist baggage” lurking in their closet and would otherwise pass them by.  Whatever, the rationale, it is a matter of great consternation in some circles of brethren who have apparently wearied of other great theological lint-picking topics.

But, as is the frequent case in this blogger’s ADD-addled mind, the topic of church names has been bouncing around for several weeks and I realize that there are actually some fairly interesting sub-groupings of church titles that can be both amusing and acceptably stereotypical.  Let me share a few with you….

1. Churches with One-Word Names

1rock-worship-center-sign.jpgThese churches have cool, hip-even, names which often sound as much like a rock band or a let’s-open-the-dictionary-and-point-at-any-word-and-use-it exercise.  Here are a few that I’ve seen recently: Kinetic, Elevation, Front-Porch (technically 2 words, but still hip), Mosaic, Celebration, North_______ (as in -ridge, -point, -pointe, -side, -ward, etc…), Impact, Lift, LatterRain, Life, and Fellowship.

These churches are generally for the younger and hipper crowd (that means not me) and their pastor is usually still shaving with a cat and a bowl of milk.  The pastor usually doesn’t own a suit and if he should be caught wearing one, he wouldn’t apologize more if you caught him naked as a jaybird or wearing a silk teddy.  Often, they will shave their head and polish it with lemon pledge which gives them a nice shine and a friendly lemony aroma.  If they don’t shave their head, they will spike it, wax it, mousse it or towel dry it to get that “I just got out of bed” look.  Often, they will produce kewl-looking facial hair (even in the presence of a totally bald head).  Soul patches (that little tuft that grows between the chin and your lower lip), line side burns (which look like someone ran a charcoal briquet from sideburn to near the chin) the 5-day-old-5-o’clock-shadow look (which really is cool unless you have a beard like mine that grows straight out at which point you end up looking like a pubescent porcupine) and the every popular goatee du jour.  State-of-the-art techno worship, stage props and coffee made from beans that have been passed through the digestive system of South American racoons complete the “One-Word” named church experience.

2. Churches with names that prove that they use THE Bible

These churches put it all out front and they are NOT ASHAMED.  They believe that if they offend you before you actually walk in the door, they have begun the work of the Lord.  Often, these names begin with “in-your-face” declarations like “Bible-Believer’s Baptist Church” (which is to imply that other churches may technically be churches, but really they don’t believe the Bible 1churchsign.jpgbecause if they did, they’d have it in their church name like we do.)  But then, some good fundamentalist brethren decided that to merely say “Bible-Believers” was a compromise and so they took it a step further with the “KJV Bible-Believers Baptist Church” (because if the KJV was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it should be good enough for us!  Amen?).  Well, as the FFF would have it (Freakish Fundamentalist Fanatics) that wasn’t good enough, so some decided to adopt the coup de grace of Bible-believing church names…. The 1611 KJV Bible-Believers Baptist Church and all was well in fundamentalism.  Until, of course, someone decided to name their church the Hyles Baptist Church (I’m not making this stuff up) after the legendary (in his own mind) Jack Hyles — universal protector of the KJV after 1988 or so.  At any point, one can anticipate the formation of a Ruckman Baptist Church or a Riplinger Baptist Church.  (No use explaining this to the sane…just do a google search for “Peter Ruckman” or “Gail Riplinger”.)

These churches are usually so exclusive that they break fellowship with themselves every few months at which they refer to their former “Bible-Believers” as members of the Alexandrian Cults.  Their pastors choose hairstyles that are of several approved styles: 1) High and Tight — you know like they give you on the first day of boot camp or the first day in prison; 2) the ever-so-stylish pompadour; 3) recommended by Brylcream or 4) the artistic weave (practiced by guys who have developed a totally clear landing strip down their dome but are still in serious denial thus they weave the few pathetic strands from the sides of the road and which are now six feet long artfully into a poor imitation of a combover which is really quite amusing should you be so lucky as to be near them on a windy day.) 

These guys also sleep in wing-tips and polyester suits (double-breasted preferred).  White shirts are the sign of a true man and if you dare wear a pastel-colored shirt, you should simply join a Metropolitan Community Church as you are surely gay.  Wrinkles are OK, cuff-lins aren’t and navy, gray and black are your only options.  Members are expected to be able to pass dress-check when entering the vestibule.

3. The More-the-Merrier Named Church

There is a definite co-relation between the number of words in a church name and the racial composition of its congregation.  As a general rule 3-word named churches will be as lilly white as a Brigham Young football game.  Four-word named churches can go either way.  But when you hit five words in a church name, you can bet your tithe check it is a church for “brothers” and I don’t mean in the spiritual sense of that word.  Any time you see these words used in a collection of four or more  followed by the word “church”, well you just gotta’ know they’ve got some good gospel music happening inside: Apostolic, Deliverance, Faith, Prophecy Divine, Holiness, Pentacostal, Zion, Horeb, Missionary, Ebenezer, House, Prayer, United, Holy Ghost/Spirit.  These churches also seem to have the market on 15-passenger vans pretty much cornered.  Many a tragic accident has nearly occurred because of a driver’s insistence on trying to read the entire church name from one of these fellowships while driving 70 down the interstate.

4. The Fundamentalist-Sub-Title Church

These particular churches are usually small and want you to know who they are before you even think about walking inside.  At the same time, heaven forbid that you think they might be a black church, so they won’t put all their adjectives in the actual name of their church.  They use “sub-titles” instead.  Watch for their signs, but plan on reading them twice.  They will use the traditional 3-word name like “Bible Baptist Church” or “Calvary Baptist Church”, but then underneath, you get the whole scoop.  In smaller, but still clearly readable letters, they’ll tell you what “kind” of Baptist they are with a series of additional informative adjectives like: Independent, fundamental, missionary, soul-winning, Southern, premillenial, pre-wrath, post-wrath, amillienial, separated, BJU-supporting, GARB, non-charismatic, moral majority, Republican, pro-American, anti-immigration, gun -totin’, “Christ-honoring” music, women-can’t-wear-pants, Christian-school sponsoring, anti-NIV, IFCA, SBC, ABC, CBC, BBF, SWBF, IBBF, FBF, anti-Purpose-Driven, Purpose Driven,  Beka-Book, homeschool, anti-cell group, no drums, CCM, just-say-no-to-wire-rim glasses, etc…  If you don’t line up with all the subtitles, you’re basically not welcome, because, well….what would people think of us if we allowed the likes of you to worship with us?

5. The Obscure Bible Terms/Names Church

1church-sign-2.JPGThese churches seem to look far and wide to find little known places in Biblical geography or obscure or obtuse theological terms that may be “code” to the knowledgeable to name their congregations and give them a unique identity.  Look for these words: Ebenezer, Gilead, Zion, Pisgah, Horeb, Herman, Berean, Corinthian, Laodicean, Pauline, Pergamus, Adventist, Ephesian, Bethany, Desiring God, Christ-Honoring, Believers, Abiding-in-Him, Covenant,  Glad Tidings, Petra, Colossian, etc…  Unless you have a seminary degree, upon seeing the church title, you might simply furrow your brow and say, “Huh?”

6. The Upright (and at times, Uptight) Church Name

All churches are technically institutions, but some are INSTITUTIONS and you can often see that in a name.  For example, any church that has “First” in it’s name is an INSTITUTION.  They have squatter’s rights to the spiritual of that particular denomination.  Yes, you may indeed go to a non-numbered church or on occasion, a lesser-numbered church (in the USA, I’ve never seen a number go higher than 4th, but it is possible.  I once attended a Thirteenth Baptist Church in Santiago, Cuba.)  But if you don’t go to “First Church”, well then, you’ll always just feel a little lower than the others.

Another category of the Upright/Uptight would be churches named after Streets.  This poses somewhat of a dilemma if the church chooses to relocate to a different street (see High Street Baptist in Springfield, MO and Thomas Road Baptist in Lynchburg, VA), but usually they just ignore the address and keep the name.

Another great signal is any name with Memorial in it.   If there is a Memorial in the name, you’d better believe that someone from the individual’s family is still a member there and woe, and I mean WOE, to the pastor or individual who would dare consider changing the name of the church to something else.

These churches usually keep a pipe or Wurlitzer organ in the sanctuary even if no one knows how to play it.  Guests who enter when the pipe organ style is being played have been known to spontaneously genuflect even when they’ve never been in a church before.  When the Wurlitzer organ is playing, guests are known to have experienced episodes of confusion and furtively whispering to their spouses something about forgetting their roller skates.

On some occasions, as a church is transitioning to a more contemporary style or is still at war with itself as to whether or not we should try to keep their teens attending the church, you will find the organ accompanying a praise band which makes for a most-interesting, er, uh, shall we say, “Instrumental Cornucopia” of sounds and rhythms.  One will also note that the organ is always placed as far as is architecturaly possible from the trap set on the platform.  But if the organ ceases to be in view, the upright/uptight church must change it’s name to a one-named church.  (Which is usually easier to accomplish AFTER the split rather than during it.)

There are other groups of churches classified by name categories, but my time for writing is over on this day.  For those of you who are positively foaming at the mouth with rage over my tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor, please relax and get over yourself a little bit.  We can laugh at ourselves and not be apostates.  I’ve actually attended, pastored, preached at, been members at churches that fit all of the above categories and then some.  If you know of a category that really needed to be mentioned, feel free to add it in the comments section.  And if you can’t laugh with us, just laugh at us.  It won’t matter in a hundred years.

What’s in a (Church) Name?

I’ve been on vacation the last few weeks and every time that I spend any time in the Bible belt, I become mesmerized with the issue of “church names”.  Frankly, I think that the reason some of the names get so unusual is because they simply run out of them.  In some small North Carolina towns, there are more churches than the actual population, I do believe.  I can pick out a church that keeps rattlesnakes under the front pew from a mile away, for example.  How’s that, why they almost have a name that goes like this… “International House of Deliverance and Prophecy.”  Emergent churches usually have one-word names (not counting the actual word “church”) and it is preferred if that word ends in “-ion” as in Revolution, Restoration, Elevation, Inspiration, Constipation — or something like that.  Actually, there is a lot in a church name — more than usually meets the eye.

So, I have decided to re-post one of the most popular “humor” articles I’ve ever posted here in case you weren’t around 15 months ago when I first published it.

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Observations on church names….

1. Churches with One-Word Names

1rock-worship-center-sign.jpgThese churches have cool, hip-even, names which often sound as much like a rock band or a let’s-open-the-dictionary-and-point-at-any-word-and-use-it exercise.  Here are a few that I’ve seen recently: Kinetic, Elevation, Front-Porch (technically 2 words, but still hip), Mosaic, Celebration, North_______ (as in -ridge, -point, -pointe, -side, -ward, etc…), Impact, Lift, LatterRain, Life, and Fellowship.

These churches are generally for the younger and hipper crowd (that means not me) and their pastor is usually still shaving with a cat and a bowl of milk.  The pastor usually doesn’t own a suit and if he should be caught wearing one, he wouldn’t apologize more if you caught him naked as a jaybird or wearing a silk teddy.  Often, they will shave their head and polish it with lemon pledge which gives them a nice shine and a friendly lemony aroma.  If they don’t shave their head, they will spike it, wax it, mousse it or towel dry it to get that “I just got out of bed” look.  Often, they will produce kewl-looking facial hair (even in the presence of a totally bald head).  Soul patches (that little tuft that grows between the chin and your lower lip), line side burns (which look like someone ran a charcoal briquet from sideburn to near the chin) the 5-day-old-5-o’clock-shadow look (which really is cool unless you have a beard like mine that grows straight out at which point you end up looking like a pubescent porcupine) and the every popular goatee du jour.  State-of-the-art techno worship, stage props and coffee made from beans that have been passed through the digestive system of South American racoons complete the “One-Word” named church experience.

2. Churches with names that prove that they use THE Bible

These churches put it all out front and they are NOT ASHAMED.  They believe that if they offend you before you actually walk in the door, they have begun the work of the Lord.  Often, these names begin with “in-your-face” declarations like “Bible-Believer’s Baptist Church” (which is to imply that other churches may technically be churches, but really they don’t believe the Bible 1churchsign.jpgbecause if they did, they’d have it in their church name like we do.)  But then, some good fundamentalist brethren decided that to merely say “Bible-Believers” was a compromise and so they took it a step further with the “KJV Bible-Believers Baptist Church” (because if the KJV was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it should be good enough for us!  Amen?).  Well, as the FFF would have it (Freakish Fundamentalist Fanatics) that wasn’t good enough, so some decided to adopt the coup de grace of Bible-believing church names…. The 1611 KJV Bible-Believers Baptist Church and all was well in fundamentalism.  Until, of course, someone decided to name their church the Hyles Baptist Church (I’m not making this stuff up) after the legendary (in his own mind) Jack Hyles — universal protector of the KJV after 1988 or so.  At any point, one can anticipate the formation of a Ruckman Baptist Church or a Riplinger Baptist Church.  (No use explaining this to the sane…just do a google search for “Peter Ruckman” or “Gail Riplinger”.)

These churches are usually so exclusive that they break fellowship with themselves every few months at which they refer to their former “Bible-Believers” as members of the Alexandrian Cults.  Their pastors choose hairstyles that are of several approved styles: 1) High and Tight — you know like they give you on the first day of boot camp or the first day in prison; 2) the ever-so-stylish pompadour; 3) recommended by Brylcream or 4) the artistic weave (practiced by guys who have developed a totally clear landing strip down their dome but are still in serious denial thus they weave the few pathetic strands from the sides of the road and which are now six feet long artfully into a poor imitation of a combover which is really quite amusing should you be so lucky as to be near them on a windy day.) 

These guys also sleep in wing-tips and polyester suits (double-breasted preferred).  White shirts are the sign of a true man and if you dare wear a pastel-colored shirt, you should simply join a Metropolitan Community Church as you are surely gay.  Wrinkles are OK, cuff-lins aren’t and navy, gray and black are your only options.  Members are expected to be able to pass dress-check when entering the vestibule.

3. The More-the-Merrier Named Church

There is a definite co-relation between the number of words in a church name and the racial composition of its congregation.  As a general rule, 3-word named churches will be as lily white as a Brigham Young football game.  Four-word named churches can go either way.  But when you hit five words in a church name, you can bet your tithe check it is a church for “brothers” and I don’t just mean in the spiritual sense of that word.  Any time you see these words used in a collection of four or more  followed by the word “church”, well you just gotta’ know they’ve got some good gospel music happening inside: Apostolic, Deliverance, Faith, Prophecy, Divine, Holiness, Pentacostal, Zion, Horeb, Missionary, Ebenezer, House, Prayer, United, Holy Ghost/Spirit.  These churches also seem to have the market on 15-passenger vans pretty much cornered.  Many a tragic accident has nearly occurred because of a driver’s insistence on trying to read the entire church name from one of these fellowships while driving 70 down the interstate.

4. The Fundamentalist-Sub-Title Church

These particular churches are usually small and want you to know who they are before you even think about walking inside.  At the same time, heaven forbid that you think they might be a black church, so they won’t put all their adjectives in the actual name of their church.  They use “sub-titles” instead.  Watch for their signs, but plan on reading them twice.  They will use the traditional 3-word name like “Bible Baptist Church” or “Calvary Baptist Church”, but then underneath, you get the whole scoop.  In smaller, but still clearly readable letters, they’ll tell you what “kind” of Baptist they are with a series of additional informative adjectives like: Independent, fundamental, missionary, soul-winning, Southern, premillenial, pre-wrath, post-wrath, amillienial, separated, BJU-supporting, GARB, non-charismatic, moral majority, Republican, pro-American, anti-immigration, gun -totin’, “Christ-honoring” music, women-can’t-wear-pants, Christian-school sponsoring, anti-NIV, IFCA, SBC, ABC, CBC, BBF, SWBF, IBBF, FBF, anti-Purpose-Driven, Purpose Driven,  Beka-Book, homeschool, anti-cell group, no drums, CCM, just-say-no-to-wire-rim glasses, etc…  If you don’t line up with all the subtitles, you’re basically not welcome, because, well….what would people think of us if we allowed the likes of you to worship with us?

5. The Obscure Bible Terms/Names Church

1church-sign-2.JPGThese churches seem to look far and wide to find little known places in Biblical geography or obscure or obtuse theological terms that may be “code” to the knowledgeable to name their congregations and give them a unique identity.  Look for these words: Ebenezer, Gilead, Zion, Pisgah, Horeb, Herman, Berean, Corinthian, Laodicean, Pauline, Pergamus, Adventist, Ephesian, Bethany, Desiring God, Christ-Honoring, Believers, Abiding-in-Him, Covenant,  Glad Tidings, Petra, Colossian, etc…  Unless you have a seminary degree, upon seeing the church title, you might simply furrow your brow and say, “Huh?”

6. The Upright (and at times, Uptight) Church Name

All churches are technically institutions, but some are INSTITUTIONS and you can often see that in a name.  For example, any church that has “First” in it’s name is an INSTITUTION.  They have squatter’s rights to the spiritual of that particular denomination.  Yes, you may indeed go to a non-numbered church or on occasion, a lesser-numbered church (in the USA, I’ve never seen a number go higher than 4th, but it is possible.  I once attended a Thirteenth Baptist Church in Santiago, Cuba.)  But if you don’t go to “First Church”, well then, you’ll always just feel a little lower than the others.

Another category of the Upright/Uptight would be churches named after Streets.  This poses somewhat of a dilemma if the church chooses to relocate to a different street (see High Street Baptist in Springfield, MO and Thomas Road Baptist in Lynchburg, VA), but usually they just ignore the address and keep the name.

Another great signal is any name with Memorial in it.   If there is a Memorial in the name, you’d better believe that someone from the individual’s family is still a member there and woe, and I mean WOE, to the pastor or individual who would dare consider changing the name of the church to something else.

These churches usually keep a pipe or Wurlitzer organ in the sanctuary even if no one knows how to play it.  Guests who enter when the pipe organ style is being played have been known to spontaneously genuflect even when they’ve never been in a church before.  When the Wurlitzer organ is playing, guests are known to have experienced episodes of confusion and furtively whispering to their spouses something about forgetting their roller skates.

On some occasions, as a church is transitioning to a more contemporary style or is still at war with itself as to whether or not they should try to keep their teens attending the church, you will find the organ accompanying a praise band which makes for a most-interesting, er, uh, shall we say, “Instrumental Cornucopia” of sounds and rhythms.  One will also note that the organ is always placed as far as is architecturaly possible from the trap set on the platform.  But if the organ ceases to be in view, the upright/uptight church must change it’s name to a one-named church.  (Which is usually easier to accomplish AFTER the split rather than during it.)

There are other groups of churches classified by name categories, but my time for writing is over on this day.  For those of you who are positively foaming at the mouth with rage over my tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor, please relax and get over yourself a little bit.  We can laugh at ourselves and not be apostates.  I’ve actually attended, pastored, preached at, been members at churches that fit all of the above categories and then some.  If you know of a category that really needed to be mentioned, feel free to add it in the comments section.  And if you can’t laugh with us, just laugh at us.  It won’t matter in a hundred years.