Do you ever wonder what the theology of a local church is? Use this easy to follow guide. You can determine the theology of any church without stepping through its doors. Look for the following words:
Our Lady: Catholic
Saint (obscure name): Catholic
Saint (name you recognize): Episcopal
Shalom: Extra Liberal
Free Will: Arminian
Certain common names are considered crossover, and can signify any theology. Here are some typical ones:
Baptist: Could be anything, don’t visit without doing your homework.
Bethel: low church, nice people, safe to visit.
Community: Very common name, tells you jack squat.
Evangelical: Protestant, beyond that your guess is as good as mine.
Church of God: Could be anything, don’t visit without doing your homework.
Church of Christ: Could be anything, be safe and leave your guitar at home.
What about odd combination names? Like Sovereign Trinity Church of God. It seems impossible and overwhelming to decrypt such a name. However, with practice you can parse even difficult names. Remember the following guidelines:
- Combination names are often redundant. Examples: Abundant Life, First Baptist, Sovereign Grace.
- Combination names occasionally denote a very specific theology. Example: Sovereign Harvest Church (Calvinist and Pentecostal, a rarity).
- “Sovereign” is a trump word, and always refers to Calvinists, this is helpful to remember when you see it in combiniation with cross over words. Example: Sovereign Evangelical Baptist.
- “Sovereign” comes first when used in a combination. This is true even if “First” is also in the name. Example: Sovereign First Baptist Church.
- “Damascus” is also a trump word and always refers to Orthodox. Example: Saint John of Damascus (You might easily mistake this for an Episcopal Church, but you would be wrong)
- Certain name combinations are highly improbable. Examples: Harvest Messiah, Sovereign Missionary, Saint Spong, Shalom Trinity.
Other Interesting Facts:
- If the name is “Mars Hill”, it’s a mega church with a pastor that swears.
- If the church has a private school, it is Lutheran or Catholic. The bigger the school, the more likely Catholic. If the private school name is “Yeshiva”, this is not a church at all. It also means that you live in a North Eastern city. If the private school name is “Madrassa”, this is not a church either.
- There are lots of “First” churches, but very few “Second” ones.
- The names “Berean” and “Bethel” are becoming less common, because no one knows what they mean.
- If a church changes its name, the new name will always have the words “community” and/or “fellowship” in it. The new name will never refer to the sponsoring denomination. Example: “Bethel Assembly of God” becomes “Harvest Community Fellowship“
- If the church service starts at a strange time (like 9:07 AM), this indicates an attempt to appeal to post moderns. If you are on vacation and like lattes, this is a good church to visit. The service will be brief, it’s safe to show up in casual clothes, and you have an excuse if come at the wrong time. Warning: the pastor swears.
- Don’t always assume that the church is Episcopal simply because you recognize the name of the saint. It could be an obscure Catholic saint. Examples: Saint John, Saint Joseph. It’s probably not the saint you think.