What's In A Name

by Jeff Pohlman

31 August, 2005

 

You may wonder how important a name is.  I have yet to find someone who didn't have their name made fun of in some way when in their early years, or in school, athletic activities, the military, or at work at some time.  For some people, this teasing (because they are different from the ones doing the antagonizing) can be an emotional scarring of their mental-past.  For others, it simply shapes their thinking about who they are.  I'll give you an example.

 

A LESSON FROM CHILDHOOD

In my elementary school years, my folks lived in Amityville, and then Deer Park, Long Island, New York.  I was in Deer Park schools from 3rd grade until 7th grade.  The Deer Park neighborhood we lived in had just been built, so everyone was a transplant into the neighborhood, and we had a majority of Italians and Hebrews, with a few Irish sprinkled in and I was one of the rare few of Germanic decent.  Being surrounded by Italians and Hebrews, at times I wondered whether I was a freak, being as white-skinned as I am, and because all the rest of the majority seemed to get personal religious holidays off from school while I still had to go (an important thing in the mind of an adolescent, don't you know).

Just to the north of our house was an east-west intersection.  On our south side of the intersection, the kids were fairly evenly split with boys and girls, plenty of both.  We had enough to make up several stick ball teams right on our block alone.  I have always been an outgoing friendly sort, the kind they speak of when they say no one is a stranger to him, and I was never a part of the Girls Haters Clubs amongst my guy-friends.  Instead, I always had a soft spot and love for the girls, besides being a notorious protector of my little sister (my little brother was just born and so much younger that I didn't have to defend him J ).

As time developed, a little gal named Sharon Levy from the other side of the northern intersection got jealous of how many friends I had, and in particular, that I had a whole bunch of girl-type friends.  She was indeed needy of friendship as her side of the block only had three brothers for potential friends to her, and in particular she wanted to be my friend for some reason or another.  As you know, we don't always do what makes sense, when it comes to fulfilling our desires.  My Dad would tell me that most drunks are in their predicament because they knew they should have stepped up and taken responsibility at raising families, yet instead, they freaked out mentally and drank themselves into oblivion.  Humans don't always have the best capacity to think and do rationally.  Well, poor little Sharon, for some reason, decided that the way to win my affections was to bully me with intellectual verbal barrages, and call me names.  Doesn't makes sense to me, but that was her plan.

So, one day she drums up her courage, crosses the border of the intersection into our side of the street (one big playground as far as we were concerned) and announces to the group that they shouldn't be playing with a Pole Cat, in reference to my last name, Pohlman.  Everyone looked at her saying, "What?!?!"  At which point she informed everyone that was my last name should be Pole Cat, and haughtily derided everyone about my last name meaning skunk.  All of my friends either laughed so loud at her, or just looked puzzled at her offensive bookworm manner.  Instead of scaring the other girls away and winning me over, she embarrassed herself, and ran home crying.  After a good stick ball game, I eventually went home and looked it up in the dictionary and found it to be true.  At the dinner table, I announced that Sharon had done such, and I was now to be known as Stinky.  I thought that was cool, since my internationally-known automobile-customizing hero of the day was named Rat Fink.  My parents were somewhat surprised, but not.  All the kids thought it was a stroke of genius on my part.  Sharon figured out that she'd flopped, and she never won my affections, although I was kind to her and she finally figured out that I knew what she was up to, but by then it was too late for her to sway me her way.

So you see, some kids don't rebound with such resilience.  Some do.  But, names are very important.  One that I have to work with in fellow business people all of the time is "loser," versus "winner," and even more specifically, "failure," versus "success."  I'll not go into a long counseling session here.  Suffice it to say, "failure" is an event, not a person.  A person can have a whole string of failure-events, but still inwardly be a total success.  You can figure out the rest, where that one is going.

 

CHRIST'S FOLLOWERS

So we come to the subject of the name of our groups in the "Christian Era," also called the "Post-Jesus' Visitation Era."  In the Old Testament, we see plenty of evidence of how important names were to our Hebrew forefathers, and those who follow the Hebrew people see that the names are still important.  If you were to do a study of all of the Hebrew names for God alone you'd be truly blessed.  The actual Hebrew name itself might mean nothing to you if you didn't know or speak Hebrew, but it's translation and interpretation would touch you.  Meanings like, our Father, our Righteousness, the One Who makes us pure and sanctified, our Peace, the One Who IS there all of the time, the One Who heals, our Provider for all that we truly need, the Banner that flies over us to mark us before all people, the One Who manages us like the best of true and good shepherds.  There are more, and then if you look up the names for Jesus our Savior, you'll find even more wonderful testament to Who He is, and how much He loves us.

At the time when Jesus became born and seen in human flesh, there were plenty of named-sects of Judaism and named-temple-buildings or synagogue buildings, and even more altars strewn all over the countryside, all with names and marking attached to identify them.  God isn't one to forget or leave out details, and if He'd wanted humans to be aligned with any of these structures, all made with human hands (many of the altars were just rocks piled up by humans), He would have most certainly given His ordained blessing and told us clearly that this is the form or fashion that we should follow from then on.  For example, Jesus could have easily said, "My Father says that you are to stay here in Jerusalem and become The Church of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Progeny of David," or any other such nomenclature (and I use the word church facetiously here).  Instead, He gave us none, and for good reason.

It is clear, from then until now and going forward, that His temple is within every man and woman who would confess their sin nature, ask forgiveness based upon the blood shed by Jesus for us, and ask Jesus to come in and live through them, as them.  There's no brick and mortar building about it.  No dead stones.  He went so far as to tear the temple veil in Jerusalem from top to bottom to show us that the old system of buildings and the boards of directors who administrated them was now over.  The new system, the new testament, was enacted, a dynamic living organism, brought together by Jesus, plain and simple.  Confess Him, make Him Lord of your life, and you are one of the new temple living stones.  This group is clearly referred to in all of New Testament texts, in every single instance, as ekklesia - Greek, which means called out ones, or chosen called out ones (meaning that Jesus has chosen us).  If you find any original Bible texts printed before 1611 a.d., you will always find ekklesia.  The commissioner and the translators of a now-popular Bible done in 1611 a.d. came up with an alternate word from their 17th-Century time period of living, for ekklesia, but their word means a building, or an institutional organization, dropping back to the old testament laws and ways that recognized temples or synagogues and their administrative governments, and that word defies the true meaning of ekklesia, or called out ones.  That word in 1611 was kirk, which over the last 300 to 400 years has become known as church.

 

ARE WE STARTING SOMETHING NEW

We as a group do not wish to "start" anything, since Jesus started it all in the first place at creation, and implemented the new testament version to confirm and replace the old testament version, which is all that He needs; start date - some 2,000 years ago.  We have no desire for human sectarianisms.  We are simply carrying on with a work begun by Jesus, albeit simple.  We are called out ones, ekklesia, called out from the world of sin, and made one by His Holy Spirit.

We have been bought and paid for with the ransom price of His blood.  Think about what that means.  We were originally conceived to be perfect, yet sin came into our lives from our ancestors Adam and Eve.  When sin entered the picture, we were withheld from fellowship with Sinless-Righteous-God because of our sin, and the only was we could come again into His presence and Holy relationship was through the shedding of blood of a perfect man.  The continual shedding of blood of animals to take our sins in proxy was just a temporary fix.  In essence, we were being held ransom, until the perfect one, Jesus, died for us, once for all - complete.  He paid the ransom demand.  Does that humble you or what.  Have you ever realized that you were stolen away by sin, a captive to sin, and that there was no release from the prison of eternal hell until a ransom most definitely was paid, otherwise hell and eternal torment was your final destiny.  Did you ever realize that the dungeons of hell and eternal separation from your Creator were beckoning you, and you had no way of escape, save the ransom note blood-shed-by-Jesus for you?  No other way.

That blood has been shed.  The way is made clear.  The steps are clearly outlined for you to step into.  And once the steps are done, the keys of eternity are yours.  Eternal fellowship with Jesus and the others of His chosen ones.  You're not waiting at some bus station for the heaven-bus to come take you home.  You are now a chosen called out one.  Jesus admonished us to be water baptized publicly to show this step of faith, and He told us to frequently partake in His Remembrance Feast to remind us that He is living in us and through us as us.  He even dropped back, punted, scored and won the game big when He distinctly laid out and consolidated ALL of the law and the prophets for us to adhere to (instead of some 500+ ceremonial laws and ritualistic buildings to polish), by quoting two parts of the Old Testament as one verse and using it as a springboard for the entire New Testament, when He said, "Love the Lord your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."

 

EKKLESIA PLUS

There is no need for Jesus plus ANYTHING else, in case you're pondering your current events or life structure.  Imagine if I came home one day and told my wife that we'd had a good time for all of these years of marriage, but now I wanted to add a little something else, and I was going to now include Sally or Ralph (random names) in our most intimate marital relations.  Oh yeah, that would go over well (N-O-T)!!!  So, I would kindly point out to you that it is up to you to discuss with your Jesus, what-or-who it is that you want to substitute or include, that you think needs to be added besides Him, in the equation of your salvation and eternal relationship with Him.  Building, person, sacrament, liturgy, alcohol, food, incorporation, bylaws, spot on this earth, whatever - let us know when you have successfully negotiated the terms too, because we'd all be interested in your outcome.

 

ACCENTS AND DETAILS

There is a phrase that we, who teach about body language, will use when impacting the issue of accents and how a person's body looks when saying something.  Imagine this for yourself,  I will print the phrase, and accent one of the seven words.  Notice how the meaning of the sentence changes, yet the seven words stay the same (have fun with it - really lean into the accent).  I never said he stole the money.  I never said he stole the money.  I never said he stole the money.  I never said he stole the money.  I never said he stole the money.  I never said he stole the money.  I never said he stole the money.  Yes, the same seven words, but the meaning of the phrase changes so dramatically due to arbitrary accent of one little word out of the seven.  Such accents actually affect the naming of our groups, our lives, our businesses, our alliances, and so forth.  Have you ever traveled through a little town to see a First Baptist Church, then a Third Baptist Church, and wondered where the second went to, and why they had to have three in the first place?  Picking and choosing, and possibly even choosing to not-name at all, are central to the seeming-identity of a group, or as we refer to Jesus' Bride (the called out ones), the organism.

Some people fear the anonymity of a group without a proper formal name - sometimes postulating the silly question of, "Can that be scriptural?".  We lived in the Boston area in the early 1980s.  There was a famous seafood restaurant there (and I understand it's still there) called the No Name.  You can't find it in the telephone books or on any tourist map per se.  All you can do is ask locals who are kind to tourists (somewhere around Faneuil Hall-Quincy Market) where it is, and they point you to the Boston Fish Pier and Northern Avenue - then you keep asking as you get closer, half-way down the pier on the right side J .  Once you get there, you're glad you did, because the food's great, and so is the ambiance, especially if you sit up on the second floor where the view is best.  The same goes for the ekklesia.  The people are great, the fellowship is great, and we're brought together by the unity flavor of the bond of Jesus our Christ - He does it.  There's no rebellion to it, no need for an incorporation, a name, a tax-exempt ID number, whatever, because our true identity is IN Jesus, with Him in and through us as us (some people refer to this as an exchanged life), what more could you ask for or want?

Once you travel down this path of personal revelation (my friend John Moreland referred to this as becoming outside the camp) you see that a name is something to be chosen quite carefully, and to maintain most humbly.  We are not about the business of starting anything, planting anything, or upstaging Jesus, the one who formed us as spirit-beings and who joined us together by His blood shed for us.

 

SCRIPTURAL EXAMPLE

A careful read of new testament scriptures will reveal to anybody so desiring, what the nomenclature was for the earliest of the ekklesia.  They were said to meet from house to house, and when they were written about, they were simply referred to as the called out ones in this city or that.  You can easily see that they were the ekklesia that met in so and so's house, and when you get to the last book of the Bible you even find some instructive words written to the leaders ("angels" is a word that gets inserted instead of leaders) of the called out ones in seven specific and particular example-cities (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea), as compared to all of the cities in the Mediterranean region that obviously had other ekklesia gatherings within.

 

DECISION

So, it is with wonderment and humility that we even consider naming a group that we are, which was started by Jesus over 2,000 years ago.  We can't even try being the No-Name because someone might think we're a seafood restaurant.  However, in some senses, we are a no name gathering, with our only identity in Him, called out of the world of sin to Him. 

We aren't interested in being referred to by King James's nomenclature, so names like The Church At Richardson and The Pohlman House Church are out (remember the little exercise on accents?).  We do meet from house to house, but I don't want my personal name to preempt anything Jesus does, nor do I want to steal any of His due glory, so a name like The Ekklesia At Pohlman House is even out.

Therefore, we drop back to the practice of the early saints.  We are the called out ones meeting from house to house, in a particular city.  This brings us to the simplest form, Ekklesia At Richardson (or any other city for that matter), inserting the street address only as a map coordinate for those who might be looking, not as a matter of pride, and recognizing that there could be a myriad of street addresses within a same city, as He multiplies His work in the city.

 

DO YOU HAVE TO DECIDE?

Meanwhile I put it to you, do you want to be named as a building, an institution, a bylaw, a temple, a creed, a synagogue or a kirk.  Or, do you simply not need all of that, and more simply want to be named amongst the ekklesia - chosen called out ones?  Can you hear the ever-still small voice of the Lord beckoning to you - "Choose this day whom you will serve?"  You were chosen by Him before the foundations of the earth, what do you choose now?

 

 


2005  Permission to copy or reprint granted only if full version is quoted and proper notation of authorship recognition is given.

 

 

 

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