Whats in a name?

I was raised Catholic in the most nominal sense possible. I did however attend CCD (Catholic youth group) when I wasn't skipping it to shoot pool at the neighboring bar. I was baptized as an infant, received my first communion, confession and was confirmed Catholic as well. I had done it all without ever having any kind of relationship with Jesus too.
Once I became a Christian I didn't see myself as Catholic any longer. I didn't even have the help of anyone to talk me out of the Catholic church. For me it was as easy as reading Jesus words saying 'Call no man father for you have one father in heaven.' I had already committed myself to Jesus  and since it seemed crystal clear to me that the Catholic Church was in disobedience here I was out. I made that decision on my own before I ever had any christian community in my life. It seemed I had become a protestant through my own protest before I ever knew what a protestant was.

After growing as a disciple over the years I have had opportunities to visit Catholic mass again and have found such depth and life in the same words that had seemed so dry and dead before. It was a strange experience to mouth the same words that had been drilled into my head throughout the years but mean them and be moved by them. I realize now that there is deep faith and love for God among the church I grew up attending.

Over the years in Protestant circles I have heard so much negativity about the Catholic church. I have heard them talked about as though they are not our brothers and sisters. At first I thought the same thing and had a lifetime of experiencing 'dead religion' to point to. As I have grown over the years I have found that so many of my heroes in the faith have been committed Catholics. So much of my own thinking about the poor and marginalized only echoes themes from the social teachings of the Catholic church. I have grown so fond of my Catholic brothers and sisters that I am deeply disturbed by the ways I often hear them talked about among my Protestant brothers and sisters.

I realize now that there are many in both camps that live lives of sacrifice for the kingdom and resemble Jesus and there are also the nominal. There are those among us that are Christian by name alone. It is not for us to judge which is which but to look within and realize that reality in ourselves. We are often the Christian by name alone in our actions and only occasionally are we living as Jesus modeled. We cannot look at the specks in our brothers eyes while we have a plank in our own. If we are honest with ourselves we will find that we are often the man thanking God that he is not like other men rather than the man on his knees that is begging for mercy.

I am now a part of a network of small cell churches that we call microchurches. We have  a primitive ecclesiology that recognizes church as any place where there is worship, community and mission. This has cleared the way for a lot of communities to see themselves as the Church. We have mentoring programs, rehabilitation programs, and house churches that are communities that worship together as well as engage evil around them in kingdom mission. Being that we are a diverse group of about 60 microchurches that are autonomous and call themselves by different names we can see the value and role of denominations. Denominations are ways to name our differences just like money uses denominations to denote bills with different values. All denominations of our currency are still dollars and all of our church denominations are still Christian. Jesus is the ultimate name by which we identify. In our network we can see many differences between different microchurches as well. Some are more conservative and some more liberal. Some are fairly charismatic and others more structured. Some are very organic and some run like programs. We are a diverse community of communities. We are very different and probably not all on the same page about everything either but we are all family and united by our pursuit of Jesus and his call to the poor and the lost.

Jesus is the only name that matters. I know this is the spirit behind the whole 'nondenominational' phenomenon though, in the end, that too is just another denomination.There is nothing wrong with denominations. We recognize our differences and focus on our common commitment to Jesus. The only thing that we must fight against is our denominations being only a name. I said I was raised Catholic 'in the most nominal sense' and this is what I am talking about. 'Nominal' means by name alone. These are not just labels by which we identify and if that is all they are they will be found wanting. Our denominations, or the names by which we identify are labels for our lifestyles. They are deep and profound identities and places of belonging. They are names of communities which themselves are submitted to the Lordship of Jesus.


  1. Wow! What an awesome prespective, it was when I was learning about the poor and marginalized I realized that it was Catholics who where at the forefront, I realized I had to let go oof all the negativiTy I was raised with as a Haitian Baptist. It was the life of mother Theresa and the work that my friends uncle was doing in Ayiti that really! Made me realize the darkness in my own heart towards my Catholic brothers and sisters. Well said, our planks are big enough that we should be occupied with getting rid of them and seeking to look like the bride of Christ before we point fingers at others. Amen Bro!

  2. I love you Steph! We are all just in recovery together right?!

  3. During my visit to Colombia last year I attended a mass with many of my family members I decided to participate in communion. One of my younger cousins later approached me and said "I thought you were evangelical." I responded "I am." In my family I represent devotion to God, mostly because I am a missionary and the way my lifestyle differs from theirs. I chose to take communion Because rejecting it would be rejecting one of the few ways my nominal catholic family shows devotion to God. I realized there are things that separate protestant and cathlics in religious practice but I was not going to allow the Lords Table to be one of them. As I represent following Jesus to them I wanted to confirm that Jesus is also with them. -Stacy


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