There is a fifteen year old girl in Iceland who legally has no name. On every official document when it comes to her name she is simply called “girl.” In renewing her passport or any dealing with the bank she legally presents herself as “girl.” It is obvious that she is a girl, what is not so obvious is what her name is. And legally, in the eyes of the government, she is known as “girl.” Now she really does have a name, it is just not recognized as her name by the government of Iceland. Her given name, her birth name, is Blaer; pronounced “Blair.” It seems like a great name! Blaer means “light breeze.” That is a lot better than having your name mean “liar” or “deceiver” which is what the name James means. The government of Iceland refuses to recognize this young lady as Blaer. The reason being is that in Iceland, and apparently this is true in Germany and Denmark, the government must approve your name. So when parents name their child, in order for that name to be officially that child’s name, the government must approve it. Parents are directed to pick their child’s name from the official Personal Names Register. This register includes 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names. These are official names because they fit pronunciation and grammar rules. This fifteen year old girl cannot be named Blaer because grammatically the name requires a masculine article meaning that this is a boy’s name. It gets stranger. The name Elvis is a permissible name, but names like Cara, Cesil or Christa are not permitted names because those names begin with the letter “c” which is not part of Iceland’s 32 letter alphabet.
I think what is so neat about that story is that “girl” knows exactly who she is, she is Blaer. Even though the government refuses to recognize her name and instead simply call her “girl” (which I suppose she should be grateful that the government does not go ahead and pick out a name for her), she knows who she is and her family and friends know who she is, they know her.
It made me think about the church with no name. The very first local church in Scripture is found in Jerusalem in Acts 2, specifically Acts 2:41-47.
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The church in Acts 2:41-47 had no name but they knew who they were. Who were they? I believe the simplest yet sobering definition of “church” is Acts 2:44. The church is believers who are together. I said it is simple and I believe anything else that is said about the church has this supporting it. There is something very exciting about that simple, sobering definition. The excitement is this: the church is believers who are together building something. The church is believers who are together building something with Jesus Christ and, get this, it is called the church. “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus said those words. I love the church and I love my local church. I am a member of Calvary Community Church and we are building something at Calvary in our time and we are doing it with Jesus Christ and it is because of Jesus Christ. And what we are building has a three-fold purpose of enjoying God, enjoying one another and bringing others into that joy! And we are doing it together. Do not ever lose that for this is who we are! This is what the church is! And I am stressing this importance because there is a great crisis at hand. It is a crisis that I pray that we never face and that no local church will ever have to face. It is the crisis of not knowing who we are. The church in Acts 2:41-47 had no name, but they knew who they were. The crisis is real and the crisis affecting churches is the church not knowing who it is.
So, the church, the Christian church, is called a church because that is what it is; it is just a gathered group of people. The difference is, the distinction is, as to the purpose of the gathering. Are you ready for this? Look at Acts 2:39. “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” Acts 2:39 says that the Lord is calling people from all over the place to Himself. The Lord is gathering people for Himself, He is grouping a people for Himself. So, what are these people being added to in Acts 2:41-47? These people are being added to the group that God calls to Himself. That is the church – a group of people that belong to God. These people are being added to the group that enjoys God, they are being gathered to the church that enjoys God.
Hold on to something. Who were the first people that the Lord called to come and enjoy Him? Who were the first people that God called and added to His gathered group of people? Read Acts 2:36-41.