Monday, August 11, 2008

Kats for Christ Name Change

We are Kats for Christ.

In years past we have been called "The Bible Chair" (some still call us that) or "The Church of Christ Bible Chair" or "The Church of Christ Student Center."

Beginning this fall semester we are intentionally starting to make a move from "Church of Christ Student Center" to "Kats for Christ." While we have been using both interchangeably since the early 90s, the Lord has led me to help us make this much-needed transition official. There are several reasons this transition needs to happen.

First Reason

We need to point others to Jesus rather than to a particular denomination. This is shaped mostly by my meditation on the stories of Jesus. I hear Jesus' words burning in my heart. "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." "...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

The more I look at our students the more I see people who want to follow Jesus more than any particular denomination. Without rejecting their denomination, they do experience tension in contending that their denomination is the only one students should choose. They recognize that Jesus calls us to loosen the dividing lines of religiosity, to love our "Samaritan" neighbors with God's love, and to invite "the sick" in to be healed by our heavenly doctor. All of these help us fulfill Jesus' charge to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Our students understand that Jesus transcends and permeates our dividing walls. That is why they feel this tension.

Second Reason

The students on campus are starving for the heavenly feast of Jesus. They need a safe place to come where they can encounter our Lord without any strings attached. And unfortunately (right now anyway) our church buildings are unsafe. Innocently, as students come to our church buildings we exalt the church building or being a part of our denomination rather than Jesus. We invite them to potlucks, to worship services, to whatever other events we can create. These are good! Hear me! At the same time, we force them to fill out this card so we can contact them later, we lock them in to hear our little spiel, or we stigmatize them as outsiders in the way that we talk about belonging to our group.

It seems like Jesus allowed people to belong to him publicly without forcing himself into their "space." He fed thousands and seemed to be okay with this. Even those who come looking for him afterwards in John 6:25ff. (presumably at their own initiative) are met with more admonitions to work for eternal life kind of food. In Luke 7:1-10 Jesus could have easily forced himself into the centurion's house; he was even on the way. Yet, when he hears this, he stops and reveals the surprising example of faith (rampant in Luke) to the crowds following him!

Jesus never told the centurion to fill out a card if he wants to really belong to the faithful. Jesus never admonished the centurion that he needs to have more faith. He simply and safely meets people where they are and allows them to belong without any pharisaical strings.

Interestingly enough, simply changing the name on our building from "Church of Christ Student Center" to "Kats for Christ" will tremendously help us create a safe place for those looking simply to belong to Jesus.

Third Reason

We have to change our initial conversations to focus more on Jesus! We must spread the fragrance of Christ wherever we go! We must stop creating a hurdle for students in their search for Jesus! Our name has been creating that hurdle!

Consider the hypothetical (yet incredibly normal) conversation below. Notice the trajectory of the conversation, even if we say the exact same thing after their first question.

NEW STUDENT: "What group are you with?"
KFC REP: "I'm with the Church of Christ Student Center."
NEW STUDENT: "Oh...okay. Well what do you do?"
KFC REP: "Well, we do everything we can to follow Jesus."
NEW STUDENT: "Do I have to be a member of the Church of Christ to come?" ....

Notice the subtle tendency in the conversation toward Church of Christ rather than Jesus. I see the new students thoughts in their question. They think (always to themselves), "I smell the fragrance of a denomination here! I better explore this!"

In today's campus environment all kinds of red flags go up for students when they sense exclusiveness from anyone...even if they are part of a particular denomination. It makes them incredibly uncomfortable to know that someone would reject another believer's beliefs based solely on their denomination. And they will avoid any Christian group that even "seems" to give that impression with their name.

Change the name, change the conversation! Change the name, change the fragrance!

Consider these new conversations that I anticipate becoming normal:

NEW STUDENT: "What group are you with?"
KFC REP: "I'm with the Kats for Christ?"
NEW STUDENT: "Oh...okay. Well what do you do?"
KFC REP: "Well, we do everything we can to follow Jesus."
NEW STUDENT: "Like what?" ....

This conversation explores the ways that we seek to follow Jesus in our service, our Bible studies, our conversations, our activities, our friendships, our mission trips, and in our relationships with everyone. The denomination conversation takes a back seat.

Sure, if someone wanted to know, they will eventually ask. We have no reason to hide that we are supported by Huntsville Church of Christ and carry many of its traditions. What is important in today's campus culture is the center of the conversation: Jesus! The fragrance of Christ is spread more readily with something as simple as a new name.

Name Change

Our name is an expression of our character, our values, and our focus. We seek to train and mature disciples of Jesus.

We are Kats for Christ.

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