Would a rose by any other name really be as sweet? Suppose it was named “Mud” or “Goop”? Would you want to send a dozen red goops to your wife or girlfriend?

I’m always interested when people or organizations change their names. I was born James Michael; and until age 12, I went by Jimmy. I didn’t like the name Jimmy—and that was before the Jimmy Carter presidency. So when my family moved from Florida to North Carolina when I was 12, I began introducing myself as Mike. It took my parents a little time, and some aunts called me Jimmy to their dying days; but all the new folks just assumed I always had been Mike, so the name stuck. Transformation complete! (At least until I got married and discovered my bride preferred Michael. Re-transformation complete!)

The most recent example of a name change is with Campus Crusade for Christ. Excuse me—I meant to say Cru, its new name. After 60 years, leaders of the evangelical organization decided it was time for a change. Their work is no longer limited to campuses, and the word crusade apparently has been tainted by connection with the Crusades; though, I must admit I never once saw a Campus Crusade worker wearing a coat of armor; and I’m almost positive Bill Bright had nothing to do with battling Muslims for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

“We don’t want the words we use to get in the way of the message we have,” said a Cru spokesperson.

That’s a reasonable position, and it got me thinking of other words that might be due for a change.

For example, a lot of folks think the word sermon isn’t very attractive these days. Sermonizing is what we hear from the politicians on the side we don’t favor. (Our politicians, on the other hand, offer insightful observations, unlike those nasty sermonizing types.) If sermon is no longer a useful term, maybe we should try something different such as serm.

Just think of how popular the preacher’s kids will be when their peers find out that crowds come every week just to hear the parent give a serm. Whereas a sermon is old-fashioned and dated, a serm is fresh and trendy. In fact, this new name is likely to be so popular that we’ll start calling the preacher a serm guy.

Or we might just change the name preacher to something new and less threatening such as pre. Preachers are middle-aged guys who tell people what to do; a pre, on the other hand, is a current and fashionable leader who shares a great serm with people. Hey, who wouldn’t want to be a pre, after all? It even sounds ahead of the game!

Of course, some churches call the sermon a message, but I’m not sure we want to go with mess as an alternative. Though I have heard some sermons for which that would be a perfectly accurate appraisal.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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