Why Names Are Important
Okay – pop quiz. Using only your eyes and the knowledge inside your head (no cheating by using Google), answer this question: who are these two characters? What are the superhero identities of these two action figures?
I spotted these two guys on a recent trip to the toy shop. Now I recognise these two but I couldn’t find the character names anywhere. Not on the front, not on the back, not anywhere. The only name I could find was Hit Monkey, the toy you can build if you buy all the figures in the wave.
Did you work out who they were?
The guy in the red and yellow is Hyperion, who is sort of like Superman. While he is currently an Avenger (along with fifty thousand other heroes), he’s best known for being in a comic called Squadron Supreme in the 80s. He’s pretty obscure.
But not as obscure os the other bloke. The guy in black and white is called Protector. He used this name and costume for the two and a half minutes he was in the Avengers. He’s otherwise known as Marvel Boy and is currently in the Young Avengers comic. So yeah, also pretty obscure.
Most kids hitting the toy aisle are not going to know these two. And there’s nothing on the packaging to help you out. We don’t know their names, powers, friends… Nothing except they have something to do with Hit Monkey. Note: they have nothing to do with Hit Monkey. That dude is way more obscure than both these two put together.
Names are important. Communicating with your audience is important. We need a reason to care. Tell me why I should allocate parts of my brain to knowing these heroes. Otherwise, why should I bother? If it’s not important enough for you to tell me, it’s not important enough for me to care.
Here’s the problem for us: our churches fall into the same trap. We assume people know who we are. We assume they know what we’re doing. We assume they know what we’re on about. And because of that, we neglect to give them a reason to care.
I remember being invited to an event at a church I was not a part of. It was a big event open to the community. Plenty of people there who had never been to the church before. The event was well put together except for one disastrous (in my opinion) thing: the guy MCing the event never introduced himself. He was the senior minister at the church, but at no stage did he say his name or his role. I was left wondering who he was and why I should care. I didn’t feel encouraged to come back next week – I been given no reason to.
Every week at church should be treated like it is someone’s first. If you’re up the front, you should introduce yourself. At the start of the service you should tell people what’s going on – that you’re here to worship God and hear his Word. Show people from God’s Word that what he has to say is of eternal significance to the listener. Give me a reason to care. Tell me what’s going on and why it’s a better use of my time than watching TV.
These toys fall into the trap of assuming we care enough to seek them out. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they were the only ones left on the shelf. At church, make it clear who you are and what you are in about. Presume nothing.