A South Carolina Church has decided to change its name after being called “insensitive” by community members, in light of the novel coronavirus rendering their current namesakes unpalatable to current and potential congregants.
In a story from Lifeway research, “Outbreak Church” led by pastor Scott Caroll, changed their name to Stony Fork Community Church after backlash from the community. He recounts the circumstances of his church founding, which happened in 2013, as they were discussing what they wanted their church’s defining characteristic to be.
‘I said, “I want to be around people who are so infected with Jesus that every time they turn around, they sneeze Jesus,”‘ Carroll recalled. When the other pastor said that was like an ‘outbreak,’ they both looked at each other and said, ‘Outbreak Church.’ So, in November 2013, Outbreak Church was launched in a rural area south of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
‘We based our entire DNA around pandemic and epidemic verbiage,’ said Carroll. ‘We talked about: You’re the point source of the gospel; Infect others with the gospel of grace.’ The church made shirts and bracelets with the phrase: Are you contagious? ‘People would come up, read the shirt, and ask, “Are you contagious with what?” and we would get to say, “Jesus. Have you been infected with Jesus, yet?”‘ Carroll said. ‘God was blessing and using that.’
In fact, their slogan and logo were also “infection” themed, being a cross emerging from a hazmat symbol. Caroll explains that it was all well and good until COVID hit, then all of a sudden, “People didn’t want to talk about pandemics and infections because people were dying from them everywhere.”
Even though the Church name was established well before March of 2020, people kept on associating it with it. “The director of our preschool area told me we had families that wanted to sign up to participate in our mom’s-day-out program, but the name was a hold up to them putting their kids in our church.”
Caroll says that ultimately they decided to change the name and remove most of the infection/outbreak/viral language, explaining “If the name is a stumbling block, we need to pursue this. A name is just a name.”
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