Faith & Family: Welcome to Potential Church

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Several South Florida churches are dropping denominational identifiers from their names and updating church interiors hoping to keep things simple and attract more worshipers.

The congregation formerly known as Flamingo Baptist Church dropped its denominational name a year ago, and more recently became Potential Church. Congregants celebrated the new name with balloons, confetti and singers and dancers.

"We felt the name would better reflect the people who we are trying to reach," Executive Pastor Heredes Ribeiro said.

Potential Church was founded more than 30 years ago under the Southern Baptist Convention. The core doctrine remains, but the church felt removing the word "Baptist" would help them reach more people.

"We rather have people discover who we are, rather who we are on the outside, so we try to remove obstacles," Ribeiro said.

Felipe Assis, the lead pastor at Crossbridge Church, formerly Emanuel Presbyterian Church, said his church changed its name for similar reasons.

"We decided to not use our denomination name—not that we are not proud of our denomination," Assis said. "We want to make it accessible for our community. By the time people ask what is Presbyterian, there are so many barriers."

The church changed its name four years ago. Assis thinks the new name opens new doors to people who wouldn't typically attend services.

"Here in Miami it's probably best to avoid it," Assis said. "Miami is the most un-church city in the country."

Churches aren't only changing their names—they are changing the way their sanctuaries look to make it more appealing to more people. Congregations are dropping traditional identifiers such as alters, and sometimes even crosses. Church leaders hope to keep things simple so people don't get caught up in religion. The No. 1 goal, they said, is to share the basic gospel message to anyone who wants to hear.

"It's at the core of our pastor's heart to serve our community and to really invite those who are not part of a church, who are not Baptist or Methodist, but for them to discover love, hope and faith and discover who we are," Ribeiro said.

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