What's in a Name? How Our Name Is Connected to Our Identity


My husband grew up with the name Mike. His family called him Mike. His college buddies knew him as Mike. But in his mid-twenties, he spent a season as a raft guide—where there were two other Mikes. Rafting groups would be told, “Your raft guide is Mike; go on out and find him,” but there were too many Mikes running around. So my husband, being an innovative guy, told the other Mikes to go by Mike and Michael, respectively. He would go by his middle name, Dean. Problem solved. Unique identity (and identification) restored. He’s been Dean ever since (except at our wedding, where his family took to calling him Mike-slash-Dean in an effort to cope with the change).

Names are important. They are part of how people know us, how they distinguish us from the rest of the world.

Names also speak to who we are.

I was one of those brides who took on a new name when I got married. Not everyone does this, but for me it was connected to a very real change of identity—something radically new that God was doing in my life—and deeply spiritual in nature. I knew that my role, my priorities, and my future impact in God’s Kingdom would all be different going forward because of this new identity and place in the world. My new last name served as a constant (and sometimes shocking) reminder of the depth of this change.

One of the reasons our Novo / CRM rebranding team was commissioned to give our organization a new name was because of an identification problem. The name CRM was confusing to people. They couldn’t find us on the internet, we continually received emails thinking we were a customer relations management (CRM) company, and whenever we were asked what our name stood for the explanation of CRM as “Church Resource Ministries” often left people only a little less confused.

However, during their first gathering, the branding team realized that this renaming process was about way more than identification. Our new name was about our identity—who God wanted us to be in the world. Joshua Marino, a member of that team, describes what God revealed to them about the spiritual significance of being renamed:

The first day we gathered as a branding team, we began with prayer and listening to what God would have to say. When we came back together to share what we’d heard, we found that he had led many of us back to the Bible, to stories of God renaming people—men and women that he was calling into new seasons. So we looked at those people and began to see a pattern of how God used names to release people into new seasons of ministry and life that he was calling them into.

We looked at Abram and his wife Sarai. God renamed them as he made a covenant with them and invited them to become the parents of many nations. It was a mark that their lives were never going to be the same. They had been infertile for all these years, and now they were going to contribute to God’s Kingdom and his plan on the earth in a way they couldn’t even have imagined. It was in that moment of commissioning that they became Abraham and Sarah.

We looked at Jacob, as he wrestled with the angel. After that, God gave him the new name Israel, and invited him to be the father of the nation—the people of Israel—that he would call to himself.

We looked into the New Testament, at Peter, whose name was Simon.As Jesus commissioned him to be a leader of the early Church, he gave him the name Peter—Rock.

And we also looked at the story of Saul on the Road to Damascus—how he encountered the living God, how he saw Jesus. Jesus invited him to move from the place of persecuting the Church to being the first missionary to the Gentile world, and gave him the name Paul.

Can you see the pattern? In each of these stories, God uses the name as the doorway into that next season. It’s not just a new thing to be called into; it’s a new identity that these men and women step into.

We sensed, quite genuinely, that God was asking us to step into a new season, and that he was calling us to receive a new name from him. It’s a name that reflects how he sees us, and everything that he’s calling us to be and to do.

As you already know, that name is Novo, “Make New.”

Around the world, our staff are discovering what this new name and identity means for them. It resonates. While the name will take all of us some getting used to, the mission and calling—the new identity—fits. And our recent mobilizing trip to the major mission conference “Urbana” revealed how this new name and identity resonates with the next generation of missionaries God is calling to himself.

We haven’t changed who we are. Our new name is just a clearer way of communicating that to the world, and a clearer way to understand that for ourselves.

That said, Novo is more than a name. It’s a strengthened identity and call to action we’ve received from God. And now each of us on staff get to go out into our corner of the world and figure out what it looks like to live into that new identity.


1. Have you ever had a name change? What was that process like for you? What were the challenges and the benefits?

2. In Revelation 2:17 Jesus promises to give a new name to his children who are victorious over the world. Have you ever received a name from God? If yes, what does that name speak to you about your identity and place in the Kingdom? If no, why not set aside some time to ask God how he sees you, and what your identity is? If you ask, he may even speak a name over you to solidify that identity.


Megan Reynolds lives in Aurora, CO, with her husband Dean. Megan has served with Novo / CRM since 2014, primarily as a writer and online content coordinator for Novo. She loves getting to know her neighbors from many nations, soul care, and her morning cup of coffee.