This is a rant! I am not going to apologise, this bugs me. Recently I was included in a list of preachers recommending books. It is a great list (though I am not sure I should have made the cut) and you should read it and all the books on it. But it bugs me that people keep calling us SOMA not Soma . It’s a word not an acronym.
I realise the name Soma is unusual. We managed to just make it into the top 10 of weird church names. I realise it is the name of a drug in Brave New World. In fact, it really is a drug used in some Hindi rituals. It is also the name of an online radio station (cool!) and a line of women’s lingerie (awkward!). We knew all this when we chose it.
In the Christian world there are lots of churches called Soma. In fact there are a family of churches called Soma, though we are not a part of them (but we like them!). There is a ministry called SOMA, which actually is an acronym: Sharing of Ministries Abroad, but again no connection to us.
So I get it, it can be confusing.
But it bugs me because Christians, particularly evangelicals always speak in acronyms when everyone else doesn’t. I feel like this is the evangelical equivalent of speaking in tongues without an interpreter! In fact I can often tell someone who is a part of the Christian culture and who isn’t by the reaction of our name:
Non-church person: “what does that mean?” (logical question)
Church person: “what does that stand for?” (because apparently any word that is 4 letters or less must be an acronym!)
There are several reasons we used the word Soma:
- It enables us to explain the Gospel when we explain our name. We have a tag line: “Soma: His Body, Your Place”. So we explain the word Soma means “Body”. In the Bible the idea of body is important, it was Jesus body that took our sins on the cross in our place. The Bible also talks about the church being the ‘body of Jesus’ and we are convinced everyone has a place here, so why not join us. This is our less that 15 sec gospel explanation that I have used, I don’t know how many times.
- We wanted a name that was ‘transportable’ as we plant more ministries and churches. When we started we knew we wanted to grow and innovate. We also knew, not having a building, that we would have to move, so having a name that tied us to a particular place and time wasn’t going to work.
- We wanted a name that non-Christians were comfortable with. While there are several names that could fit the above two categories, we also wanted a name that people who didn’t go to church were comfortable with, so we did some market testing and asked people. We found the Christians didn’t like it; but the non church people found it “warm and inviting and probably something I would go to” though they “weren’t exactly sure what it meant”. This is ideal for us.
So just to be clear, we speak English not Acronymish, our name is Soma not SOMA.
 In defence of Oxygen, they are far from being the first to do this.