What’s In A Name?

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It has recently been proposed that the Southern Baptist Convention change its name.  After much discussion and prayer in the Task Force and much speculation throughout the rest of Baptist life, a proposal comes for forth to keep the name and  simply add the option of “Doing Business As” Great Commission Baptists for those churches and agencies that might find it beneficial.


I have read a lot of discussion about this.  It all seems to follow similar paths.  First is the nostalgic.  We have always been Southern Baptist, we always will be Southern Baptist.    We all have traditions that make us feel comfortable, but such things can be idolized if we are not careful.  When I hear it suggested that “Southern” has some negative connotations (especially given Southern Baptists past views on slavery), I immediately hear the retort:  “What if Baptist is offensive?  What if Jesus is offensive?”  I can answer those questions, but that would not solve the problem that is evident in those questions.  “Southern,” “Baptist,” and “Jesus” are hardly equal even in name (Acts 4:12).  The questions is symptomatic that nostalgia for “Southern Baptist” may be rising to the level of idolatry.


Another path of discussion is that of evangelism.  It is said that changing the name from “Southern Baptist” will not share the Gospel with any more people.  This is true.  However, I have not heard proponents of the name change say that it will.  I have heard people discuss wether or not the name is a hinderance.  There is a significant difference between what shares the Gospel and what hinders the Gospel from being shared.  For example, imagine two missionaries travel to a far away country.  One learns his new language perfectly, but the other struggles and barely learns how to find the nearest restroom.  As they begin to share, they may use the same methods, but the former is more successful.  The latter is hindered by his limited vocabulary.  For the former, learning the language did not share the Gospel, but it removed the hinderance of a limited vocabulary.  Sadly, there are many hinderances among many comfortable and nostalgic things in our churches.  We should remove any hinderance to the Gospel, and that goes much deeper than just a name.


Ultimately we are left asking, “what’s in a name?”  Is it hindering the Gospel?  I know a lot of research has been done at Lifeway Research, and they are far more knowledgable than I.  I did a very informal poll by simply asking my non-Southern Baptist friends on Facebook to tell me what they thought of when they heard “Southern Baptist.”  The results varied, but there were a few trends.  One, many people assume that some stereotypes are true.  Some of these are well earned, some are not.  Two, the regional name of “Southern” implies only a flavor regarding style.  In either case, the name could be said to be misrepresenting who Southern Baptists are and what we stand for.


What does a name change do?  It may avoid misrepresentations like these.  In doing so, it may remove a hinderance to someone hearing the Gospel.  Before I can determine if that name change is necessary, I want to know if the name is hindering people.  In my informal research, I learned that many people did not even realize that some of the largest Baptist churches and institutions in our area are in fact part of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It may be there is very little in a name.  Of course, it may be that there is a great lot in the name or it may be that there is a significant hinderance.  I want to know more about this before I would opt to use the new name or want to see our larger agencies spend significant money to use the new name.


Wether the name changes or stays the same (or as the case may be that some churches call themselves Southern Baptist and others Great Commission Baptists), the fact of the matter is that these names do not share the gospel.  The only way is to love God, love others, and tell everyone of this good news of Jesus Christ.



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At the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, FL, there will be much debate over a report from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Though the vote to receive the report is not binding on anything in any way, it does seem to set a tone for the direction of the SBC and will certainly bring some new ideas to the tables of all SBC agencies.

The problem is that so much information is coming out so quickly that its hard to know exactly what people are so worked up about.

I confess, I have not read all that I should about the GCR. When the values were posted last year, I affirmed them and encouraged others to do so as well. Since then, I have not been able to keep up with all that has gone on with the task force.

That being said, let me weigh in a few of my own beliefs that effect how I am evaluating all of this:

1) Too much Baptist life is about maintaining the status quo. We often cry “discipleship” when people talk too much about evangelism, as though what we are doing when we are not spreading the gospel somehow defaults to discipleship. Discipleship is not maintaining the status quo. It is not ensuring that offices keep running and dead ministries keep getting funded. Our churches, associations, state conventions, and the SBC could stand to take some nice long looks at what we do and how that compares to the Great Commission.

2) Though I’m not in favor of throwing babies out with bathwater, I think we need to search through the excess bathwater in order to rescue some drowning babies! Alright, enough metaphor. Let’s face it, a lot of CP dollars are spent on things that are not the great commission. Just because it has always been that way does not necessarily mean that it needs to be that way. The local church does not exist to keep the doors of the Baptist Building open. It exists to celebrate and proclaim the Gospel of Christ, to grow in community, and to share the love of Christ with the world. State conventions can help, but IF that is not what they are doing, then they have outlived their usefulness.

So with those thoughts, I muddle through the information that’s out there. Here’s some links for your muddling:

You can learn about the report itself here.

Baptist 21 has a great article on what exactly is at stake in Orlando. Are we voting to revive something, or scrap something in favor of something new?

Micah Fries has done a great job compiling information to show the discrepancies between the great commission and the money raised to further it.

I welcome your comments as well as any other useful resources!