Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's In A Name?

The current buzz in Southern Baptist culture is regarding a proposed change of the convention's name. If it isn't obvious to you yet, the current name is at least "regional", at most ...misleading. Beyond that the name carries a certain amount of historical baggage. Is it time for a change?

It would seem appropriate. The name we're all hearing (..I can say, because "I is one"..) is 'Great Commission Baptists'. Catchy!? Definitely more true to our missionary nature. The International Mission Board, a product of Southern Baptists, supported by funding by member congregations through The Cooperative Program, is the largest missionary sending force on the globe.

But what's in a name anyway? I wanted to call it "Bible Baptists", or how about "Grace Baptist Convention"? But they didn't ask me. And if I've ever even had a really good idea, of this sort, I've always been a day late and a dollar short. But I still haven't answered my question! What's in a name? Why does it matter? Why not "World Baptists"?

I had a friend with whom I once argued about putting so much stock in a "name". His perspective.... "If the Southern Baptist" name, or logo, is on the sign then I can know what's being taught inside." My perspective to the argument.... "I wouldn't trust a name on a sign to give me any certain feeling for what doctrine is being taught behind those doors!" In truth, there is likely a middle-ground which supports remaining autonomous, while still "identifying' with a clearly stated, and mutual, doctrine of beliefs.

But does a name make a difference where the proverbial rubber meets the road, in reaching people .....real men, women, children ...for the sake of the gospel, the good news, the truth which leads to a sinner's salvation? Once, I would have thought not ...a bureaucratic waste of time and resources, which may otherwise be sending good, God-called, men and women to the ends of the Earth to reach the lost with the saving truth of Jesus Christ! But that is in a perfect world. Here in the real world ....we are interdependent, cooperative, and constantly leaning on one another for resources and possibilities. No Lone Ranger Christians! Read my previous blog entry.... "Purpose Is Discovered, Not Defined", for more on the topic of community and cooperation.

In a world seething with sooth-sayers of a modern variety, preachers selling their wares at every opportunity, and straight-up false teachers ..there is value in a name, I believe. Value in placing a unified stamp, a statement of beliefs, a bar for the biblical world to model; a distinctive, by which we are set apart. No, this "name" won't save you. Nor will it save us from fault. But it will frame our "standard" of beliefs and practice ....bigger than any one of us, or even any small group of us. Bigger, even, than the next generation of Great Commission Christians. Whatever we choose to call ourselves, may it bring unity, and further unify us to live out Christ' own great commission, be it as Great Commission Baptists, Southern Baptists, World Baptists, or Grace Baptists. For the record... I still like "Bible Baptists".

What do you think?