Last night, the Southern Baptist world was set aflame by the news that the SBC Executive Committee has formed a task force to discuss the possibility of changing the Convention’s name. What exactly is this task force discussing? According to Denny Burke, they are responsible for answering four vital questions: 1) Is it a good idea, that is, is there value in considering a name change? 2) If so, what would be a good name to suggest? 3) What would be the potential legal ramifications of a name change? 4) What would be the potential financial implications?
This news has already sparked emotional responses from both sides of the issue and will remain to do so until it is resolved. As the news continues to spread and the debate heats up, I’d like to offer words of caution to those on both sides of the issue.
First, we should be willing to give up our name for the sake of the gospel. There are some who will passionately object to this move because the idea of changing our name, in their minds, means forsaking our identity. But this is not so. Our true identity is in our theology. Originally, the Convention’s name, being formed so Southern slaveholders could be appointed as missionaries, did mark their identity, but this is no longer the case. Praise the Lord that there are no longer slaveowners in the SBC, and praise the Lord that we are no longer exclusively found in the southern United States. So why not be open to at least the possibility of changing our name if it would solve some of the confusion for those planting churches outside of our region? If we were discussing the possibility of changing our theological distinctives to make Baptists more attractive to the world, that would be a completely separate topic. But we’re not. We’re simply talking about a name change.
As a side note, I’m encouraged that the leadership of our convention is willing to ask the difficult questions when it comes to effectively spreading the gospel to the nations. As long as our leaders are keeping the mission of God as their focus, I feel confident about our future as a denomination.
Now for the second word of caution: change does not equal progress. There seems to be a common misconception in our denomination, particularly among my own age demographic, that newer is always better. Many are constantly chasing after the newest church growth method and newest fad in ministry. While I’m not at all against change, I’m most definitely against change for the sake of change. We must recognize that this is a massive decision, so we would be wise to carefully consider the consequences.
To be completely honest, I’m very skeptical that this name change will actually take place. But regardless of where you stand on the issue, how about you take a second to lift up our leaders in prayer? They need it. We all need it.
And while you’re at it, how about you do some self-reflection? Are there some areas in your life that you haven’t been willing to give up to become a better messenger of the gospel? Cry out to Christ. The power of the gospel will surely change you to make you a better messenger of the gospel.