What's in a name?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by JohnAMac, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. JohnAMac

    JohnAMac
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    Our five year old congregation, which started in a storefront and recently moved into a very nice, traditional looking church facility, has been struggling with the way we identify ourselves. We have had frequent discussions in the past couple of years in particular about whether we should leave the name "Baptist" as part of our identification, or just be known as Oakwood Church.

    Many of our members are discovering that the church has a perception and identity that it didn't earn on its own. Most of the people who live in the immediate area are unchurched, or have been out of church for a long time. The perception seems to be that Baptist church services are dull, with long, pushy, political sermons, that most of the congregation is old and set in its ways, and that we are spiritually arrogant. Those who do come through the door frequently express their surprise that we are not that in any way, and often I hear, "Are you sure you are Baptists?" as they depart.

    This has naturally had an effect on our ability to do outreach. Our church has a desire to grow, and doesn't want to limit its outreach to just those from a Baptist background. I came from another background as well, though the name Baptist was not, for me, associated with negative things. What it means to me is church polity that recognizes the autonomy of the local church, congregational authority, soul freedom, the freedom to be led by the spirit in the study of the scriptures and a free church tradition with regard to church-state issues, and church authority over the ordinances of Baptism by immersion and Communion.

    We have a good relationship with several other Baptist churches in our larger community and I have heard that they have similar problems. One, in fact, the largest of those within a ten mile radius, has changed its name from "Baptist" to "The Church at ....." They are, however, connected to the SBC. Are there any others who have experienced this same problem?
     
  2. JohnAMac

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    I also wonder if there is anyone here who goes to a church that has removed Baptist from the name, but still considers itself to be Baptist.
     
  3. guitarpreacher

    guitarpreacher
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    Hey John,

    We planted our church 3 years ago we made the decision not to include baptist in our name. We've caught some flack over it from other baptist in the area, but it's been worth it because we've reached some folks who would not go to a baptist church. We have had people, one catholic lady in particular, get really upset with us when they figured out we were baptist. But by then it's too late, we have a relationship and they love us. Every time we've had someone get upset, when we talked it through, the thing that turned them off of baptist was a misconception. We;ve not lost one so far because of that.

    Another reason we left baptist out of our name was we wanted to build a church by reaching the lost, not transfering other churches mad/upset/disgruntled members. If someone goes to the phone book looking for "Baptist" churches to try out, that's probably not someone that we want, and honestly it's probably not someone who will like us anyway.

    We are members of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (that was easy) and members of our local association (that was hard), we contribute to the cooperative program, I serve as youth director for our association youth camp, and I've even been known to drink coffee with some of the other SBC pastors. We don't hide our affiliations from anyone, if asked, we say we are part of the SBC. We just don't advertise the affiliation.

    I have a friend in North Carolina who led his church through the process of changing their name. If you'd like I could probably hook you guys up and you could get some pointers from him. Send me a private message and I'll try to get you two together.
     
  4. HeDied4U

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    The church my wife and I currently attend (Salem Community Church), which we are close to calling our new church home, was at one time Salem Baptist Church. It used to be located on the southwest side of Chicago. It's an "old" church, having been in existence some 80 years or so.

    About 15 to 20 years ago, so I've been told, another church was started in Chicago, on the southeast side. It was given the name Salem Baptist Church as well, although it was in no way related to the original. As this second church grew, it came to be known for its "over the top" worship style and its unpopular political views. Unfortunately, the original Salem Baptist came to to be "linked" (for lack of a better word) with the newer Salem Baptist.

    When it was time to build a new building, the original Salem Baptist decided to move to a suburban location. This was done, in part, to try to put some distance between itself and its more radical namesake. Even in the suburbs, people thought the two were related, so a stigma of sorts became attached to it, even in its new location. Thus, the congregation voted on a name change, from Salem Baptist to Salem Community. The church retains its Baptist heritage, aligning itself with the Baptist General Conference and the Midwest Baptist Conference.

    What I have been able to gather, some people were upset at the change, but the church makes it very clear in all of its documents, as well as its membership classes, that it is Baptist in nature. As far as I know, nowadays hardly anyone has a problem with the name.

    God Bless!!!

    Adam [​IMG]
     
  5. Bro Tony

    Bro Tony
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    I pastor Skyline Fellowship, formally known as Calvary Southern Baptist Church. We changed the name several years ago in order to not be a barrier to those who have a negative connotation to the Baptist label, but really dont know why. We are still Baptist and our church polity is baptistic, but our emphasis is to be a biblical church that ministers in the community. To those who care about being in a Baptist church they know who we are. To those who dont care or would be turned away from negative feelings toward Baptist, (for whatever reason), they come in and find out what we are about and for the most part stay.

    This has been our experience, but it must be said that your church should seek the Lord earnestly before making the decision. We did and we feel that we followed His direction. I believe that accounts more for the growth and blessing than the name change.

    Blessings,
    Bro Tony
     
  6. Johnv

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    How about in large letters: OAKWOOD CHURCH
    and in small letters underneath: a Baptist fellowship

    That compromise might solve both issues.
     
  7. just-want-peace

    just-want-peace
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    Just for a rough comparison, consider what your feelings would have been 40-50 years ago if someone called you "GAY"! In fact it was a normal feminine name.

    At that time (for you younger members) that simply meant that you were a happy person.

    'Course no need to tell you the modern connotation.

    Like it or no, satan can AND will corrupt and co-opt a perfectly good word (or anything else) to reflect his depravity!
     
  8. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    What is your purpose? To attract other Baptist people or former Baptist people? Or to reach unbelievers?

    If your purpose is the latter, eliminate the unnecessary hurdle of "Baptist" in the name.

    We do not have Baptist in our name.
     
  9. TexasSky

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    I've been watching this thread and a few things are kind of weighing on my heart.

    1) Why do people have such a strong negative attitude about the name "Baptist"?

    If it is because they think Baptist are too rigid about the bible, isn't that a good thing?

    2) If you want to disassociate yourself from "Baptist" - what .. exactly.. are you disassociating from? The independent body of believers? The conservative image? The belief that the Bible is God's word?

    3) Shouldn't we fix Baptist Churches instead of pretending we aren't Baptists?
     
  10. menageriekeeper

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    What concerns me is if churches are being misleading by not being forthcoming about thier affiliation(whether Baptist or not).

    As a Baptist I wouldn't even consider visiting a church if I didn't know the affiliation. So if the word Baptist isn't on the sign out front, you've lost a potential member(5 actually).
     
  11. guitarpreacher

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    TexasSky,

    Let me give you just one example of how it worked for us. We had a lady begin to visit our church, and she was raised catholic and had no idea what Baptist beliefs really were. She fell in love with the church, her daughter made a profession of faith all before she came to understand we were baptist. When she found out what we really were, she was really mad, not because she felt we'd tricked her or anything, but because she felt like we would not accept her. Her issue - occasionally she liked to have a glass of wine with her evening meal. Her only exposure to baptist prior to coming to our church was what she had seen/heard in the local wet/dry elections that happen regularly here. She had heard some pretty mean spirited stuff from baptist leaders regarding those who would choose to drink alcohol. She thought that once we found out she drank wine occasionally, that we'd throw her right out the back door. And she made the statement that if she had known we were baptist, she would have never visited us the first time. We had a conversation about essencial doctrine and liberty, and about how I felt that drinking was wrong for a Christian, but that wasn't something that we would break fellowship over. She stuck with us till they moved (military) and when they moved they connected with another baptist church in their new town.

    For us, that's the kind of person we are focused on reaching. I could have spent years trying to convince her that it was okay to come to a baptist church, and probably would have failed. Instead, we brought her in, established a connection between her family and our church family, and taught them all baptist doctrine.

    Your first point about being ridgid about the Bible is a good thing. That's true for you and for me. But to the world we live in, where they do not accept the Bible as being any more sacred than any other book, that rigidness is viewed as a negative, not a positive. As I've said on this board before, if comes down many times to whether you want to win the argument, or win the lost. I'm baptist from the top of my bald head to the souls of my feet, and everything we preach and teach is baptist. We will never, ever compromise the Gospel. But we will be strategic in what we say and how we say it so as to be as effective as we possibly can and to reach as many unchurched people as we can possibly reach.

    There are lost people who would have no problem going to a baptist church, if they decided to go to church. For them, there are about 10 - 12 choices in our town. They're covered. There are lost people who need to be taught baptist doctrine but will not set foot in a baptist church. For them, there's CrossPointe.
     
  12. TexasSky

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    Guitarpreacher,

    I can respect your opinion, but I had a similiar experience with different results.

    I met and became casual friends with an individual about two years ago. One day I happened to mention that I was doing something for church that weekend. This person asked what church. I told them. They freaked. I mean, they totally freaked out.

    They actually told me that they could not believe I would be part of a group "like that." They said they did not know if we could be friends any more.

    It was a bit rocky for a few days, but I said, "I have not changed just because you know my denomination. I'm who I am, so obviously, not all Baptists are evil. Tell me about your experiences."

    They grew up in South Carolina and Tennessee. Their maternal grandparents were Jewish, but their mother converted to Christianity and began attending a Baptist Church. From what they have shared with me, the hate was tangible. They were called names, mocked, and even once or twice beaten up because of their families Jewish heritage or because they knew almost nothing about Christ - having not been raised in Christian homes.

    Eventually the family dropped out of church. Afraid to attend any protestant church. Then they met someone from a Methodist Church who coaxed them back into church.

    The fear and anger was as strong years later as it was back then. So, slowly, but surely, I began to show them that not all Baptists are like that, and to encourage them to explore Christ, and ignore "Baptist." They are now telling me that if I can find them a Baptist church like mine, they'll "give it a try."
     
  13. All about Grace

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    Do we really have to answer that question?

    It is according to what your attitude is.

    I can't answer for everyone on this, but for us, we are disassociating from the stereotypical image of what people in the West perceive Baptists to be. Again, it is simply an unnecessary obstacle to our mission.

    You can't fix something until you realize there is a problem, but that is another thread.

    We are not pretending we aren't Baptist. It is simply not the foot we put forward first.
     
  14. All about Grace

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    That would be fine. You are not our target.
     
  15. All about Grace

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    And this is different how?

    We encourage people to first and foremost explore Christ. Our baptistic positions come later. We are not ashamed of them. It is simply not our goal to draw Baptists to our church. As a matter of fact, we are usually very hesitant when they show up :D

    You always know when the Baptists show up in the intro classes -- they are the ones asking questions like "do you not have deacons?" "When are the business meetings?" "When is S.S.?" "Do you have a children's choir or Awanas?"
     
  16. guitarpreacher

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    FWIW - I don't believe what I believe because I'm Baptist. I'm Baptist because the SBC most closely matches what I believe. Being Baptist will always be secondary to being a disciple of Christ.

    Menageriekeeper,

    As I said earlier, if you're looking for a Baptist church, unless you are a seriously missions minded person who can catch our vision for reaching the unchurched, we are not for you.
     
  17. Debby in Philly

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    Our new (year and a half) pastor has been dropping hints that we should change our name even before he ame on board. He was not brought up Baptist, but miraculously saved "from the street" and has a real calling to evangelism. He says that using the name Baptist (or any denominational name) tends to exclude rather than include. The unchurched would say "I don't know what a Baptist is, but I'm not one, so I wouldn't be welcome."

    I say it's our identity (for over 100 years now), and we should be proud of our heritage. I know some folk moving into the area came to our church BECAUSE of the name. But of course, they were already believers.

    To not use the name to me is like you're ashamed, or you are trying to trick folks into coming. Especiallly that popular fad out there now of "Such-and-such Community Church" What does that mean? You worship the community? You have no theological positions? All ideas welcome? Purposely nothing? Yuk!
     
  18. guitarpreacher

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    That's just it - It's not our identity. It's the group of people we associate with and cooperate with for missions. Our identity is a New Testament Church.

    And I must say, if trickery could enable me to present the Gospel to unchurched people, then they should get ready to be tricked. [​IMG] The only ones I have ever heard mentioned being tricked are believers who already have their minds made up. Never heard it from a lost person - to them it's a non issue.
     
  19. All about Grace

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    Sadly enough ... I am ashamed of the image many people in our culture have of what it means to be a Baptist.

    Tricking folks into coming would be pretending we are not a church but some type of social club. We are what we say we are -- a church.

    As gp says above, the only ones who care about this issue are churched people -- not our target.
     
  20. TexasSky

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    Okay -

    Your target is unchurched.
    Certainly a worthy goal, but Christians need a church. The church, in fact, is made up of the Christians, not the unsaved.

    Now - given that - you are moving to a new town. You are looking into what churches you should or should visit in your quest for the right church.

    Where do you start? Why do you choose?

    When you see "United Methodist" or "Episcopalian" or "Catholic" or "LDS" on a church - what assumptions do you make about their core beliefs?

    When you see, "Baptist" or "Southern Baptist" or "Primitive Baptist" what assumptions do you make about their core beliefs?

    When you see, "New Testament Bible Church," what assumptions do you make? What do you base that on? I've known churches with that name to range from strange cults to basically Baptist.

    I just did a little quick web search for non-denominational new testament churches. The results were kind of .. well, eye opening?

    I found one that discusses 12 like it is a magic number. It has "dream boards" where you form 12-cells to recruit new members, and the dream boards lists 12 people each member of your cell is targeting. It sounds like a Star Trek Episode of Borg. "Find, consolidate, send."

    I've seen mentions of "winning souls" and "the holy ghost," and lots of talk about the Pastor, but not one word about Christ in the 7 pages of their statements I read.

    One website )http://www.called.org/ntchrist.htm)
    says: "What is nondenominational Christianity?
    Much of what is refered to as "nondenominational" is actually "interdenominational." What's the difference? "Interdenominational" accepts all beliefs, "nondenominational" rejects all man-made doctrines and strives to follow only what the Bible teaches."

    One of the most popular non-denominational churches in our city is a group of Catholics that believe Priests should marry.

    A popular Bible Church has a nice guy as an elder and deacon. Said deacon is a former coworker of mine who is working on his third divorce.

    Here is one that claims to be a church for psychic Christians.

    So - which will people assume is what your church represents?
     

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