21 February 2012

The SBC Name Change Distraction

The Baptist Press reports:
The task force appointed to study a possible name change of the Southern Baptist Convention is recommending the convention maintain its legal name but adopt an informal, non-legal name for those who want to use it: Great Commission Baptists. (Online Source).
If you follow "church news" at all, then you know that the issue of the SBC name change has been brewing for awhile. This suggestion by the task force is not final, but will be proposed again at the SBC annual meeting this June. This was not a story that I intended to cover on this blog. While I have no qualms with my SBC brethren, I myself am not a member and, even if I was, this story appears to be little more than a distraction.

In a time when we are seeing the Trinity under attack, and when we are witnessing the subtle acceptance by the evangelical mainstream of such abhorrent teachings as the prosperity gospel, one of the leading "movements" in American Christianity is worried about changing their name. Really? It is just one writer's opinion, but it seems as though there is a rather large point being missed here.
The name "Southern," Draper said, is a barrier to the Gospel in some regions of the country.
The goal from the beginning, Draper said, "was to consider the removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ." (Online Source)
These quotes by task force chairman Jimmy Draper are reminiscent of  another large organization's recent name change. In the Summer of 2011, Campus Crusade for Christ underwent scrutiny for announcing that they were going to change their name to simply Cru. The reasons offered were as follows:
Our name presented obstacles to our mission. The word “campus” does not adequately represent all our ministries in the United States and confuses our constituency as well as potential partners. The word “crusade”-while common and acceptable in 1951 when we were founded-now carries negative associations. It acts as a barrier to the very people that we want to connect with. It’s also a hindrance to many Christians who would like to partner with us but find the word Crusade offensive. (Online Source).
Now, to be fair, the situation is not exactly the same. Campus Crusade for Christ actually ended up removing "Christ" from their title, to which they replied:
Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) is unswervingly committed to proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.
We are committed to the centrality of the cross, the truth of the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and the global scope of the Great Commission. We care more about effectively proclaiming the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ than we do about having the word “Christ” in our name. (Online Source).
But the reason for "Cru's" name change was:
Our surveys show that, in the U.S., twenty percent of the people willing to consider the gospel are less interested in talking with us after they hear the name. We are changing the name for the sake of more effective ministry. (Online Source).
To the above statement I would propose to "Cru" that people were turned away not by "campus" nor by "crusade" but by Christ. The name of Jesus Christ is not one that most unsaved people welcome with a smile. You may be able to engage an individual in a conversation about God or about some nebulous "higher being," but when Jesus Christ is declared by name, unbelievers, who are living as enemies of Christ, will almost always inevitably shut down and shut you out. Jesus Christ is a stumbling block.

This is where it seems, in this writer's opinion, that the SBC is missing the point. Let us look again at what has been declared by task force chairman Jimmy Draper:
The name "Southern," Draper said, is a barrier to the Gospel in some regions of the country.
The goal from the beginning, Draper said, "was to consider the removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ." (Online Source).
Perhaps this is a bit simplistic, but it seems to this writer that if Jesus Christ had similar concerns as to what may hinder the proclamation of the Gospel, then He went about His ministry and earthly life all wrong. After all, in the first century, why would anyone want to submit in repentance and faith to the Lordship of a Jewish man who was tried, condemned and killed as a common criminal? If that was not perceived as an earthly "barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel" then it seems that the SBC may have their concerns and their priorities a bit confused.

Are we really so faithless, are we really so superficial as to believe that this is what would prevent people from receiving the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If the SBC retains its title, and more importantly, retains its reputation for uncompromisingly (in some cases) proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, then they need not worry that the word "southern" may hinder that cause. God will draw whom He will draw. The only hindrance to the Gospel is the sin and depravity of man.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)
But even a man dead in trespasses and sin can be regenerated to new life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
It does not matter if the SBC continues to call themselves Southern Baptists, or Great Commission Baptists, or Bible Baptists or plain, boring "Christians." The "effective proclamation of the Gospel" will only be hindered if we, the Church, stop proclaiming it. And even if that were to happen, I suspect that we may begin to hear the rocks cry out. While we quibble over names and acronyms, the Gospel is being attacked and it is being compromised and it is being twisted and it is being perverted. The SBC has pastors like Ed Young, Jr. pulling publicity stunts such as spending a weekend on the roof of his church in a bed with his wife. And with SBC leaders like Rick Warren and Beth Moore declaring that the Roman Catholic Church is part of the true universal Church, it thus seems that they may have more important issues to address. Yet, we do not see a "task force" being formed as means of speaking out against these aberrant goings-on within the SBC.

The enemy loves to distract us and, it ought not surprise us that he may love to watch the irony of us being distracted "in the name of Christ." But we are to have one focus and that is Jesus Christ Himself. If our eyes are ever on Him, and if our desire is to loudly and boldly proclaim His Gospel, then the silliness of these types of conversations becomes overwhelming.
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:13-15)


  1. I think you are right about. Cru, however with the SBC I could see how it might hinder their growth and Gospel proclamation in Northern areas. Though, I don't think it matters as much as they seem to think it does.

    As far as being a distraction, I don't think it is much of one, unless SBC member churches or members make it into one. Aside from the committee I doubt most people spent more than 20 minutes on the issue. If members make it a divisive issue then it would certainly be a distraction.

    Otherwise, I think it is comparable to the complaints presidents get when they go to Camp David and work from there.

  2. Closet Calvinist,
    I would agree - I don't think it's a distraction for most. However, it does seem as though it was a distraction - albeit temporary - for many leaders within the SBC. Leaders who haven't bothered to speak out about some of the more grave issues, but who felt this was worth consuming their time.

  3. The SBC can change their "name", but their fame will live on as an organization that tends to trifling matters while ignoring pachyderms and their by-products in plain view under the tent.

  4. I think anonymous has a point. I was in the SBC for about nine years and it always seemed like the Convention ignored weighty matters such as the large amount of seeker sensitive churches and preachers watering down the gospel while focusing on things like coming up with the latest unbiblical requirement that potential IMB missionaries must meet (such as not having a private prayer language, or needing to be rebaptized if they were not baptized by immersion in a Baptist, once saved always saved church). The SBC would do well if it did a better job focusing on feeding the sheep with the word and teaching them to be disciples...and continue to focus on outreach. And isn't that what the Great Commission is about?

  5. "The only hindrance to the Gospel is the sin and depravity of man."

    That about wraps it up, doesn't it? All these other considerations are just distractions, but dangerous distractions that the enemy is leveraging.

    I would like to start a new organization with a fresh, new, missional approach to reaching the lost, but I am having trouble working "Elephant" into the name.

  6. The more I consider this whole proposal the more I am drawn to ask why those who want to distance themselves from being identified as Southern Baptist ever became Southern Baptists in the first place, or choose to remain Southern Baptists. Why would anyone freely associate with an organization whose history or reputation causes them to feel shame? And, why would Southern Baptists want to provide a shield to add credibility to the desires of those who seem more concerned with being accepted more easily by the world than with the rich heritage of Gospel faithfulness that is part of being Southern Baptist?

  7. By itself it is indeed but a distraction. Couple it with the Wycliffe scandal, it seems an odd mixture. Combine it with the horrendous CCC abomination of desertion, it shows a pattern.
    It shows that we want to be the world, not just in in, much less spread the Gospel to it. That the Gospel could be so offensive that it has to be nuanced to the world is striking. Note the language: " The name "Southern," Draper said, is a barrier to the Gospel", and "removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ." , and "We are committed to the centrality of the cross..".
    So for many decades the SBC stood as a bulwark against the tide of humanism, spreading the Gospel, but now it's name is a hindrance and a barrier. And whenever anyone uses the newspeak of the secular culture, "committed, you can be sure they are only committed as long as it doesn't offend anyone or get in the way of growth.
    Don't expect SBC "leaders" to raise an outcry and hue against this movement. Warren is a "leader", and Young Jr. is one of it's sideshows. Even Dr. Mohler, who almost anyone admires for his steadfast adherence to the Gospel truth, never, ever addresses problems within his denomination.
    This is another piece of the everyone does what is right in his own eyes, never casting their gaze past their own "community" goulash.

  8. more catering to the culture. the name southern baptist has been around so long it should stand out as a sign post for solid bible teaching and community. it think changing your name or the sign in front of your church shows weakness in leadership and catering to the culture of the world. nothing personal here. i am praying for the church.


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