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:
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.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).
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.
But even a man dead in trespasses and sin can be regenerated to new life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.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 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)