What is in a name?

For this post I would like to just briefly discuss a few thoughts I have had in recent months. The Body of Christ (Church) today is wonderfully diverse with adherents from every race, nationality, socio-economic background or political ideology you can think of. And though our methods of worship and devotion may be different, Jesus Christ is the bond that remains the same and unites us all. Whether one is Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, all those who profess belief in the One True God and accept his only begotten Son as their Lord and Savior, are collectively the Body of Christ (The Church). That includes Roman Catholics, Coptics, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Charismatics, Pentecostals, non-denominationals, and many more. You name it; we are all part of the Body of Christ.

So, if one feels closer to God through singing and shouting out praises, so be it. If they feel closer to God through sitting quietly in their pew listening to a minister preach the word, so be it. If they feel closer to God by taking part in time honored rituals and traditions, so be it. Different strokes for different folks I say. In short, it’s the MESSAGE that matters, NOT the method or style one practice’s their faith.

That said, I am troubled by some recent observations I’ve made, at least in my own Church. Without putting my Church on the spot, suffice to say I have been a lifelong Baptist. And in the time honored tradition, whenever a Baptist Church is the first in a particular community, they are appropriately titled: The First Baptist Church of X. Note, X = the community name the Church resides in. My Church is one such church that has that distinction. However, in recent years they have begun to ruffle some feathers as they say. Specifically, after over thirty years they have changed the name of the church from “First Baptist Church of X” to “X First Baptist Church”. Not a big deal, but the Church has gone out of its way to drop the word “Baptist” from almost all its signage, staff clothing and now answer their phones with the greeting “Hello, this is the X First, how may we help you?”. One wonders just what somebody who hasn’t been a member must think: First What?

Now this doesn’t bother me much. After all: What’s in a name? But it’s the reason they give that bothers me greatly. Our Church has stated they have done focus groups and the name “Baptist” is a turn off for many people, so that is the reason for the change. In other words, they want more members and if the word “Baptist” is an obstacle to achieving that goal, then the name has got to go. Of course there are many types of Baptists, and there is one group (that shall remain nameless) from Florida, with a whole 50 members, that is renowned for garnering media attention, and that does not conduct itself in any Christian manner whatsoever. But why should the actions and conduct of one small unaffiliated church that calls itself “Baptist” taint the numerous larger Baptist Churches and Associations. If anything, if focus groups say people have a bad impression of the name “Baptist”, then perhaps the Baptist Church should engage in more outreach to show folks just who Baptists really are. In other words, DON’T just change or hide your name.

So why does this trouble me so? Well, if this is the reaction today for the name “Baptist”, where does it stop? For instance, if focus groups were to say people have a problem with the word “Christian”; do we now say we are no longer Christians? Furthermore, our society (U.S.) today already has a slight majority that no longer accepts the Church’s definition of marriage. Should we simply change doctrines to accommodate the masses? That is not to say that secular governments cannot have their own definitions in such matters, but should the Church follow suit simply to ride the tide of current public opinion on this or any other issue. Here is a noble thought. Maybe, just maybe, the Church has an obligation to stand up for God’s word and our beliefs to the masses.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that what he has done has been accomplished in God.” (John 3:17-21)

So my prevailing thoughts are this. As stated earlier, it doesn’t matter if one identifies as Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist or whatever. It’s the MESSAGE and their FAITH in Christ that is paramount. So, if one identifies as being Catholic, be a PROUD Catholic. If one identifies as being Anglican, be a PROUD Anglican. If one identifies as being Methodist, be a PROUD Methodist. And if one identifies as being Baptist, they should be a PROUD Baptist. Therefore, if my lifelong Church (or our leaders) is now more comfortable identifying as non-denominational, they should proudly say so, and allow their proud Baptist members to find a new Church home if they so desire. That said, at the end of the day, we are all fellow Christians, and should be PROUD Christians. But we must never be ashamed of who and what we are. We, the Church, are to be a Light onto the world, and we mustn’t ever extinguish that light to be accepted by anyone.

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Thanks for reading. God Bless!



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