32 Reasons (and counting) Why Southern Baptists Must Change Their Name!

Posted in cultural relevance, southern baptist convention by Nathan Creitz on June 22, 2009
I'm starting a rumor that this logo was created from clipart in Word 95!

Starting a rumor that this logo was created from Word 95 clipart!

I wrote a post a couple of days ago about the need for Southern Baptists to change their name. I gave a compelling argument in my opinion. Now, after receiving a flood of comments and responses on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and via email, I want to refine my remarks to reflect some of the follow up thoughts to my previous post.

The Intended Outcome for this Article

I hope two things will happen as a result of this post:

1. You, the reader, will comment on this post and use all the means of communication at your disposal to let delegates at this year’s SBC convention know about this debate. Online social media as well as blog posts, email forwards, phone calls, letters and telegrams are all strongly encouraged!

2. Someone versed in the parliamentary procedure at the SBC will need to draft a proposal that we research a name change. In 2004 such a proposal was voted down but only by 55%. 44.6% of all Southern Baptists at that meeting were in favor of researching a name change! Today, I believe it would be 51% if you act now!

Reasons to Change Our Name This Year!

1. We aren’t all Southern.

2. A new name could be the first step in throwing open doors for new church plants in non-Southern states.

3. Churches seeking a denominational affiliation in areas outside the South might consider affiliating with us if we had a different name.3. A good name reflects a good reputation.

4. Keeping our current name suggests complacency. Changing our name reflects boldness and innovation.

5. A name change might promote innovation and boldness in other needed areas in the convention.

6. Southern Baptist wasn’t a good name to begin with when it was created during the Civil War era.

7. Our culture responds to brands and ‘Southern’ has become irrelevant.

8. Names have to do with reputation and identity. ‘Southern’ doesn’t.

9. There are 6.5 billion people in the world. (that’s “b” as in billions)

10. There are only 105 million people in the South. (that’s “m” as in millions or less than 1% of total world population.)

11. There are 3.8 million square miles in the US and 92 million square miles in the world.

12. There are 905,322 square miles in the South. (that’s “th” as in thousands or less than 1% of the total world land area.)

13. A new name could perpetuate a closer bond in our denomination with sister churches around the world.

14. Most people have a bad perception of what Southern Baptists are about…a new name could refocus our denomination in a positive direction.

15. Thousands of SBC leaders and pastors are in favor of a name change from WA Criswell to Jack Graham and Danny Akin. Ignoring that challenge for the past half century is insulting to SBC leaders who are not currently located in the South.

16. Some true Southern Baptists (those actually located in the South) tend to have an arrogance that they are the decision-makers for the denomination.

17. A new name and branding would help us truly become a denomination for the 21st century.

18. We may disagree on what a new name might actually be, but ANYTHING is better than ‘Southern’.

19. SBC church leaders outside of the Bible Belt often hide the fact that they are SBC.

20. Some non-Southerners wouldn’t attend an SBC church simply because of their perceptions of the SBC. Changing the name would remove that barrier.

21. In most other areas, people are looking for relevant, transformational churches. Based on the media coverage of the SBC, many wouldn’t even think to look at an SBC church no matter how relevant it actually is. It simply wouldn’t cross their mind much like many of us wouldn’t even think to go to a Roman Catholic Church to find solid Bible teaching and an active engagement with the community.

22. Nothing about our name or logo excites our postmodern, post-Christian culture.

23. Would our Southern churches want to be called the Northern Baptist Convention?

24. People have stereotypes about the South (although they are often unfair and misguided). All the negative stereotypes are then glued to our denomination.

25. Many organizations that go through changes over the years adopt a new name to reflect their fresh identity. This is found in the corporate world AND in our own convention (Think Lifeway, NAMB, the IMB, Guidestone Financial etc.)

26. Our current name is based on a location, not on a vision.

27. Our current name reflects who we were, not who we are or who we want to be.

28. Regardless of what we want the SBC to stand for, what it is perceived to stand for is fundamentalism (if you don’t know that’s a negative term today then you probably won’t be voting in favor of a name change will you?)

29. Our name is not a Baptist distinctive. Changing it would not be a departure from our convictions and distinctives..

30. It won’t cost as much to research a new name as it would have in 2004. Through the use of technology we can get thousands of Baptists involved in brainstorming ideas for a new name and its potential impact.

31. No one comes to faith in Christ because our name is Southern Baptist, but how many have refused to even come to an SBC church, much less start an SBC church or affiliate with an SBC church because of the name?

32. There is absolutely no good reason why ‘Southern’ must be in our name. I challenge you to find one!


33. Half of all the Southern Baptists in the world are located in 5 Southern states: TX, GA, NC, TN, AL. Could that have to do with the name?

34. A good name reflects a good reputation.

Some Names to Get Us Thinking

We’ve come a long way since 1845 in how we organize and in how we name our organizations. Our name should be something that everyone in the denomination can be proud of. It should reflect who we are and who we want to be. It should generate excitement.

Think of all the conferences and networks that are cropping up today: Acts29, Resurgence, Elevate, Exponential, Fusion, Catalyst. If we were just starting out would we call it the Southern Baptist Convention? A name should represent something about our vision and not just something about our past.

Great Commission Baptist Convention | Cooperative Baptist Convention | Bible Baptist Convention | Great Commission Baptists | Lottie Moon Baptist Convention πŸ™‚ | North American Baptist Convention | International Baptist Convention | Global Baptist Convention | Missional Baptist Convention | Global Baptist Movement | Immersion Baptist Convention πŸ™‚ |

My personal favorite is the Great Commission Baptist Convention but I’d like to hear your ideas.

I realize that some of these names are already taken. I’m simply providing them here to get us thinking about who we are rather than who we once were. I don’t even like some of the names (indicated by the smileys) but I offer them here as proof that ANYTHING would be better than Southern Baptist Convention.

Take Action NOW!

I want to hear from you! Southern Baptists need to hear from you! What would you call the Southern Baptist Convention? Do you have other reasons why we need to change the name? If you pastor or serve in a church outside the Bible Belt, do you proudly display your Southern Baptist roots or keep it hidden? Have you seen our current name to be a hindrance to your work in the local church? Why or why not?

If you have answers to these questions or if you want to just express your agreement or disagreement, please do so in the comments section below. Let us know who you are (name, church, etc.). Don’t forget to share this today online AND offline. If you link to this post, I will link to yours. If you tweet this post, I will tweet one of yours. Let’s get this name changed once and for all!


34 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Rick Cruse said, on June 22, 2009 at 4.59 pm

    As a non-SB, I take my life in my hands and make an observation. Actually, it’s a statement made 35 years ago by Howard Hendricks (DTS): you can change the label on an empty bottle, but that doesn’t affect the contents.

    The question is whether you’re asking for a name change to do too much. Whether you’re working from the outside in when the challenge is transformation from the inside out.

    Now, I’m retreating for safety.

    • JJ said, on June 24, 2009 at 3.28 pm

      Rick, I certainly see the wisdom in Howard Hendricks’ profound message, “You can change the label on an empty bottle, but tht doesn’t affect the contents.”

      However, I do not believe you can equate any organization as dynamic and growing as the SBC as an “empty bottle.” Name change is not an easy thing, but it is done to better represent the mission and focus of an organization. The SBC is a WONDERFUL moniker, if you live in the south, live in the USA, and have no mission to leave that area.

      One of my favorite Hendrickisms when in Seminary was when he would set you up with a joke, apply the Biblical injunction to us (students/audience), pause just long enough to feel the weight of the Word on our life, swipe a single finger across his nose while sniffing and say, “But that is too convicting, let’s move on.”

  2. Michael Hammett said, on June 22, 2009 at 10.35 pm

    SBC needs a name change. A name change would hopefully help the SBC refocus not only on theology, but also on what distinctly makes us Baptists.

    For a name change, I like United Baptist Convention, Global Baptist Convention, or North American Baptist Convention.

    Or, the Super Awesome Baptist Convention (SABC).

    • str said, on July 1, 2009 at 11.21 am

      I’d vote for SABC! πŸ™‚

      But I concur – on all points of this entry.

  3. DIane Prange said, on June 23, 2009 at 9.58 am

    As a Missouri Synod Lutheran living in Minnesota, I have empathy for the geographical restrictiveness of the Southern Baptist name. This is an issue that should be discussed in the upcoming convention but I urge you to take a long and hard look at the current equity in your brand and make that change based on strategy supported by prayer.

    In the early years of World War I the German Lutheran Synod in the U.S., to avoid persecution, hastily changed their name to Missouri Synod. Rectifying one mistake by making another is no solution

    • Melodie said, on July 22, 2009 at 10.30 pm

      Excellent, insightful observation!

  4. Austin said, on June 24, 2009 at 10.08 am

    I agree with a lot of what has been said. We can change the name, but it also has to be accompanied with a change of heart for it to be meaningful. I think that branding has hurt us in some respect because people have made wrong statements while bearing the name of the denomination and that has caste a vision in people’s minds about who we are. With that said, I think this convention shows that the change of heart is starting to happen. God is at work and is doing something great like usual. The name change is a good idea because 1) it is long overdue and 2) it affirms the work that God is doing within the denomination.

  5. Bill said, on June 24, 2009 at 10.11 am

    As a Southern Baptist, living in the south (Tennessee), I agree with at least looking into a name change.

  6. Chris Roberts said, on June 24, 2009 at 10.23 am

    Tone down the anti-south rhetoric a few notches. The SBC name should change, but not because of general criticisms against the south or southern culture, most of which are unjustified or apply to every geographic region and are usually based on stereotype rather than experience. The name should change because the SBC is no longer a southern denomination. That reason strikes me as sufficient.

    Also, double check your numbers on points 11 & 12; 900,000 isn’t 1% of 3.8 million. It’s closer to 30%. According to Wikipedia, there are about 92 million square miles of land on earth, 317 million if you count water. But 900,000 is 1% of 92 mil, not of 3.8 mil. And points 11 & 12 really should be combined; #11 is meaningless without #12 so they are not separate points.

    As for a possible name change, how about something like Sanctified Baptist Convention so that we don’t have to change all the monograms? πŸ™‚

    If we aren’t worried about the initials, Michael’s suggestions of United or Global Baptist Convention sound pretty good.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on June 24, 2009 at 2.50 pm

      You’re right about the numers. I crunched the data and meant to put the data for total world land area but put the data just for the US. I’ll change that soon. Thanks for the sharp eye!

      And I’ll comment on your other points soon enough. For now, back to my Hebrew class.

  7. Rick Gibson said, on June 24, 2009 at 10.25 am

    Well, we have the IMB, so why not the IBC or GBC; it’s time to start thinking globally.

  8. Tyler Recker said, on June 24, 2009 at 11.04 am

    Agreed on all points.

    From the greatest Southern city, Atlanta, I say we change the name. While “perception is the cruelest form of reality”, why would we let people dismiss us based on perception?

    I had a professor at NOBTS oppose this because it would cost us $2 mil. I would propose that we’d make that much back in the first year alone.

    There’s not a single reason to stay Southern Baptist except complacency and traditionalism. I would think it would honor those who founded our Convention for this thing to go Global in name and in prioritizing global ministry.

  9. Cory Taylor said, on June 24, 2009 at 11.20 am

    I 100% agree with this concept, although I think some of the points are a little shallow.

    The point that resonates with me the most is 26, about being based on a location rather than a vision. As an organization that is at least attempting to pump so much money and so many resources into missionary work around the world, keeping a name based solely on the location we started from doesn’t reflect what our mission is or should be.

    I don’t know how successful this idea will be because too many of our members use the terms Southern Baptist and Christ Follower as interchangeable units, and without that name how will we get into Heaven?!?

  10. Joshua Collins said, on June 24, 2009 at 11.24 am

    As someone from Missouri, the great Border State that we are, I would love a name change. Please. Please. “Nothing says relevant like being tied to the Civil War.”

  11. Duke said, on June 24, 2009 at 11.31 am

    Sorry. I’m not going to provide any sort of thoughtful analysis on your idea. I’m just going to tell you that it is ridiculous, and so are 90% of your arguments.

    • Mark said, on June 24, 2009 at 12.38 pm

      Well that is helpful now isn’t it?

    • alan stoddard said, on June 24, 2009 at 3.00 pm

      Nice. Great help there. I’m sure you’re a great …. whatever. U r 100% wrong and so are 100% of your arguments.

    • Melodie said, on July 22, 2009 at 10.47 pm

      I agree. There is no thoughtful analysis in your comment.

  12. Steven said, on June 24, 2009 at 11.39 am

    I am from Alabama, grew up SBC, and now have lived in 3 states outside the South. The first question that gets raised when I tell people I go to a Southern Baptist Church is “why do you call it ‘southern’? we don’t live in the south.” As a Southerner who has lived in the North and Southwest, I know better than most that there is a bias towards the south. People think we are all rednecks who are uneducated. That is there issue but it is also a barrier to churches. I am not ashamed to be SBC but I do think a name change would go a long way in mending wounds that people have incurred at SBC churches and allow us to be seen as a global denomination not just a Southern one. To echo what the author said, ” The name Southern Baptist doesn’t save anyone.” Jesus saves people

  13. anonymous said, on June 24, 2009 at 12.44 pm

    I’m a fellow SBC, but more importantly a follower of Jesus Christ. It seems like you put so much effort into this; perhaps if we put 10% of the effort spent on meaningless things like this as we should on evangelizing – the amount of people in our churches would explode.

    • Melodie said, on July 22, 2009 at 10.39 pm

      Experience has taught me that people who work hard to make these kinds of changes do so because of their evangelistic zeal. Examining one’s name and reputation is Biblical and therefore worthy of consideration and conversation. As for spending more time evangelizing making churches explode, that’s just not reality. We need to spend more time evangelizing, that’s certain. However, winning people to Christ in our current cultures is more and more difficult every day. People no longer assume the reality of Christ, the validity of the Bible, or the trustworthiness of a church. Removing barriers helps the effectiveness of evangelism. That’s what this conversation is really all about.

  14. Dannonhill said, on June 24, 2009 at 1.40 pm

    I’m glad to see Southern Baptists argue with this. I spent four years serving in youth ministry in a Southern Baptist church that was also associated with Willow Creek Association culture. With so much going on as America goes through a strange identity crisis right now, I wonder if this could be a rallying point for Southern Baptists rather than a divisive one. I think that if this is discussed properly, and people talk things through and give their own gut and rational reactions in an open forum, perhaps over time people will naturally transition to a change of name.

    Though I like the idea of a name change, I also know that it effects other Baptist denominations outside the denomination and their distinctive identities as well. If the name were to become Global Baptist Convention, what does that say to the others. That they are not Global? That they have to join this hegemonic new order of Baptists with a new vision?

    I like the International Baptist Convention because it is less subsuming of other denominations and merely states where the denomination is. It is becoming international as missionaries are establishing churches, and churches are part of the convention. As the world becomes more Christian outside the Western Hemisphere, this would be a great strategy move on the part of the SBC, showing those all around the world that they are part of the whole vision. The church is bigger than the parts.

  15. steve lewis said, on June 24, 2009 at 1.51 pm

    Related to #24 – let’s just go the whole way and rename it “NASCAR Baptist Convention.”

    I like the idea of a “Global” name, but only if we really mean it. There are other Baptist entities around the world that have sprung up from Southern Baptist work over the years – shouldn’t a “global” convention also seek AND VALUE their participation in it? I’d love it if we could affiliate with them in a non-colonialist way.

  16. Mike Lovato said, on June 24, 2009 at 2.36 pm

    I think it’s a great idea to change our convention’s name. I’m a youth pastor in Calfornia, have lived here my entire life, and been in SBC churches my entire life. It’s definitely a turn-off to many people. Our reputation goes before us. I personally like North American Baptist Convention since it ties to our churches and our missions agency designed to reach that area. If we truly want to go international and become a multi-continental denomination (which I think would be great) then some variation of International Baptist Convention works.

  17. James Thompson said, on June 24, 2009 at 2.48 pm

    To me this seems like vanity. The name Southern Baptist is historically and otherwise descriptive. That people have misperceptions about the name is not the fault of the name, its the fault of those with the misperception; they are, by definition, the ones who are wrong.

    I’ll grant that the historical legacy of Southern Baptists causes the name to have some baggage, but what good will a change in name do to overcome the reality of the convention’s heritage? Nothing, in point of fact. A change in name is a form of misdirection: look at this here and now (we’re fresh, we’re newish) not over there and back then (we have a history, a legacy and baggage).

    What we need is to humbly embark on a restoration of the convention. Not to any silly idea of former glory or old practice or appearance. We need a restoration or, perhaps, a reformation of ourselves that seeks to repair and correct our reputation through the means of sincere repentance and turning from those things in our past which are unchristian as well as embarking on efforts to correct the misperceptions of us that are out there.

    Changing our name won’t accomplish either of those two substantive issues, they merely whitewash the tomb. If the unrepentant nature persists and the misperceptions endure, changing the name of the convention will bring no lasting or meaningful impact. We need true renewal and when that comes, perhaps it will be appropriate to change the name; once something new and vibrant has emerged from the shell of the old.

    • Paul said, on June 27, 2009 at 4.09 pm

      I disagree with this analysis on several levels.

      First off, I don’t think anyone really thinks a name change will alter the organization that much. That is not the point. The question is whether the name represents a barrier that can reasonably and purposefully be removed, and thus should. To me, the only argument regarding actual change in the organization would be along the lines of rousing people to rethink things they had taken for granted for far too long, and obviously people get used to things and stop thinking about them on a regular basis. It is like the spirit of spring cleaning, once you begin to look at the dust in the house, then you see how much you had gotten used to and make efforts to change it. The name won’t change the organization, but the act of rethinking our identity might.

      Secondly, I think the issue of image and perception is huge. Many people in America (I can’t speak for many other places) are not really itching to go to church for the first time and so they don’t need much discouragement to skip it. Now we can talk another time about whether bringing people to church is the best or right way to try and encourage people to meet Jesus. However, the point is that we often find reasons to support decisions we already wanted to make in the first place. Giving people easy reasons to discount the message we offer does not serve them well.

      I think Paul of Tarsus discussed it this way: people suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I understand by this that our moral standing actually determines many of our intellectual stances. I think the role of apologetics is to break down intellectual and emotional walls which people have put up around their hearts to the gospel. The holy spirit deals with the heart, but we can be active in attacking the walls themselves so that people really have to face up to heart issues. This is what I mean when I talk about taking away barriers. If people want to discount the gospel or Christians, they are not above using things as meaningless as perception to discount it.

      All that to say I believe the name “southern” represents a totally needless barrier to people around the nation and the world. We don’t want non-believers to come to southern Baptist Churches to interact with our history or heritage as much as we want them to interact with the Living Christ. Moreover, I believe the heart of the Incarnation is that God made himself accessible, he entered our world, he stepped into our context that we might know him. For us to come into other areas as “southern” brands us as other when part of what I think God is doing through us is coming near.

      Finally this conversation is not vanity because it is one aspect (and a very prominent aspect in our image-driven culture) of us trying to be the presence of Christ in our world and in our culture (more specifically, their culture).

  18. Aaron Friesen said, on June 24, 2009 at 2.58 pm

    It sounds like the name change is for those who don’t fit the “Southern” mold – those in areas labeled “emerging” by the convention.

    The two Southern Baptist churches I have been in have had the most diverse adult population and area of influence in their respective locations – one in northern California and one in southern California. As much as these churches, and churches like Saddleback, continue to redefine what Southern Baptist represents to Californian churchgoers, our name has a definite lack of appeal for non-churchgoers.

    But names like Lottie Moon and Immersion are muddled to outsiders. International, Missional, and Bible reflect Southern Baptist purposes clearly. Heading in that direction seems a better choice than the others.

    • James Thompson said, on June 24, 2009 at 3.06 pm

      Aaron, I certainly understand the perspective of the “emerging” church that exists within the convention. And certainly when offerings like the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong ones are presented without the historical context that gave rise to their names it can cause confusion. But, I would think in that case we need to embrace the terms and educate people about their history and character. The legacy of Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong are worth recounting to this young generation (I’m 27, so I’m part of it). We need to embrace our history and deal honestly with it before we go down the road of refashioning ourselves. We need to have a clear reason that reflects deeper commitments and changes than many are talking about.

    • Melodie said, on July 22, 2009 at 10.46 pm

      When my husband, now a pastor, was newly saved, he once asked, “What’s a Lottie Moon?” He was thinking solor system!

  19. alan stoddard said, on June 24, 2009 at 3.11 pm

    Why change the name SBC?

    1. The SBC was created out of a rift with Northern Baptists over the rights of missionaries to own slaves. The split brought the SBC. We have resolutions stating we renounce racism. We should change the name.

    2. LifeWay used to be “Baptist Sunday School Board.” I wonder why they decided to change the name? Dr. Jimmy Draper did that. Why? He knew what needed to happen to LifeWay could be effective in the 21st century. Can you imagine sill calling it “BSSB?” How Guttenberg would that be?

    3. Possible names:

    International Baptist Fellowship, or Convention (we will have to get it from the IBC in Europe, used to be the EBC).

    Global Baptist Alliance

  20. JJ said, on June 24, 2009 at 3.20 pm

    Negev Baptist Convention – that should help appease Southerners (living in Dallas, the very thought of Changing Southern Baptist is like changing a certain football team to the Dallas Metroboys. Not popular. )

    I think “International” is a nice focus for any group as large and growing as the SBC. I also like something simple like Christian Baptist Convention.

    The thought of change is always difficult, but the SBC needs to realize that, as popular as the SBC name is in the south, it is equally suspect in other regions.

  21. […] Should the Southern Baptist Convention change it’s name? I discovered a blog post concerning this very topic recently. What do you think? Is there any merit to changing the name of the SBC? Read the blog post here. […]

  22. E.G. said, on June 27, 2009 at 5.10 pm

    As one who has been a member of Southern Baptist churches twice (while living in California) and other baptist churches otherwise, I completely agree.

    Oh, and you might as well scrap “North American Baptist Convention”. It’s too close to the name of an existing denomination, the North American Baptist Conference.

    (I like Lottie Moon Baptists! πŸ™‚

  23. Nick said, on August 5, 2009 at 12.13 am

    “7. Our culture responds to brands and β€˜Southern’ has become irrelevant.”

    Unless you’re talking about bbq. πŸ˜‰

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: