It is still a rose, isn’t it? Or at least that was Shakespeare’s idea. Whatever name it carries, it is still red, still beautiful, still aromatic, and still queen among flowers. There is real truth in that. When we come to the Bible, it actually puts a lot of weight on a name. Throughout the Old Testament, people were named by their character, historic events, and even prophetic events. The name itself represented something. When the Bible presents Jesus as our salvation, it says there is no other name by which we can be saved. It is not calling out any name we want as long as are thinking about Jesus. It is calling out “Jesus!” So there you have it! A definitive presentation of both sides. There is worth and value beyond a name and the name counts for everything.
I sat in a discussion yesterday at our annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was in New Orleans. I ate lunch Tuesday at Emeril’s. The tomato crab soup was just incredible. I mean wow, but I digress. The SBC was considering a name change to Great Commission Baptists. Why? Well, we really are not just a southern entity anymore. We are in all 50 states and worldwide. It has been proven that “regional names” can be a hindrance. It is a barrier to overcome if you are inviting someone to a Southern Baptist church if you are in Oregon or Maine. Not in all cases, but it can be. The name southern and Southern Baptist also has some baggage racially, a baggage we are overcoming, but the name is still there. Those who carry the cause of Christ through the means of the SBC have said it would be easier if when people asked what denomination is this church there was not a geographical barrier or racial barrier. Good argument. On the other side of the argument was the significance of branding. The SBC, as it is now named, is a name known throughout the world and has a very storied history. We want to be careful not to throw that away. Companies spend millions trying to get a name to stick. Our name as stuck. That is a good argument. There is also a sense of pride. This is a name many of us love. It was Southern Baptist churches and schools that shared the gospel with us and taught us about Jesus. It was Southern Baptist work that carried missions throughout our country and around the world. It has been a good name for a longtime. We best not on a whim just toss it – another good argument.
I preach Christ. I don’t preach SBC. I don’t call people to become Southern Baptists, but rather to be followers of Jesus. Having said that, I am SBC. I am a proud member of this convention. I chose it before and I would choose it again. No denomination or convention is perfect, but I will take ours over and over. While the great majority of my ministry is the church, I do enjoy working with and serving through the Convention. But I am in this for one name, the name above all names, and that is JESUS!
1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Romans 14 challenge me to not let anything get above presenting the gospel: not my preferences or personal freedoms. As individuals and as churches we need to be constantly sensitive to that. What potentially builds bridges for the gospel? What is potentially a barrier? God did not call me to live and die for names, but for the gospel. I think practically speaking it would be hard to change the name of a 150 year old convention, but it if tells the world, we are taking down barriers, then so be it. If it tells the world that we are about one name, Jesus, so be it. I am proud to be Southern Baptist. Who we are, what we believe, and how we have chosen to serve Christ together is what I am proud of, not a name.
Now, I write this entire blog, of which many may have already abandoned (because really, how many care), not to give a report on the SBC meeting. I write it as an illustration of what is to be one of the driving principles for all we do – at work or school, in decision-making, entertaining, how we relate, what kind of neighbor we are, what are values are – what opens doors for the gospel? How can I increase opportunity for the gospel? When those questions are answered, all other arguments for or against should cease. Is the one name – Jesus – and how you share that name with others that is a guiding principle for you in decision-making. I think you will find it makes a lot of decisions really very clear.