As I remember, there was a lot of discussion, time, and effort expended over the last year and a half or so, regarding the subject of a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Former SBC President Bryant Wright bowed to great concerns allegedly from church planters and others around the country who seemed to feel that the moniker “Southern Baptists” was a challenge to the task of planting churches in the Northeast and other areas of the USA. Surely a new name was needed for the tired old convention. So Dr. Wright appointed a task force made up of many familiar names to look into this terrible situation and to make their learned recommendations to the convention messengers when we met at our annual meeting in New Orleans this past June.
After much research, soul searching, and discussion, it was finally decided that rather than changing the legal nomenclature of the Convention (too expensive and too much red tape) what we needed was a new “descriptor” which would more accurately describe who we are.
Let me say at this point, that I personally had no problem with changing the name of the Convention to more accurately define the more global nature of our work. It had been brought up at other Convention meetings in the past, and I felt there was some merit to the thought, but alas nothing had come of it. I might add that previous attempts had come from the floor of the Convention, which in my opinion, was the proper way to bring up the matter.
In recent years, however, there have been “needs” that have behooved SBC Presidents to appoint special committees to look into serious situations such as the need for a “Great Commission Resurgence” and the perceived urgent need to change our Convention’s name to make it more palatable to those in other regions of our nation. Some have questioned if the two former Presidents even had the authority to do such a thing, but as my buddy Joed Rice’s late father might have said, “…That’s another thing!”
So at any rate, the Ad Hoc Committee in their wisdom did not deem it incumbent on us to change the official name of the Convention, but still felt that it was imperative that we add the descriptor, “Great Commission Baptists”. The upbuilding of the Kingdom demanded quick action. The recommendation came to the Messengers of the Convention, and like obedient sheep we passed it, thereby taking the terrible curse of the “Southern” term out of the equation – and presumably making folks in the northeast and great northwest much more open to the Gospel message.
The news went out from New Orleans in June, and now we were free to use the new descriptor in hopes that the lost world would like us better now that we had a nickname.
I really don’t intend to beat a dead horse, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the “Frankenstorm” that pummeled the eastern seaboard, our SBC Disaster Relief volunteers kicked into action as usual, moving hundreds of volunteer chainsaw crews, mud out crews, and feeding units into New Jersey, New York, and other hard hit areas.
How interesting it was to note that as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held a recent news conference, he was high on his praise of the first responders along with the National Guard, American Red Cross, and the SOUTHERN BAPTISTS who were already on site. The SBC North American Mission Board tells us that SBC Disaster Relief Crews are cranking out more than 400,000 meals per day which are being delivered by the Red Cross to those who are in need. Southern Baptists. Imagine that. I doubt that very many would turn down those hot meals, or send away the chain saw and mud out crews just because “Southern Baptist Disaster Relief” was written in blue across their bright yellow T-Shirts and caps.
Perhaps what we do for the Lord in the way of ministry to others carries a whole lot more weight than what we call ourselves. And just maybe, this visible manifestation of God’s love and grace may have more of an impact on lost people than any descriptor a committee might come up with.
(And that’s another thing!)