Absurdity To Show The Absurd: The Changing Of A Name

Posted on September 22, 2011


To find articles both pro and con concerning the discussion surrounding the name change of the SBC click here.

I was speaking with a good friend today and the topic of the name change for the SBC came up.  My friend is totally against any such change and I have to believe his reasoning is sound.  The main reason for the name change is that church planters claim it is hard to plant a church outside of a southern or southwest cultural context when your convention affiliation has “Southern” or in some cases “Baptist” in its name.  My premise is that a church planter isn’t supposed to promote our convention, but the gospel.  The SBC has never saved anyone.  Nevertheless, if the negative connotations is what keeps people from responding to the gospel, I believe there are some other things that may need to be changed in order to make the gospel more palatable to the modern 21st century sophisticated people of today.


First, we may want to remove ourselves from the negative publicity that was generated from our boycott of Disney.  Forget the fact that Disney actually changed some of what it was producing, the move was bad press and we should remove ourselves from such actions.  In doing so, I suggest we remove ourselves from all who promoted this cause when it was introduced to the convention including current International Mission Board President Tom Eliff who was president of the SBC at the time. After all, we would not want anyone associating our missions overseas with the decision to boycott “the wonderful world of Disney.”  Of course I would not want to have Dr. Eliff fired, I believe he is doing a great job (No joke there, I am glad he is the president of the IMB).  One possible solution is to change his name so those outside of the South will not know he was the president of the SBC when the Disney boycott was approved.  Dr. Eliff could change his name to Woody Harrelson.  To start off, a name like “Woody” is just absolutely cool.  Hey, how much fun would it be to say, “Our IMB president is named ‘Woody'” or “Our next speaker is president of the IMB.  Please help me welcome ‘Woody.'”  Plus, Mr. Harrelson is best known for his role on Cheers where he played a bar keep (great way to appeal to those who don’t consider drinking a sin) and on his position to legalize marijuana (which would help us appeal to a laid back West Coast type mentality).  A name change would help to distance the SBC from the negative connotations of our boycott of Disney and appeal to a broader audience.

Second, we may want to remove ourselves from the so called terribly legalistic stand of abstinence from alcohol (See Woody above).  I believe the South had many leading pastors throughout the years promoting abstinence and changing the convention’s name would help others in forgetting those things and actually help them in hearing the gospel.  In fact, according to one pastor, alcohol could be used in leading others to Jesus.  The SBC is just too closely associated with abstinence of alcohol and we should remove ourselves from any association to our many resolutions promoting such.  In fact, the 2006 resolution was produced by a committee that included current head of the Executive Committee Dr. Frank Page.  If it ever gets out that Dr. Page was on that resolution committee, it would be hard to start a church because so many Americans drink alcohol and think its cool.  I suggest, so that any church plant doesn’t get mixed up in the alcohol thing, that we not only change our convention name, but also Dr. Page’s name. A great name to appeal to an older generation of head bangers would be Alice Cooper.  After all, an old rocker like Alice Cooper is known as the most “beloved heavy metal entertainer” and I am sure that by using his name, many will be more willing to listen to the gospel and forget our anti-alcohol past.  And while we are at it, we can get Dr. Page to walk around in tight black leather with snakes like Cooper.  When we come down to it, black leather and snakes are just awesomely cool and a president who dresses that way and messes with snakes would be a great conversation starter.

Finally, we in the south have had a history of ugliness when it comes to slavery (No joke there!).  To use the word, ‘Southern” in our name could bring up those ideas of slavery and alienate many people groups from our church plants.  The word also connotates the idea of the ignorant and illiterate bigoted redneck.  Therefore, it is imperative to take Southern out of our name.  Likewise, I also suggest we take the book of Philemon out of the Bible because it is a letter to a slave owner.  Again, we would not want anyone to associate slavery with the Bible because they would not listen to the gospel.  Paul doesn’t even condemn Philemon for owning slaves!  Didn’t he watch “Roots?”  Having this book in the Bible could lead others to think the Bible condones slavery and that would make it too hard on church planters to share the gospel.  Also, we would not want to use the word slave when preaching because it brings up “irredeemably negative associations.”  So, let’s use “bond servant” because that again is more palatable to the sophisticated modern man unlike the legalistic religious backward freaks of Southern Baptist Churches who are dumb enough to believe the Bible is sufficient in all matters.


I have made these three examples extremely absurd for a reason.  While they express ridiculously absurd actions, the logic behind each of them is the same argument used to promote changing the SBC name.  To remove the name “Southern” or even in some cases “Baptist” from our name is believed to be the key in reaching souls in parts of America outside the South.  In reality, people don’t hate and have negative feelings about the name Southern Baptist (Mormons and Muslims use their name all the time and they are growing).  They hate what we stand for: The Bible.  Our problem isn’t in a name, but in the church.  We have forgotten what we are to do and have gotten side tract on things that don’t matter like choosing the color of carpeting or changing a name.  But we feel good about ourselves because we are busy doing Kingdom work on a committee and have convinced ourselves that it is the Lord’s work we are doing. With the way things are going one wonders whether the name change would be a good idea.  At least the name “Baptist” could be left untarnished from some churches that more resemble a secular corporation seeking to franchise itself rather than a local body of regenerate baptized believers trusting in God’s Word and being fueled by His Spirit.

I still believe in the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) and I don’t believe the name “Southern Baptist Convention” has ever or will ever hinder its effectiveness in redeeming depraved humanity. Our only hindrance is only our lack of faith in God’s good news to move the sinner to a righteous standing before God.  Change the name to the Caterpillar Convention, to me it doesn’t matter all too much, but let’s be honest with ourselves, we are substituting superficial busy work, time, and dollars for what really matters: Completing the task Jesus gave His church, Matthew 28:16-20.  All this business about changing our name is nothing more than our lack of faith in the power of the gospel and ultimately, God Himself.