Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What now shall we call ourselves?

As I begin arranging my thoughts for this post, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and many other sources are all abuzz about the prospect of a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention. Almost immediately, the battle lines over the name change were drawn. Discussions for the name change, against the name change, and even if the SBC President had the authority to even form a committee to THINK about changing the name.

My first observation was that the more enthusiastic supporters of changing the name were young, and those vocal for keeping the name were 40 and older. Sadly, the simple age of the respondant looked to be highly important. Both offered solid reasons for their position:

FOR changing the name - One young Tweeter in NYC made the comment that when he mentions that he's from the SBC, the typical response is "good, then go back there". The SBC certainly has a reputation. Others made the comment that we cannot have a regional identity and reach the world.

AGAINST changing the name - I saw comments about the storied history of the SBC. I saw comments about how "we didn't pick you to change the name, just steer the ship". I saw comments about how "you can't MAKE us change our name!" You could make the case that the Southern Baptist Convention is three offenses for the price of one. The SBC does have a storied (and checkered) past. Formed over the issue of slavery, but long past that issue. We now work aggressively to fight "human trafficking" as we call it in today's PC terms. We DO have a regional identity, and Southerners are not universally liked. We talk funny, eat grits, still wave the Stars & Bars occassionally, and even create words like y'all! The term Baptist is divisive as well. With hate-filled groups like Westboro running around, the old reputations are not likely to go away. We're known for thumping our Bibles, clucking our tongues, being against everything that the world considers fun, and we're typically mad at or about SOMETHING. Then there's that wonderful word Convention. Every year we get together and argue about this resolution or that resolution. And then we go back home and act just like we did BEFORE the Convention, except that now we're building our case for NEXT years resolution.

And that brings me to what the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the name change. Will it really CHANGE anything? If we do change the name, we'll still be known for years as the guys who USED to be the SBC. One witty post suggested the name "The Baptists Formerly Known as Southern". But will the name change ACCOMPLISH anything? Sadly, I believe not. I see us as an episode of those tv shows about the people fighting the issue of hoarding. We keep everything we have, nothing gets thrown out and we just get crowded with more and more STUFF. More programs. More "ministries". More initiatives. We can whitewash the outside of the tomb, but we all know what is really inside.

One of my favorite books is Joel, I'm one of those weirdos who just LOVE the OT. So when someone Tweeted yesterday that what the church NEEDED was for every Christian to read and live out the book of Joel, I read it again last night. And Joel told the Israelites in verse 2:13, "Rend your heart, and not your garment". What if the MEMBERS of the SBC were to return to God with weeping and fasting and mourning over OUR INDIVIDUAL sins and experience personal revival? What if we showed the world what GOD wanted the SBC to look like? What if we cast off every old stereotype and preconceived notion of who we are, where we came from and why we're here? What if were were more concerned about being known as disciples of Jesus Christ than Southern Baptists?

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