Saylorville Church responds: "Could it be that Dr. Bauder has touched a nerve of fear? ... a fear of 1,000 'what ifs'?"

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Jim's picture

Quote:
One of the criticisms leveled against us is that our name change lacks clarity. Yet this has been the very reason we have made this move, our now former name lacked clarity.

In 'Erasing Hell' Francis Chan writes, "If you call someone a Baptist, all you've said is that they don't baptize babies – beyond this, it's pretty much up for grabs". The 'Baptist' ame has lost the clarity it might once have possessed. It no longer stands tall as a gospel centered, life-changing church it once did.

Question: What occurs when you tell an unsaved person you are a Baptist? (Obviously referring to you who are Baptists.)
Have you even gone beyond speculation? Would you be willing to take the test? We have and have found the name wanting.

Teri Ploski's picture

I have an atheist daughter in law who equates all Baptists with Westboro Baptist.  Is that who I want to be identified with?  Quite obviously not. 

jimfrank's picture

Let me say at the outset that I am Grace Brethren and not "Baptist."  I am a product of Grace Seminary where many conservative (small "C") Baptist and IFCA pastors received their education.  Some would argue that there isn't much difference between the two names, one originating in England and the other in Germany.  In more lucid moments I would agree with that sentiment.  However, names are powerful things.  Why?  Because it identifies a group.

 

Men and women suffered and died for the Baptist name in England and colonial America.  Similarly, when Alexander Mack organized his first Brethren congregation and re-baptized members in 1708, within eleven years many of them left the persecution of both the Lutheran Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church for the freedom of America.  These names were earned, not merely given.  Both groups built their styles of Christianity over the years, and the names mean something.  

 

Yet there is a growing trend within both groups to drop the formal "Baptist" or "Brethren" from the names of the individual churches.  Why?  These churches concluded that the names actually turn people away from them, not attract people to them.

 

Allow me to use two examples of these churches with which I am familiar.  Faith Church is a successful GARBC church in Lafayette, Indiana.  It is well-known in Nouthetic counseling circles.  They now offer primary, secondary and post-graduate education and a wide range of other services for youth, unwed mothers, and Purdue students.  Faith dropped the "Baptist" from their name about two years ago and is now simply Faith Church.  Has it resulted in more members and the offering of even more services?  I'm not sure, but the parking lot always seems to be busy when I drive by going into town.  Many people with college degrees leave our small Indiana town on Sundays and drive the 25 miles or so to East Lafayette and worship there.

 

Goshen Community Church, Goshen, Indiana, used to be Goshen Grace Brethren Church.  Some years ago a dynamic pastor took the church, sold the building, changed the name, and moved it into a newer middle school auditorium.  From that point the church grew almost exponentially.   It is full-bore contemporary.  They built a new building south of town and have since added more space.   It is now one of the largest churches in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.

 

In both cases gifted men, one primarily an expositor and the other an evangelist, built large churches rather quickly.  God, of course, gets all the credit and the glory, but these men did a lot of the "right" things and have been rewarded with much responsibility for their efforts.  But was the name change the difference in these two churches?   Viewed from a distance I would say "somewhat" for the Goshen church and "not so much" for Faith.  

 

 

 

Jonathan Charles's picture

I have NEVER run into anyone who brushed me off for being a Baptist.  I'm not entitled to it, but I'd like a church like this to quantify the push-back they've gotten for being "Baptist" in name.  I have a hunch that there are a few anecdotal stories.  Will we stop using the labels "Christian" and "church" if the world comes to have a problem with them?

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jonathan Charles wrote:

I have NEVER run into anyone who brushed me off for being a Baptist.  I'm not entitled to it, but I'd like a church like this to quantify the push-back they've gotten for being "Baptist" in name.  I have a hunch that there are a few anecdotal stories.  Will we stop using the labels "Christian" and "church" if the world comes to have a problem with them?

 


I'ts great you've never received any negative feedback for the Baptist name. That is certainly not everyone's experience.

As one of those "anecdotal stories," my wife and I once had a couple over for dinner, and when the conversation finally got around to spiritual things, we mentioned the name of our church. Immediately, the first question from the husband was "So you think the Baptists have it right?" I probably spent 15-30 minutes trying to disentangle what we believed from what he thought he knew about Baptists.

Of course, that can happen with any name, but I see no reason we need to die on the hill of a denominational name over something like Christian. Being ashamed of Christ is far different from being ashamed for the abuses of people bearing a name that is not in itself, biblical. As others have said, you see the Bible refer to the "church of Ephesus," etc. No "Baptist" anywhere in sight. And for that matter, "ecclesia" can be translated "assembly" or probably some other words as well. Our English word "church" can have a lot of baggage associated with it, depending how it's used. I think "church" still serves well enough, but I see no reason we couldn't use something else if it got to the point where it really didn't mean the same thing as what Christ meant with the Greek word. If the primary use in the future is for a large organization rather than a local assembly (like, e.g. "The Catholic Church"), then it may be time to rethink the use of that word, just as many are doing with the term "fundamentalist."

Since one of our local "Baptist" churches is one of the most liberal churches in the area, including their recognition and performance of gay marriages, I completely identify with the quote mentioning that "Baptist" really doesn't mean much beyond no baptism of children. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that that local church I referred to would care about that either, but I'd have to ask them to be sure.

Dave Barnhart

Matthew Olmstead's picture

Jim,

Perhaps you misstated, but to say that Baptist have died for the name is dubious. I know of no Baptist who has died for the name. Rather, numerous have died for what Baptist has historically represented: a certain theological position on baptism.

I think that is an important distinction because that would seem to be Saylorville's point. Dying on the hill of the name is asinine, dying on the hill of the doctrine is a different matter.

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Greg Linscott's picture

FWIW, I have an immigrant community who came to our church precisely because we had Baptist in our name. They currently comprise up to 1/3 of our Sunday morning attendance. I also have two couples in their twenties from non-Baptist backgrounds preparing to join, along with another middle-aged couple coming from the mainline Presbyterian church in town.

Hey, its anecdotal. But it isn't always the obstacle some make it out to be.

 

To answer Pat Nemmer's question, yes, I tell lost people I'm Baptist all the time. It kind of comes with telling them where I work. If there is any recoiling in horror, they keep it to themselves, from what I can see. I just let things like our foster parenting, grief counseling for a recent suicide, and things like that paint the fuller picture of our personal reputation in our community. The work with the Karen refugees certainly enhances our reputation as a congregation, too, as does the public reputations of several of our members.

We distinguish ourselves with labels to some degree, but in the end, our call is still to stand out through love and good works. If there are negatives connected with a label, a name change only does so much, anyway. Instead of being such and such Baptist church, you'll be the church that used to be "such and such Baptist Church" (like the SBC church in our town that changed its name from Calvary Baptist Church to "Radiant Life").

There are lost people who will throw up defenses if you tell them you're a Baptist. There are lost people who will throw up defenses if you tell them you're from a "church," or if you mention "Jesus." In the end, there's only so much name changing will do, for them. The name does mean something in the scope of Christian context- in that sense, it is meant both to attract and repel.

But we've been down this road already...

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

iKuyper's picture

In the end, it's all about locality. What baptist is associated with in location X, isn't necessarily the association in location Y.

Leave it up to the local church to decide what is best for her. After all, aren't we baptists? Smile

IK

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

JT Hoekstra's picture

...there's a giant tank somewhere as the focal point inside. Clarity hits you smack in the face when first you pass through the doors, regardless of the name out by the street. 

Joel Shaffer's picture

How silly to think that sound doctrine is somehow maintained by a label on the front of the church.

Agree

fjbarnes's picture

[quote=jimfrank]

Faith Church is a successful GARBC church in Lafayette, Indiana.  It is well-known in Nouthetic counseling circles.  They now offer primary, secondary and post-graduate education and a wide range of other services for youth, unwed mothers, and Purdue students.  Faith dropped the "Baptist" from their name about two years ago and is now simply Faith Church.  Has it resulted in more members and the offering of even more services?  I'm not sure, but the parking lot always seems to be busy when I drive by going into town.  Many people with college degrees leave our small Indiana town on Sundays and drive the 25 miles or so to East Lafayette and worship there.

 

jim/frank, Has "Baptist" been removed from the sign in front of Faith Church? The website photo of the church shows the full name.

JVDM's picture

Yeah. This isn't about the name. Neither side is being completely honest. I'm convinced of that much.

FBBC is hiding behind the name issue and has made it easy for Saylorville to hide behind that as well. Neither is facing the real issues involved. In fact, FBBC wrought the cudgel and handed it to Saylorville who is wielding it perfectly. 

Greg Linscott's picture

How silly to think that sound doctrine is somehow maintained by a label on the front of the church.

I can see why he would say that. At the same time, isn't it also silly to think that removing the name and welcoming in people to the fellowship of a local church who would have been repelled by the label won't have any impact on the church's doctrine? I mean, I understand the appeal to the lost and all, but that isn't where all of the growth comes from in churches like there. You draw people who were already professing believers, too. I know for a fact that there are some from the church where I used to serve as associate pastor who are active at SC. I'm not condemning them for it- these things happen the other way, too. But the point I'm making is that in moves like this, you will bring in people who may not see the necessity for say, a dispensational approach, or the ministry of the Holy Spirit, or baptism by immersion... Not every matter may be a Baptist distinctive, precisely, but a removal of the name can give the impression that things may not be as important as they used to be. You cannot (and should not) rely on the label alone to do your doctrinal monitoring, yet to imply that it cannot be a useful tool seems quite silly, too. 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jonathan Charles's picture

Do Baptists do this more than most?  Tim Keller went to the heart of secular America to evangelize people who had every wrong preconceived idea there probably is of organized religion, yet he started a church with its denominational commitment clearly communicated in its name, and the church has flourished.  IMO, that it is typical of unbelievers to not go to a church just because it is Baptist is just a bogeyman used by a pastor to scare a church into changing its name.

iKuyper's picture

Are we not forgetting the big picture here? Who "brings" people into the church? Is it the church name? pastor? programs? methods?

I think we're placing too much weight in a name, on both ends of the debate.

Ultimately, the Spirit directs man on where he ought to go.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

Greg Linscott's picture

iK...

Well, for that matter, why bother with anything? Just let the Holy Spirit do it all...

While we do rely on the Spirit, that doesn't mean our decisions have no consequence. Granted, there is a degree of relativity to this decision. I don't think that means its irrelevant or inconsequential, though.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

iKuyper's picture

Greg,

Point taken. But my point is that I think we're taking this too far, giving it too much attention, as if the efficacy of the Holy Spirit rests on what letters we put on our church sign.

How about we focus on expository preaching, sound doctrine, and actual evangelism?

IK

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

Charlie's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:

Do Baptists do this more than most?  Tim Keller went to the heart of secular America to evangelize people who had every wrong preconceived idea there probably is of organized religion, yet he started a church with its denominational commitment clearly communicated in its name, and the church has flourished.  IMO, that it is typical of unbelievers to not go to a church just because it is Baptist is just a bogeyman used by a pastor to scare a church into changing its name.

Yes, Jonathan, I think that "Baptist" is especially problematic, at least for some demographics. In popular media, Baptist is associated with Southern, far-right Republican, uneducated, intimidating, and sometimes bigoted. I work at a Catholic university, and my colleagues are much more uneasy around Baptists than around some other Protestants. Some immigrant groups also feel that Baptists are more likely to be out to get them. Concretely, the most visible hate group in the nation is Westboro Baptist Church. (BTW, Fred Phelps attended BJU and left, ironically, because BJU was too prejudiced. Bizarreville.) So, whether Baptists deserve it or not, they have a PR problem. And that's why I don't think the Tim Keller comparison works that well.

If it's any consolation, Pentecostals who ask for money on television rank even lower than Baptists on the PR scale.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Greg Linscott's picture

I understand the negatives that could be associated (like Westboro), yet on the other end of the spectrum, you have Jesse Jackson, MLK Jr., Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. Articulately, you can see someone like Al Mohler consulted by CNN, let's say, to comment on some cultural issue. Now, those people aren't "our kind" of Baptists in one sense, true... but still, those aren't the same kind of categories of concern for lost people that Westboro is going to cause.

I think the Keller parallel is appropriate. It shows that the denominational name can, at the least, not be the huge problem it can be made out to be. Bethlehem Baptist in the Twin Cities (Piper's old church) would be another example where Baptist doesn't seem to have limited them.

Baptist isn't going to communicate everything. But it does communicate something, as does removing it.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

jimfrank's picture

Yes, Faith Church removed the "Baptist" from the name on their several buildings.  We heard they were going to do it but were still surprised when we saw the change.   It appears that they recently overhauled their website, and maybe the older picture of the church "slipped through the crack."  I tried to paste a picture of the new logo here but was unable to do so.  

 

One thing I've noticed about large churches in smaller fellowships is the large church can do pretty much whatever it wants to do and the central office is powerless to stop it.  It is significant to note that this "controversy" is between an educational institution and an individual church and not between an individual church and the central office.  Both the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches are "fellowships" of churches and not denominations.  I can't speak for the GARBC, but the Grace Brethren's central office policy is definitely "hands off" of the individual churches.   A few years ago our largest church walked away from the Fellowship.  That reinforced my opinion that the large churches such as Faith Church of Lafayette or Goshen Community Church are "denoms" in their own right.  

 

Concerning Matt Olmstead's comment on my statement, "Men and women suffered and died for the Baptist name in England and colonial America," perhaps I should refresh my admittedly rusty memory and read on the subject again.  I should have left it at "suffered."  John Bunyan's several years in jail is the most well-known case of persecution against English Baptists,  Correction noted.

Ron Bean's picture

Just a Saturday morning note to make people smile.

Each day I drive by the First Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church. One of my c0-workers attends a Baptist church where many of its members are re-baptized every week to, as she says, "get a fresh start in their lives". I was in a small town with 28 independent Baptist churches that included charismatic, free will, and four versions of KJV only.

Seriously, is having Baptist in your church name necessary to being a true Baptist church?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

G. N. Barkman's picture

28 independent Baptist churches, and only FOUR KJV only!  Around here it would probably be more like 20.

 

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

That was 6 years ago Greg. I'm sure they've done "the baptist split" a number of time since then. They had separated from each other over their "convictions" on the existence of the LXX, the inspiration of the verse numbers and chapter headings, the "right" Bible publisher, and the inspiration of the italicized words.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Folks, let's keep our eye on the ball.

Pat Nemmers has rather cleverly diverted the discussion. Beware of following the false scent.

(1) The question is not how the New Testament named churches. In the New Testament, a city had only one church. The only differential necessary was to say that the church was "in Corinth" or "in Philippi." There were no churches that had abandoned New Testament polity, and consequently there was no need for New-Testament-polity churches to distinguish themselves from them. What we do see in the New Testament, however, is that acceptability of designating the differentia (which might now be "in Thessalonica" or "Baptist") as well as the genus ("church”).

(2) The question is not whether the name Baptist is some sort of talismanic protection against false doctrine. Pat says that my essay “insinuates” that it is. Bilge. I have never suggested any such thing. Faith has never suggested any such thing. Nobody that I know of has suggested any such thing. Pat is simply scoring cheap points against an argument that nobody is making.

(3) The question is not (as Pat suggests) whether Faith Baptist Bible College has changed its principles. For literally decades Faith has argued that the name Baptist is important. Then-vice-president George Houghton even published an article on this topic about twenty years ago. It appeared in an official Faith publication. As far as Faith is concerned, nothing is new here.

(4) The question is not whether a local church has the right to choose any name that it sees fit. Nobody denies that right. The question is whether a Christian institution has the right, at varying levels, to determine the boundaries of its own fellowship. Faith is not breaking all fellowship with Saylorville. Faith is, however, limiting fellowship at one level. If it did not, it would have to surrender a message to which it has been committed for decades.

(5) The question is not whether everybody understands or likes the name Baptist. Plenty of people do not. The question is whether the name is worth keeping, using, and even clarifying by people who prize what the name stands for. Pat has considered none of the genuine arguments in favor of that position. He has not even given evidence that he knows and understands them.

(5) The question is not whether Saylorville still agrees that baptistic polity is correct. He insists that no doctrinal difference exists between him and Faith. In fact, I think it does. When we appropriate doctrines, we always have to make two decisions. Our first decision is, What is the true doctrine? The second decision is, How important is this doctrine? Both of these are doctrinal decisions. A difference over the second decision is a real doctrinal difference. In other words, when we agree about what doctrines are true, but weigh those doctrines differently, we are experience a doctrinal disagreement. Willingness to be labeled for one’s adherence to a particular set of doctrines (which is what the name Baptist does) is an indicator of one’s level of commitment to the importance of those doctrines. I think that the difference between Faith and Saylorville is, at some level, really doctrinal.

(6) The question is not whether the name Baptist is attractive to those who are set in their rebellion against God (we sometimes call them the unchurched). If so, then we’ll drop the word church pretty quickly, too. For that matter, we’ll have to drop the name Christian, what with the Crusades, the New Christian Right, and all. Perhaps we could be more successful if we just called the assembly something like Community Garden Club. That’s fairly innocuous, right? You can always gain a bit more visible effectiveness if you are willing to down play some aspect of your commitment to truth. Of course, the result is that you get more and more converts to less and less Christianity.

Contrary to popular opinion, labels are important. They matter so much that, if we didn’t have them, we would need to invent them. The fact that some people counterfeit our label is no reason to stop using it. It’s simply reason to expose the counterfeiters. The fact that some people don’t like what our label stands for is no reason to stop using it. Our job is not simply to win people to the Gospel. Our job is to win them to the whole counsel of God. When it comes to church order, the whole counsel of God (as I understand it) has a proper name. That name is Baptist. (Other constructs have different names, and I celebrate the use of those names even when I disagree with the constructs that they represent). I think that the use of the name is a simple matter of truth in advertising.

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Greg Linscott's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Seriously, is having Baptist in your church name necessary to being a true Baptist church?

In the interests of full disclosure, Ron Bean was my pastor in my late teenage years (circa 1990-91), and oversaw the changing of our church's name from Baptist to "Bible." 

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I don't think it is absolutely necessary- not even Faith would argue that, I wouldn't think. However, as they say in their statement, "It has been the intent of the school to provide an anchor for those who agree with this stand" (to "“unashamedly identify itself as Baptist"). They are seeking to preserve a tradition. As I noted in the other thread, it is something Faith has advocated for a while, and it is something the state association currently requires. The situation in Iowa is not like many in the south- if you look at the data here, for example. You will see that Polk county (where Des Moines, Saylorville, and Faith all are located) lists 14 churches that are GARBC- a larger sampling than any other Baptist group listed. While there are others that also use the name "Baptist," in Iowa, the IARBC has 103 churches in the state, and would be representative of what it means to be "Baptist" as far as reputation in the local context. For those who are critical, you are basing some of your conclusions on your own perceptions. At least consider the perspective of where they are. 

However, as Jesse (JVDM) has noted in this thread, and Bauder implied in his article, there are other issues related to this specific matter, and perhaps they are really the issues driving this. 

When Ron led the change of our church's name in Maine, it very much made sense for the time and context. There was a large church in the area that had prominently been identified with the Baptist name that our church was striving to distinguish ourselves from, for several reasons. I don't second guess that decision. It made sense in the context, as does Faith's decision in theirs. 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Ron Bean's picture

I knew Greg Linscott would expose me. For the record our church dropped Baptist from its name for two reasons. It was a relatively young church that had split from the largest and most noted Baptist church in town when its long time pastor was exposed as an adulterer, complete with national TV coverage and Jerry Falwell to the rescue! It had been named Landmark Baptist and the people had no clue as to what a Landmark Baptist was. And the name Baptist really was an automatic turn-off to the people in our community and we seldom had opportunity to explain why we were different. We didn't change a thing in our doctrinal statement or practice and the only problem I had was when a young man wanted to go on a mission trip with a baptist mission and they initially refused him because we didn't have Baptist in our name. I explained to them that we were, in fact, a Baptist church in faith and practice and they let him go.

 

If some Baptist associations or fellowships want to require their members to have the name Baptist, that's their privilege. If some don't, I guess that's OK too. If a Baptist school wants to forbid its teachers and students from attending churches that aren't named baptist, that's within their right. Isn't that what Individual Soul Liberty is about?

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

(5) ...prize what the name stands for

(5) The question is not whether Saylorville still agrees that baptistic polity is correct. He insists that no doctrinal difference exists between him and Faith. In fact, I think it does. 

(6) The question is not whether the name Baptist is attractive to those who are set in their rebellion against God (we sometimes call them the unchurched)...You can always gain a bit more visible effectiveness if you are willing to down play some aspect of your commitment to truth.

Contrary to popular opinion, labels are important. They matter so much that, if we didn’t have them, we would need to invent them.

5 (the first) - This is one source of contention. No one even agrees what the name stands for today. 

5 (the second) - Is it true as asserted in the letter that both parties have argued there are no doctrinal issues? If not, then identify the pastor as a liar for saying such. If so, than why is an outsider contradicting both parties involved by claiming a doctrinal issue is at stake. Furthermore, I strongly disagree that the label Baptist carries any doctrinal significance in and of itself. If there is some real doctrinal issue involved, then quit hiding behind a label and deal with the actual doctrinal issue.

6 - The question is whether an unnecessary stumbling block is being clutched. There is an entire shift in meaning between "church" and "garden club", something not necessarily true about removing the label Baptist.

Last quote - This church has not abandoned all labels, but one specific label. We don't have to create anything to fill the vacuum in the label change.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Rob Fall's picture

Not to mention Obadiah Holmes and his run in with Governor Endicott in 1651.

jimfrank wrote:
SNIP

Concerning Matt Olmstead's comment on my statement, "Men and women suffered and died for the Baptist name in England and colonial America," perhaps I should refresh my admittedly rusty memory and read on the subject again.  I should have left it at "suffered."  John Bunyan's several years in jail is the most well-known case of persecution against English Baptists,  Correction noted.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Greg Long's picture

Dr. Bauder, I'm still not clear what doctrinal differences there are between Faith and Saylorville, other than the difference as to the importance of a denominational label. Can you enumerate these differences for me?

Perhaps the disconnect is that I do not consider adherence to a denominational label to be a doctrinal matter, if there is still an adherence to the actual doctrines in question.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Jonathan Charles's picture

Do a Google search on "Faith Church Lafayette Indiana" and this is what comes up:

 

Faith Church – A Baptist Church in Lafayette, Indiana

www.faithlafayette.org/church/

General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Location, service times, staff profiles, ministries, calendar, beliefs, and resources.

 

So, what has really changed in going from "Faith Baptist Church" to "Faith Church-A Baptist Church"? Maybe they haven't finished scrubbing all traces of what they are.

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