Should Baptist Churches Remove the Word "Baptist" from Their Church Title?

I believe we should be proud of who we are.  Thought I do not pastor a Baptist Church (I pastor a non-denominational Bible oriented church), if our church were affiliated with a Baptist group, I would not hide that in the title.  To me, if you are not proud of the group to which you belong, why do you belong to it?

I know of several Baptist churches that have removed the word "Baptist" from their name,  I have known Methodist Churches and others to do this as well.  

With all the press of the Paige Patterson fiasco, it seems a new layer of shame is being attached to the name.  I think this is unfortunate.

So what do you think?

No, if your church is a Baptist church, embrace and advertise it.
37% (14 votes)
No, not usually -- unless there is a compelling local reason to do so.
21% (8 votes)
It depends. Regional factors, legacy, and other issues may come into play.
39% (15 votes)
Yes, it is generally good to discard the Baptist (or denominational) name.
3% (1 vote)
Other.
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 38
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There are 12 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

I went for no, not usually.

I don't think it's a big deal, and if I were planting a church, there would be less reason to call it "Baptist" from the start. But if it's been "Baptist" for years and years, it's mostly a local question whether it makes sense to keep that in the name.

(It can also be helpful to folks coming in from out of town, visiting or relocating, to narrow down places to look for a church to be involved in. ... though, if relocating, they can certainly go to the trouble to read doctrinal statements, constitutions, interview pastors, etc.)

JSwaim's picture

I voted for three.  Could have voted for two and really not sure what the difference is between them.

Ron Bean's picture

I consider myself a Baptist in that I hold to the typical Baptist distinctives I'd consider the church of which I am a member a Baptist church as it holds to an historic baptist confession of faith. My lifelong problem is that my Baptist identity is often challenged because I don't consider having the word Baptist in my church name an essential. (I humorously label those who consider it an essential as holding to a Baptist "Pride" position.) 

My experience has taught me that having the name Baptist in my church title served to attract Baptists, and only Baptists, to my church. Dropping the name Baptist served to attract others like myself who were Baptist in faith and practice but didn't seem to think the name was required. We also attracted non-Baptists who were Christians and weren't put off my our convictions but embraced them and became part of our church.

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

TylerR's picture

I chose #1. Heh ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ron Bean said:

Dropping the name Baptist served to attract others like myself who were Baptist in faith and practice but didn't seem to think the name was required.

I hear you.  In some ways, I would fall into that category.  However, since we have elders' rule, and we do only require a profession of faith for membership (although the only form of baptism we practice is believer's baptism  by immersion and we require it of our elders and it is the only position taught) -- and because we have never been KJV only and have rejected traditional baptist taboos against playing cards, dancing, etc., we are distinctive enough that the name "Baptist" wouldn't quite mesh.

I have long argued this point: "What is the use of being non-denominational if you embrace the extra-biblical distinctives that characterize baptists?"  

Having said that, I do recognize that the title "Baptist" refers only to the mode of baptism; there are many liberal Baptists, and certainly many that are solid doctrinally but do not embrace the taboos, etc.

I would think that those you attract are not die-hard Baptist types (it sounds like), but, rather, people who are looking for a doctrinally solid church without the traditional Baptist taboos.

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Recently, a lady began attending our church. My wife and I met with her on Monday for a long talk. She has escaped from a lifetime of darkness in an Episcopal Church, came to realize what the Gospel actually is by stumbling across Charles Stanley's podcast online, and has been searching for a few months for a church that actually preaches the Bible.

She remembered visiting a Baptist church when she was a child, and being impressed with the preaching even as a little girl. She's been systematically visiting the Baptist churches in the area, and has never returned because they have fog machines, strobe lights, hip worship leaders who arrange loud, complicated music nobody can sing, and shallow preaching from hip pastors with bistro tables for pulpits and Brittney Spears microphones.

She may, or may not, actually understand the Gospel. She will begin doing a six-week study with my wife and I on "Understanding Salvation," then (assuming she understands salvation and has repented and believed the Gospel; I suspect she has even if she can't smoothly articulate the matter at the moment) we'll proceed to do a new membership class with her, do believer's baptism and welcome her into the church. She wouldn't have found us if we dropped "Baptist" from our church name.

This is anecdotal, of course, but it's something to consider.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler said:

 She's been systematically visiting the Baptist churches in the area, and has never returned because they have fog machines, strobe lights, hip worship leaders who arrange loud, complicated music nobody can sing, and shallow preaching from hip pastors with bistro tables for pulpits and Brittney Spears microphones.

So much for my characterization of Baptist churches!  Maybe I should say that my characterization was typical a few decades ago?

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

I think things are different out here ... Don't worry about it! I'm only being slightly sarcastic. Many Baptist churches here are going the wannabe-mega-church route. Of course, there are plenty that just preach the Bible faithfully. In my area, there aren't many explicitly Baptist churches that aren't KJVO. Many have dropped "Baptist" for fear that it would offend people.  

This is an insanely secular area. I can't even run FaceBook ads targeted to Christians, because there aren't enough of them here. When I try to target FaceBook ads by people who have "Christian" or "God" as interests or likes on their profile, FaceBook tells me the entire Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater metro area (approx. 150k+ people) has less than 2500 people with those interests.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

dcbii's picture

TylerR wrote:

...they have fog machines, strobe lights, hip worship leaders who arrange loud, complicated music nobody can sing, and shallow preaching from hip pastors with bistro tables for pulpits and Brittney Spears microphones.

Just goes to show there are lots of differences in churches.  Our church is a definite mix.  We're in central NC, fairly close to the heart of the "Bible Belt."  We're not KJV so most Baptists think we're too liberal, and we don't use a worship band or contemporary style, so most megachurch types think we're too stodgy.  Our pastor's sermons are >90% expository, with a very occasional topical message.  He does use a "Britney Spears" microphone (which all of our older folk approve of, since they said it really helps them to hear better than with only a pulpit mic) and he has a stool next to the pulpit, which he only uses occasionally, due to bad knees, but he does usually have his water bottle on it.  He mostly preaches from his iPad, and also uses Powerpoint slides, though he usually has his paper Bible on the pulpit for occasional reference.  Unless he's preaching a wedding or funeral, he wears a coat, but no tie, and on Wednesday evenings, a collared shirt and jeans.  We have all the words to our songs and instrumentals projected as well as in the bulletin, though hymnals (or sheet music inserts for newer songs) are available for those who can read music or are traditionalists, or both.

We don't make a big deal about any of those incidental things, but a couple years ago, we did vote to change our name/replant, and when we changed the whole name, we also went from Baptist to Bible (which received a >90% vote), and we have seen just as many visitors as when we identified as Baptist, and possibly more.  We're still basically baptistic in doctrine, and believer's baptism by immersion is the only type we practice.

Most of us in our church are not interested in "modernizing" the actual worship service style/elements, but we happily take advantage of better technology to make things easier/better for those in the congregation.  Not that surprising as the nearby Research Triangle Park area is essentially a smaller version of Silicon Valley.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

We, too have a Brittney Spears microphone, but I don't use it ... I secretly wish I could find a used pulpit that's bigger than the one we have. Our current one is very small, and made for a guy about half my size. I'm 6'5" and our pulpit looks little better than a music stand with me behind it, and it has about as much room ...

I think the impetus for people to drop the name Baptist comes from several fronts:

  1. A disconnection and under appreciation of church history, so the name "Baptist" and what it stands for isn't appreciated or respected like it should.
  2. An urban legend that people hate the name "Baptist" and a name change will help "bring them in."
  3. A desire for "fresh authenticity." The more I read church history, the less moved I am by any attempt to be "fresh" and "relevant" in a fake sort of way
  4. A scandal or issue in the community (e.g. a persistent, bad reputation going back years) that necessitates some kind of name change and re-launch

I'm particularly disturbed by #2, because I've heard this in my area more than once. I think it reflects pragmaticism more than anything else. I've never experienced any negative reaction from the name "Baptist," and I wouldn't be particularly moved if I did. It's never been an issue for me. I understand there are some good reason to drop "Baptist" from a name, but I think these reasons are often based on local context and circumstances.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

dcbii's picture

TylerR wrote:

I think the impetus for people to drop the name Baptist comes from several fronts:

  1. A disconnection and under appreciation of church history, so the name "Baptist" and what it stands for isn't appreciated or respected like it should.
  2. An urban legend that people hate the name "Baptist" and a name change will help "bring them in."
  3. A desire for "fresh authenticity." The more I read church history, the less moved I am by any attempt to be "fresh" and "relevant" in a fake sort of way
  4. A scandal or issue in the community (e.g. a persistent, bad reputation going back years) that necessitates some kind of name change and re-launch

I'm sure there are lots of reasons for changing, good and bad.  A lot of people in our church had no strong attachment to a Baptist identity, especially those who came from other backgrounds -- there were only 2 that specifically wanted to keep that identity, but both stayed after the change, and are still valued members.  In our area (and I understand that this is not universal), everyone knows about one particular large Baptist church that is almost more liberal than the mainline churches, including women pastors, marrying gays, etc.  On the other end, there are a bunch that are identified with KJVO, some very strongly so.

Taking informal polls of those who visited but didn't stay, and experiences of members when witnessing and talking to others, the Baptist identity was about evenly split as "don't really care," and "somewhat negative."  Those who specifically wanted a Baptist church were more like 10%, and almost all of those wanted KJV.  Given all these facts, we no longer saw Baptist as an indisputable asset.  We didn't think changing would "bring them in," and it hasn't, but as I noted in my last post, it hasn't been a detriment either, and since most of our people did not have a strong Baptist identity, the "Bible" designation just seemed to fit better, and the congregation overwhelmingly agreed.

I was a deacon at the time we replanted/changed the name, and I really was not looking forward to the name/denomination change.  Not because I had any particular love for Baptist in the name, but because I wanted to avoid anything like a church split over something that to me was a small thing.  Turns out my fears were unfounded.  We didn't lose anyone due to that change, and most of the members were heartily in favor.  As far as I can tell, it hasn't changed what we believe or do in our church at all.  It certainly does let people looking for a church know that with our name, we won't be a "Big-B" Baptist church, and it saves both them and us the time and trouble to figure out that we probably are not a good fit for them, if that's what they really want.

Dave Barnhart

Joel Shaffer's picture

I understand there are some good reason to drop "Baptist" from a name, but I think these reasons are often based on local context and circumstances.

I've personally seen this in a couple instances.  28 years ago, I was involved in the start of a church plant in an urban neighborhood and although all the core group were all Baptists, we decided to not have "Baptist" in our name.  About 5 years before, a GARBC Baptist church in this community decided to move out to the suburbs.  There were about 20 people that used to walk to church and they felt abandoned.   They were assured by the church that a van would come and pick them up from church (most of them were too poor to afford transportation), but it never did. Word quickly spread in the neighborhood that Baptists weren't to be trusted.  So when the church planter began meeting people in the neighborhood and heard this story several times, he knew that "Baptist" at that moment in time was a dirty word and so it wasn't part of the church name. 

On a positive note for Baptists, my sending church, Berean Baptist Church (a historic GARBC church founded in 1880), was tempted to change its name about 20 years ago, but decided against it because they realized that people in their urban community didn't care one way or another.  Berean has long had a faithful presence and a reputation of loving its community as a way to point people to Jesus.   They realized that a name change would've been way too confusing for many in the neighborhood and actually might have become a distraction with the gospel in their community.