Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Will GCB die a quiet death?

Shall it be “GCB Plodder” instead of SBC Plodder?


I rather like beginning our name with the hiss of the sibilant “S” in Ssssssouthern Baptist Convention. Doesn’t SsssssssBC roll nicely right off the tongue? Sort of a soft 'hisssss'.

Speaking of which, veteran SBCers are able detect a steady hiss of disapproval for any significant idea put forth from on high in the Sssssouthern Baptist Convention and the hissing of bloggers far and wide is constant in our Baptist background. I hear it on the non-name change.

I sense ambivalence about the matter, although not a few approve of the action since it gives us a way for churches to avoid enunciating the “S” word if they think it harmful.

Since I don’t deal with people who instinctively hold me at arms length when they find out I am SBC, I make no judgment about the advantage of a nickname for the SBC. Should some feel it helpful, I’m for going along.

Would anyone dispute that we have a way in the SBC of taking perfectly good terms and phrases and absolutely wearing them out.  I offer as evidence the ubiquitous Baptist term “missions.” In my state every nickel that is spent is “missions” and every employee is a state “missionary.”

Get the point?

But I’m trying to imagine a conversation about the nickname.

 “Oh, I’m a Great Commission Baptist.”

“What’s that?”
“Well, it’s what some of us call the Southern Baptist Convention.”

“I see.”

“You do?”

“Not really, but whatever.” 
The dilemma is inescapable here. When the question is asked about what, who Great Commission Baptists are, the answer has to be forthright. I wouldn't do to finesse it and deliberately hold back on  connecting it to the SBC, and thereby appear deceitful.

And we've got a disconnect here. If the purpose is both avoid negative reaction to SBC and also to create a good impression, "Great Commission Baptists" fails because it is far too obscure to all but those with a much higher level of Biblical familiarity. "Golden Rule Baptists" would work for this because the phrase is familiar to almost all.

And doesn't the name “Great Commission Baptists” sound decidedly generic? Insiders think and speak of autonomy but the greater public thinks of  the SBC as being heavily institutionalized. "Great Commission Baptists" sounds like a mob not an organization. Perhaps the committee is onto something there.

One might note the way in which news media, folks who actually get paychecks for reporting news, wrote of the Name Change Committee’s recommendation to the Executive Committee:

“Southern Baptists decide against name change”

“Southern Baptists will officially remain Southern Baptists”
“No Name Change For Southern Baptists” ‎ 

The headline news is that there will be no name change for the SBC, not that we have an add-on name.

Time will tell if the alternative name dies a quiet death or lives on with some degree of usefulness. I'm leaning towards the former.

Regardless, I will not be using the alternative name. If others find some value in it, God bless them.


Anonymous said...

It will not die a quiet death. Mohler has already announced SBTS as the Great Commission Baptist Seminary by tweet. After insulting the rank and file and another EC person by tweet.

Blake said...

I'm no fan of the Southern part in our name, but Great Commission is simply a stupid alternative. How does it make any missional sense to replace a geographical locator that people can understand (even if it comes with bad connotations) with Christianese in an increasingly post-Christendom world? I still think Evangelical Baptist is the only good and sensible option available.

Jonathan said...

Thom Rainer tweeted, "Indecisiveness can paralyze and demoralize an organization. Timidity leads to mediocrity."

Planning is not the same thing as decision making. A big announcement about a decision that is actually not a decision at all looks like indecisiveness.

Here's my theory: With the recent comments by J.D. Greear about the GCR's actual vs amped up success, our leadership has started to realize that they're running out of ammo. I think that they thought a name change provided an opportunity for another revolutionary shot in the arm for the SBC...but were completely taken aback by the negative and ambivalent response from the faithful. They found themselves in a box and did what all leaders facing the loss of credibility do: see defeat, declare victory, and start the brow beating.

I followed Rainer's tweets during the press conference with interest. As far as I know, I've read everything he's ever published. He produced an excellent survey years ago that found that the name of the church had no bearing on the choice of 81% of formerly unchurched to attend a particular local body.

Reading his tweets this week, I imagined the thoughts running through his head. Something like, "Goodness sakes, boys, I did the work on this already. Its a waste of time!"

It might be that this things dies a slow, quiet death. But I think it also shows that the current generation of SBC big names have "jumped the shark".

Anonymous said...

If this flies... Who will pay for all those church signs which have "SBC" or some other specific to "Southern" on them?

I guess I can ask our church to take it out of our CP dollars since, in a way, the SBC is what is what would be causing this.

I am somewhat wondering if this is all smoke and mirrors to get the convention attendance numbers up.


William Thornton said...

John, you've served outside the deep south. How helpful is having an official nickname?

Anonymous said...

William - There are many churches in PA with southern baptist as part of their church name.

First Southern Baptist...

A google search for "First Southern Baptist" will demonstrate this.

The pastors I know from the churches in PA with this in their name are proud SB's. Many if not most of the churches are small but that has little to do with the name. From my 5+ years in the NE, having the moniker Southern Baptist was more humorous to we who are SB's than the community who knew nothing about us. It works well if the church is located on the south side of something. ;-)


Jonathan - I would love to have a job like yours where travel was happening and connection with our missionaries was available.

Praying for yo my Brother.

Blake said...

Jon (anonymous #6), how many of those Southern Baptist churches in PA are pastored by transplanted Southerners? How many of those churches are in Central or Northern PA?

Anonymous said...

"Jon (anonymous #6), how many of those Southern Baptist churches in PA are pastored by transplanted Southerners? How many of those churches are in Central or Northern PA?"

I really do not know. Those in the association I was in, the most prominent one was from the city the church was in. First Southern Baptist Altoona or Altoona First Southern Baptist Church not sure where the SBC went.

I'm sure many of them have transplants and the name came from years ago. Probably from a pastor no longer on the field.


Baidewei said...

The map tells the whole story--the story of why it is so important to concentrate on planting new churches outside of the traditional Southern Baptist territory.