Changing Our Name – Part 1

Last Sunday – during our morning service – we finally shared publicly the discussion of changing our name.  After many one on one meetings, dozens of interactions with leaders, and much prayer – we have finally brought this discussion to light.  Over the next several weeks I will be sharing my thoughts on why we would even consider such a change.  If you missed the talk on Sunday about the purpose of the church and removing barriers, you can check it out HERE.

If we change our name, we will still be a Baptist church – it just won’t be on our sign or in our name.  It would remain in our subtitle on legal documents.  We would remain a Baptist Church.

Oak Grove Baptist Church began in July of 1954 following the massive floods of the previous years.  Flooding decimated the infrastructure of the city by wiping out bridges and roads that allowed residents to travel to the various parts of the city.  The flooding also created a large housing problem as thousands of homes were left under water after the levies and floodgates were overrun.  In response to this problem, a works project was initiated by the President of the United States and homes were built in the Turner and Highland Crest Area by men who were in need of work.  People who worked on one side of the river and lived on the opposite lost their jobs and vice versa.  People who were involved in churches on one side of the river and lived on the opposite were just plain out of a place to gather.

In response to this problem, armed with a great passion to reach those still far from God, Jim Gray and half a dozen other families began what would soon become Oak Grove Baptist Church.  The name originated for two reasons: first – Oak Grove was at that time a well-known name for the area around the current location of Oak Grove Baptist Church.  Being located so close to Oak Grove road and Oak Grove school, this name at the time made a lot of sense.  Second, Baptist – since the theology of the group was consistent with Baptistic theology and the culture was much more religiously inclined, the label “Baptist” was a clear identifier of the purpose and beliefs of the church.  Today, I believe that the culture has changed and the implications of our name have changed as well.  Our theology has not changed, but the perception has.

I would say that there are six primary reasons that we need to consider changing our name.  I will

1.   The number one reason that we want to change the name is for the sake of the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:12 says “We will put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”  I truly believe that this is the attitude that we should have when it comes to this issue!  I have been a Baptist since I was 4 years old (not sure I understood it back then J) But I don’t hold on to the name so tightly that it may hinder the gospel.  We will still remain a Baptist church theologically and historically, but I am more convinced than ever that a denominational name is hindering the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9 is all about Christian Liberty and I think it applies here.  We have the Liberty to call the church what we choose, and to us the name means something.  But the name also communicates something to our community.  To many Christians, your name should make you distinctive, however I would say that we should look at our name through a different lens.  We need to ask the question: Does our name help us connect people with Christ or does it put up a wall?

Paul says that even though he had liberty in many areas, he set them aside for the sake of winning those who don’t yet know Christ.  “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”  (1 Corinthians 9:19)  Later he recalls adjusting his approach depending on the cultural background of the people he was trying to reach.  Therefore, if there is a cultural connotation with our name, shouldn’t we consider removing that barrier for the sake of the Gospel?

2.  We want to change our name because the name Baptist has at least 3 meanings: A theological meaning, a historical meaning and a cultural meaning.

We aren’t changing or afraid of the theological meaning.  We are unapologetically BAPTIST.   There is a historical context to the word Baptist.  We aren’t running from the history, and especially from our history.  What we are running from is the cultural meaning of Baptist.  What our culture thinks when they hear the word Baptist has nothing to do with theology or history.  They think “culture”.

We will continue to be a Baptist church, we just want the chance to define what that means.  We aren’t running from who we are or what we truly believe, we are running from the reputation that Baptists have.

For example, just in this area alone, the number of times that I have been told by people I’ve invited, “I’ll never attend a Baptist church.  I went to one and was told I couldn’t come back without proper clothing.”  Not to mention the fact that Westboro Baptist Church is located less than 60 miles from us.  These are cultural connotations that are likely hindering people from coming to Christ here.


Changing Our Name – Part 1