Changing Our Name – A Few Questions

Here are  a few questions that I would truly love to dialogue about with those that are struggling with a name change.  In fact, if you are a part of Oak Grove and would like to interact on these questions I would be happy to set up an appointment.  What are your thoughts on these questions?

  1. Can you think of any Biblical reasons not to change our name?  (So far, in all the discussions I’ve had, I’m yet to hear a Biblical reason not to change our name.)
  2. If our name was ever hindering the Gospel or putting an obstacle in the way of people following Jesus – what should we do?
  3. What do you think your neighbors/friends, etc. who aren’t believers think when they hear the word Baptist?  What does our name communicate to those who are far from God?
  4. Can you name the eight Baptist distinctives?  If not, do you know what a Baptist really is?  So – if we don’t know what a Baptist is…how can an unbeliever know besides what they see in our culture?
  5. Would you be willing to vote for a name change (even if it goes against your preferences or sentiment) for the sake of the Gospel?

I’ll leave this discussion with this: we will remain a Baptist church, just not in name.  This will allow people to come and learn what a Baptist is by the theology, not cultural connotations.

Acts 15:19 – It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles (the spiritually lost) who are turning to God.

Changing Our Name – A Few Questions

Changing Our Name – Part 6

Recently I shared 2 objections that I have heard to changing our name.  I will share 3 more objections here today.  You can read the first 5 portions of this series here:

Objection 3: If “Baptist” isn’t in our name – how will people find us who are looking for a Baptist Church? First, we will still be a Baptist church (just to be clear).  But it is true that it won’t be on our website or our sign – in fact it’s already not on our sign.  So, how will they find us?  Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • If people are moving into town and are looking for a good church – one that loves God, preaches the Bible, loves others and pursues the Great Commission – I think they will find us! It may take a little while but I believe they will find us.
  • If people are moving into town and are convinced that they can only attend a Baptist Church, they probably wouldn’t attend our church anyway.
  • People moving into town looking for a Baptist Church aren’t our target, and people looking to leave their church aren’t our target. People who are far from God are our target.

Objection 4: If we are taking “Baptist” out of the name because of how those far from God feel about the name – are we going to stop using words like “Christ,” “Christian,” “cross,” “Lord,” or “Church”? This is a great question and one that I have heard expressed in several different ways.  For me, I think there is a great distinction between some of the words.  “Christ,” “cross,” “Lord,” and “Church” are words that the Bible clearly uses and therefore I would put them in a different category, as opposed to “Baptist”.  All of the words quoted above are used in the Bible except one: Baptist.  “Baptist” (as a denomination) is NEVER mentioned in the Bible.  Of course we won’t stop using the other words – they are Bible words!

 In addition to this thought I’d like to share some thoughts of a friend of mine.  In regards to this question he said the following:

“This question helps show how often we confuse our preferences and the Bible.” 

“I will bear the shame all day long of being called a “Christian,” a “believer,” or any other Biblical description of who the Bible calls us.  But why bear the shame that comes with what others have made the name “Baptist” to be? That isn’t a priority to me. I’m not out to “rescue” the name “Baptist” or to redefine it to those outside of faith in Christ. It just isn’t high on the priority list of my life.”

“When someone asks me, “You actually BELIEVE Jesus rose again?”  I would proudly say, “Yes.”  If they asked, “You actually BELIEVE the Bible is inspired?”  I will bear that “shame” all day long.  But if someone asks, “Are you a Baptist?”  I am immediately back pedaling.  If it is in the Bible – I’ll fight for it.  If not – it won’t be a priority for me.” – David Whiting

I couldn’t agree more.  I will fight all day for what the Bible actually says, and I will willing bear the shame of the difficult truths of the Scripture, but if the Bible doesn’t say it – it won’t be a priority for me.

Objection 5: What about older members of the church? They’ve put up with a lot of change.  This one is very sentimental to them and it feels like we are forgetting them, so maybe we shouldn’t do it.  I appreciate this objection as we certainly want to honor the sacrifices of the past and we want to honor age and maturity in our church.  Here are a few of my thoughts on this important objection:

  •  One thing that I’ve said all along is that most people won’t ever know or recognize the number of potential changes that we have already said no to because it would be too difficult on our older members. If the change isn’t crucial to making more and better followers of Christ – often times we stop and say…maybe now isn’t the best time.
  • Second, many of our older members are at the same place where they say: we will do anything short of sin to help reach others for Christ. So while our name is very sentimental – seeing changed lives means more to many than their sentiments.  Are the majority of our older members excited – some are not, but the Great Commission calls us to remove barriers from the Gospel and so we are willing to walk through it slowly and carefully with those who are having a hard time with it.
  • Third, we attempt to honor our older people – those who have sacrificed and been here the longest. Most recently we put together this video highlighting our heritage and future, simply to honor the sacrifice of the past.
  • Fourth, we also took the time to meet with every single person who was here at Oak Grove when I arrived and is still here today.  We did this to gain wisdom and insight from them and to hear their perspective.
  • Finally, truly mature Christ-followers are the most flexible people I know. If there is a clear Biblical command – they won’t budge.  They stand firm – and rightly so.  But if it is a preference issue and not a Biblical or truth issue – they are willing to consider flexibility.  I don’t rejoice in having to lead people that I love through difficult changes, but I can’t act as if my job as a leader is to keep certain groups happy.  We have to focus on God’s agenda and make sure we are doing everything we can to carry it out!

I will have one concluding post later this week with a few questions for you to consider.

Changing Our Name – Part 6

He Said What?

That was my reaction after reading the article and listening to the video.  In fact my reaction was filled with anger, and here’s why:

This is a little bit of an unplanned post, but since a friend of mine shared a USA TODAY article with me I couldn’t keep silent. This past week has been filled with tragedy, fear, an outpouring of love and even many political responses to the evil actions in Orlando.  However, one person has chosen to respond in a way that I believe is an abuse of the gospel and is part of the reason that the name “Baptist” is incredibly confusing in our culture.

In today’s USA TODAY, there was an article and a video (you can find them both here) posted regarding the actions of a Baptist Pastor in Sacramento, California.  Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento openly stated that those victims who died in the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando quote, “Got what they deserved.”  He was also quoted as saying the following:

“Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?” asked Jimenez. “Um no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job — because these people are predators. They are abusers.”

This occurred at a Baptist Church.  In fact, this is what they say about themselves on their website: “We are an independent, fundamental, soul winning, separated, King James Bible believing Baptist church–and not ashamed to say so.”  In this particular situation, I’m not going to debate all of those issues, however I have 2 issues.

First, the lesser issue is the message that this is sending to our culture, to people that we love and want to know Jesus, about what it means to be a Christ follower.   We would never – and many other Christians would never – identify with, agree with or have anything to do with this type of “teaching.”  However, our culture, our neighbors and co-workers don’t know that!

Second, the larger issue here is a rejection and replacement of the gospel of of Jesus Christ with a performance -based legalism.  Here are just a few thoughts:

  • You cannot legislate the human heart.  Jimenez seems to be arguing for a government mandated morality.  A friend of mine recently said this: “There is no government, no legislation, no political policy that can fix our world…the cross is the only solution to my sin and it’s the only solution to the world’s sin.”  Trying to legislate the heart by morality is a rejection of the good news for sinners like me.
  • There are two major ditches to the Gospel.  A ditch is something to the right or the left of a road where if you go off in it you are going to wreck.  The first ditch that destroys the gospel is a license that says – “do whatever you want.”  The second ditch is legalism which says – you can only be worthy of God or worthy of salvation if you meet certain requirements.  Both are a rejection of the gospel.  The good news is this: I’m a wretched sinner, maybe in different ways than you, but God died for me and you just the same!  We don’t clean ourselves up and then come to Jesus.  He wants to wash us and restore us – He does that!
  • In summary, the Gospel is for everyone!  I don’t get to pick and choose based on the particular sins that are different than mine.  I say this because it seems like Jimenez is trying to say that certain sins are “unacceptable” and others are “more acceptable.”  This is just not true.

We want to connect with, befriend, and even share life with people who wouldn’t call themselves “church people” – regardless of sexuality.  We do this because the Gospel is for everyone.

So yes, I am sad for the victims of this horrific act of violence.  Yes I am sad for the families because people matter – no matter their beliefs or backgrounds.  They matter!  Yes, I am praying for a city and a community that is hurting today!  And yes I am praying for my friends in the LGBT community, because I know they are hurting.

My guess is that there are some great churches in Sacramento that are “paying the price” for the choices of another church.

So, what conclusions are you drawing?  I’d love to hear from you.

He Said What?

Changing Our Name – Part 5

You can read the first 4 parts by clicking on any of the following:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

There are probably 4 or 5 objections to the name change that I have heard over the past several months and the more recent several weeks.  I will deal with the first two here:

  1. People are already coming into Oak Grove and being saved under the old name – we don’t need to change the name to see people saved.

 

Much of this statement is true.  There are a good number of people who have already come in and become followers of Christ.  There continue to be new people here every single week and for those blessings we rejoice.  However, we have been faced with the reality that many that we have invited have rejected the invitation simply because of a perception that is well within our grasp to change.  If this name is causing a distraction – it isn’t a compromise or a theological shift to change our name – it is merely removing a barrier so that we can reach as many as possible.

So really, changing our name is only a question of how many do we want to reach.  Do we want to reach as many as is possible?  Do we want to impact people for whom our name is a deterrent or do we want to make sure that people agree with us before they come in  So…if our name is making it hard for some people to come and hear about Jesus, how many should it take before we consider changing our name?

I Corinthians 9:12 says: “On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”  This is the attitude that I think we should all have when it comes to difficult issues like this one.  I love being a Baptist.  I have been one all of my known life.  But I don’t hold on to the name of a denomination so tightly that it hinders the spread of the gospel – especially when we will still be a Baptist church theologically and historically.  I am more convinced than ever that a denominational name is a hindrance to the Gospel.

 

  1. We will lose and forget our history here at Oak Grove if we change our name.

 

This is a legitimate question and concern – especially for those who have been involved and sacrificed for many years at Oak Grove.  However there are two other sides to this question that I want to point out.  One is another question – how will we hinder our mission and the cause of Christ if we refuse to remove barriers to the gospel?  As I see it we have two options: 1) are we willing to cling to our past and sacrifice our future, or 2) are we willing to fight to remember the past but also make the path clear for the Gospel and the future?

I think that it is imperative that we remind ourselves of the commands given to us by God.  Matthew 28:18-20 says:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

There is really only one command given but two key takeaways.  The command is this: make disciples.  Here are the two takeaways: 1) God is glorified when we make more disciples (make disciples of all nations); 2) God is glorified when we make better disciples (teaching them to obey everything…)  So, we can ask the question about losing our history, which I don’t believe we will, or we can ask another question: what else might we lose if we don’t.   Who will we miss?  What blessings of God will we miss?  What growth and life change might we miss?

The second side to this question is fear!  There is so much fear rapped up in most of us and it effects our decisions.  The fear here is that the past will be forgotten and thereby treated as if it doesn’t exist.  This church was founded by actual people who loved Jesus and gave their time, talent and treasure to help others know Him.  That fact, that history, that sacrifice will not change with the changing of a name.  However, I also believe that they wouldn’t care whether or not someone really remembers their names…they will care whether or not others remember Jesus because of their sacrifice.  That is a real legacy.

Objections 3-5 coming soon.

Changing Our Name – Part 5

Changing Our Name – Part 4

Over the past week I have been writing about why we at Oak Grove Baptist Church have started to consider changing our name.  If you haven’t seen the first three parts of this discussion you can check them out here:

Changing Our Name – Part 1

Changing Our Name – Part 2

Changing Our Name – Part 3

Today I want to share with you a little bit of our process so far and our process going forward.

To start, you may have noticed that we have not mentioned a particular name that we are considering changing to.  There is a reason for that…in fact there are two reasons for that.

First, we aren’t going to presume that the church will choose to change the name.  While we wouldn’t lead through this unless we felt it was that important and something that we should do, this is a decision that the church will make together.  Because of that we haven’t even begun to entertain any new names for the church.  We don’t want to presume the decision but we believe the decision is needed in order to remove a barrier from the gospel.

Second, we will involve the church in the process of choosing a new name.  If the church decides to go forward with a new name, then we will invite our membership to share potential name ideas.  We will provide an online and an in-person platform for submitting name ideas.  Once that occurs we will whittle those names down to vote on for our new name.  The church will choose the new name together.

In the coming days I will be addressing a few objections to changing our name.  You can continue to follow along to see those objections and our thoughts on them.

I leave you with this final thought: the history and ministry in the past for Oak Grove Baptist Church has been such a blessing from God.  This decision is simply one to help ensure that we carry on the same mission that Oak Grove was started with: making more and better followers of Christ.   We must continue to “be all things to all people so that by all means we might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

More to come…

 

Changing Our Name – Part 4

CHANGING OUR NAME – PART 3

This is the third part in a series about changing the name of our church.  Before talking about the last two reasons, I would like to encourage you to make sure and check out the first two parts.  You can view them here:

Changing Our Name – Part 1

Changing Our Name – Part 2

Also, you can check out the message where we announced this publicly and you can listen to the reasons we think this is so important there.

Finally, if you are a part of Oak Grove and you would like to be involved in discussing this proposed change, I want to invite you to attend one of our two scheduled open forums.  We want to give the opportunity to share thoughts, questions and even feedback on this issue and you can do that at the following meetings:

  • Sunday, June 12th @ 9:15 am in the Starting Point Room.
  • Sunday, July 10th @6:30 pm in the Gathering Room

Okay, the final two reasons that I think we should change our name:

5.  We want to change our name because Baptist is an insider term.

The name Baptist means one thing to me.  It means something entirely different to my friends and neighbors.  One of my friends who I recently asked what “Baptist” means said this: “ready to fight, fun-condemning, going to yell at you kind of church.”  Unfortunately, while we know that is not what it means and that is not who we are, only those on the inside know that.  My problem is that now we have to fight those battles too rather than focusing on the Gospel.

David Whiting, a pastor friend of mine, said this and I agree with him: “I want to remove anything from our name that points to peripheral issues.  I want the Gospel to define who we are.  I want the cross to define who we are.  Our name “defines” us in many different ways to many different people.”

In order to test this theory, we began asking people a question in our ownership class – a class designed for people who want to take ownership here and want to become members.  The question was: what does “baptist” mean.  We received answers like this over the past year alone:

  • “Baptist means traditional”
  • “It means that you only like hymns”
  • “Baptist means that religion is all about rules”

We also heard the following:

  • “If I had known this was a Baptist Church I never would have come”
  • “This is a Baptist Church?  I never would have guessed that!”
  • “I avoid using the name “Baptist” when I invite people.”

All of these statements tell us that while Baptist certainly means something good to many of us, it is an insider term that doesn’t make sense to others.

6.  We want to change our name because the incredible theological diversity of Baptist Churches in Kansas City is confusing and misleading.

Have you ever heard someone say something and use a phrase the wrong way?  I’m reminded of the movie “Princess Bride” where one character continually uses the word “inconceivable”.  Finally in the movie someone says, “I don’t think that means what you think it means”.   I feel the same way about the name Baptist.  It means something to me, but what I’ve found is that that name means something entirely different to others.  After researching the “Baptist” churches in Kansas City we have found some very interesting things.

There are over 300 Baptist Churches in Kansas City as a whole.

We randomly researched 15 Baptist Church websites and this is what we found.

  • 4 of them have female pastors.
  • 2 of them openly refute the reality of Hell.
  • 1 teaches that humans are divine.
  • 2 of them were KJV only and openly say that you can’t be saved unless you use a King James Version Bible!
  • 3 of them openly support homosexual marriage.
  • And I haven’t even talked about Westboro Baptist Church which is located less than 60 miles from us – spewing hate on those with same-sex attraction and picketing the funerals of men and women who have served our country!

The theological diversity of Baptist churches in Kansas city is incredibly misleading and confusing.  I would also say this.  According to our research, keeping Baptist in your name does not ensure theological accuracy.

Conclusion

There are many good reasons for which Oak Grove Baptist Church started out with its name.  I appreciate those reasons and in fact it is those reasons that are largely driving this change in me.  Oak Grove was started to reach those far from God.  Oak Grove was started to carry out Christ’s mission.  Oak Grove was started to help people grow!  We are Baptist’s because of what we believe from the Bible, but if the label is hindering us from accomplishing the mission that Christ has given us and is the heritage of our church, then we need to change our name.  There are many objections and concerns with a change like this and I will be addressing those in some upcoming posts.

CHANGING OUR NAME – PART 3

CHANGING OUR NAME – PART 2

This past weekend we publicly announced the need to consider a name change at Oak Grove Baptist Church.  After dozens of meetings, much prayer and years of consideration, we believe it is time for the church to consider this change.  Over the next several days I will continue to share the reasons we feel that this needs to be considered.  This post is a continuation of a post from 2 days ago.  You can read PART 1 here:

https://aaronpattononline.com/2016/05/31/changing-our-name-part-1/

Here are two more reasons we think we should change our name:

3.  We want to change our name because the name “Oak Grove” presents at least two problems to us.

The first problem is a current problem: confusion over location.  Whenever I invite someone to Oak Grove and I tell them the name, one of two things happens.  Either I first explain where it is located in Turner, or they ask, “You go to church all the way out in Oak Grove, MO?”  This is a location problem that is confusing.  Now that we have people located all over the city, the name Oak Grove is confusing to those we are investing in and inviting.

The second reason refers to what we believe will happen in the future.  As a part of our long-term strategy we plan to start satellite campuses.  In other words we hope to be one church in multiple locations.  This is very difficult if we keep the name “Oak Grove” because it is tied to a location.

4.  We want to change our name because of our primary target.

If we are trying to reach Baptists from other churches – I say keep it in our name.  BUT – if our target is those who are far from God – let’s remove every stumbling block for them to hear the Gospel.  And we need to ask ourselves the question, “Is the name ‘Baptist’ a help or a stumbling block in getting people to come and hear the Gospel?”

I personally became convinced that this was an issue for us while inviting people to Oak Grove.  While there are many situations that I have personally encountered, let me share with you two.  First, two years ago after inviting a person that I met to services at Oak Grove they ask what type of church we are.  I mentioned that we are a Baptist church and she immediately stopped me and said: “I won’t ever attend a Baptist Church”.  I attended one as a young girl and was told I couldn’t  come back unless I had proper church clothes.  Some of you may remember a series we did here called “Church Clothes”.  It was a series that came out of that conversation.  Clothing should never hinder people from hearing about Christ.

Second, often when I invite people and they ask what type of church we are, I explain that we are Baptist church.  Then, I have to spend 3 minutes explaining what type of Baptist we are and I have to share several qualifiers.  This is a problem and it’s hindering the one thing we really want people to know: not that we are Baptists, but that the Gospel saves us!  I don’t want to waste time fighting over something that isn’t the gospel.

MORE TO COME…

CHANGING OUR NAME – PART 2