SBC Nicknames & the Calm Before the Storm

I’ll be on the road most of the day as my son and I head back home after spending an enjoyable few days in Dallas.  Stephen’s doctor’s appointment went well — no surgery anytime soon — and we even managed to see the Mavericks beat the Celtics at the AA Center (American Airlines, not Alcoholics Anonymous — you just gotta keep all those nicknames straight).  Monday was also a day of finding and eating good Texas BBQ, even if it was at the Red, Hot, and Blue restaurant chain out of Memphis!

Of course, the big story of Monday was the announcement by the unofficial “official” Name Change Task Force of a new “unofficial” nickname for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Completely optional, the new nickname will be “Great Commission Baptists” (no one saw that coming).  Just a few observations (to add to the increasing number of diverse voices on this issue — here, here, here) before devoting more extensive analysis later this week.

  1. The only thing surprising about this announcement is the “informal” nickname angle.  I predicted earlier that the Task Force would not recommend an official name change, which would have required a 2/3 majority vote of the messengers at two consecutive SBC Annual Meetings. I also predicted, wrongly, that a d/b/a would be recommended as a way around the supermajority requirements to amend the SBC Constitution and By-Laws.  How this is any better than a d/b/a or how this can be characterized as a “win-win” situation is baffling.
  2. The “informal” nickname angle — totally optional for each church within the Southern Baptist Convention — doesn’t even sound good on the surface.  When I talked with my wife Monday night on the phone and explained the new nickname recommendation, her first thought was about the same as mine.  I won’t repeat the word she used (not a bad or vulgar word) because it was less than flattering.  I imagine that many folks on both (or all) sides of the Name Change debate had less than flattering initial reactions to the announcement.
  3. How will this be implemented?  As this is an “informal” nickname, this should not be given equal, much less preferential, treatment by any officials, officers, or entities of the Convention.  Good luck providence on that one!
  4. Much like the GCR before it, this will be touted as a way to bring unity to the Convention and to help strengthen our Great Commission efforts. After all, if you put “Great Commission” in the title of anything, how can it not bring unity and strength? In the end, this will be more divisive than the GCR. Much like a “traditional” church when a new “contemporary” pastor comes on board, we will see young pitted against old and “traditional” pitted against “contemporary.”  Questions will inevitably be asked and have to be answered, such as: “Do you have an affinity for churches who go by the nickname “Great Commission Baptists” or do you like those churches who still cling (along with their guns and flags) to the name “Southern Baptist?”  The questions might be subtle at first (“Which service do you attend?”), but they will become more pointed (“Do you want to see the world won for Christ or do you just want to stay stuck in the past?”).
  5. The process that brought us to this point was fundamentally flawed.  Unless the Executive Committee votes to reject bringing the Name Change/Nickname recommendation to the floor of the Convention — which I highly doubt — we will continue to see hardball politics employed at the highest levels of our Convention.  Who would have thought that The Great Commission would be used, not to unite us, but to divide us?


These are just some of my initial observations.  I will flesh out some of these in additional posts throughout the week. I will not have access to a computer for most of the day on Tuesday.  I will try to interact with those who comment as soon as I can either late Tuesday or Wednesday morning.  God bless!


16 comments for “SBC Nicknames & the Calm Before the Storm

  1. Milton Robins
    February 21, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    Thanks for the update, Pastor–

    A few initial thoughts: First, I doubt this compromise will lay the name change issue to rest. After all, this has been an issue in the convention for a very long time, and the compromise, as well-intentioned as it may be, will not satisfy everyone.

    That being said, I think the name change may well prove to be of benefit to some churches, particularly those churches that are predominantly African American. As you may know, where I’m from–Southeast Georgia–the history attached to the “Southern” moniker is a source of contention with many Blacks familiar with the sociocultural background of the SBC.

    Finally, the statistics cited in this morning’s AP article were extremely concerning. According to the article, of the 2,000 survey respondents, “40 percent had an unfaovrable view of the denomination and 44 percent of respondents said that knowing a church was Southern Baptist would negatively impact their decision to visit or join the church.” That’s a fairly high number, to be sure, and perhaps the ‘nickname’ will ease some of the negative perceptions associated with the SBC.

    Safe travels as you head back to NM.

    • February 21, 2012 at 8:42 AM


      You are right that this “compromise” will not end the debate about name change. The more I have thought about it this morning, the more questions I have. As to the survey, even if we changed our name, would people still think negatively of the SBC? Just some random thoughts before hitting the road for Alamogordo. Have a great day and God bless,


    • Max
      February 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      “40 percent had an unfavorable view of the denomination”

      The survey cited was conducted by LifeWay, an SBC entity that has come under question recently regarding a largely reformed list of contributors for “The Gospel Project”, as well as its decision to reverse a resolution at SBC-2011 for it not to sell the new NIV. Thus, when it comes to surveys about the SBC, it would be best to look at results from an independent source. NAMB contracted with Zogby International a few years ago to do just that. Zogby reported “Overall, Southern Baptists were viewed favorably by 57 percent of adults interviewed” … whereas, LifeWay’s take-home message put the emphasis on “unfavorable.”

      However, age of respondents mattered in the Zogby survey: “The Southern Baptist identity simply does not resonate with adults age 18 to 24. More than 40 percent of respondents in this group said knowing a church was Southern Baptist would negatively affect their decision to visit or join the church.” Perhaps, therein lies the heart of this issue. There is no doubt that young, restless and reformed (YRR)numbers are increasing in SBC ranks. With this name-change action, YRR church planters and their influencers have simply been handed a compromise from SBC leadership – even though they didn’t really need it since they have already been using cool church names not describing affiliation for years.

      The YRR social media is abuzz this morning with this development – they love it. Perhaps, it’s really not about “Southern”, but about changing the denomination one bite at a time toward a reformed entity … and they appear to be pulling it off while majority Southern Baptists are asleep in Zion.

      • Milton Robins
        February 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM

        The connection you’re attempting to make between LifeWay’s endorsement of reformed contributors for the “The Gospel Project,” and the results of the survey seem spurious and arbitrary.

        To be sure, “it’s really about Southern,” for those African Americans–many of whom are our brothers and sisters–that understand the role racist attitudes played in the formation of the SBC. In fact, it wasn’t until 1995 that the SBC acknowledged the role racism played in its early history.

        Much more can be said, but I think the compromise, while difficult, takes into account the reality that the SBC name represents an unnecessary roadblock for believers and unbelievers.

        • Max
          February 22, 2012 at 8:32 AM

          Milton, most long-time Southern Baptists know that the convention has already addressed our forefathers’ racist sins. You’re correct to refer to this as “early history”. Author Bruce Gourley says in Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the Civil War that “the Calvinism that caused many Baptists to view the war as God’s providential hand guiding the Southern cause waned as early victories turned to defeat and all but disappeared from public discourse by the turn of the 20th century.”

          Praise God that we have put our behind in our past on this issue, except for a remnant who long to keep it alive for various reasons. Over the years, the convention has passed 11 resolutions pertaining to race relations, including the 1995 resolution you refer to apologizing to all African-Americans and repenting of past attitudes and acts of racism. Today, there are 3,000+ predominantly black congregations affiliated with the SBC. Numerous African-Americans serve in leadership roles in state and associational positions. An African-American is in the queue to become SBC President this year. The association of SBC churches where I live has mixed congregations who serve together on Great Commission outreach locally and globally under the banner of Southern Baptists. “Southern” doesn’t carry that connotation in my area. The race card doesn’t belong on the table here.

          • Milton Robins
            February 22, 2012 at 11:12 AM


            Suggesting that I’m playing the race card… Isn’t that just a form of victim blaming? To be clear, I was merely pointing out how the name change compromise may well be of benefit for those African American leaders and pastors, many of whom are affiliated with the SBC, who perform ministry work in areas where the name still poses a significant psychological or sociocultural roadblock.

            Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it also seems that you are implying that those whom address the uncomfortable history associated with the formation of the SBC have an ulterior motive other than trying to have an open, honest dialogue about why the name may still be a source of difficulty for believers and unbelievers.

            Remember, the name change issue isn’t new. The convention has attempted to change the name for well over a century now, and invariably the unsavory origins of the SBC name comes up. This is not surprising, because the name change issue is inextricably linked to the history of the SBC name. Talking about the origin of the name, then, is not “playing the race card”, but rather providing important context to properly understand the issue.

            So far from trying to play the race card, I was merely pointing to the reality of how the term “Southern” can, and in many ways still, shape and effect the perceptions of those inside or outside of our convention.

            And that’s why the name change compromise, while not perfect, could go in a long way in changing some of those negative perceptions people may still have about the SBC.

          • Max
            February 22, 2012 at 1:07 PM

            Milton – sorry about the confusion on this. I recognize and respect the concern by many SBC folks that race may still an issue in certain areas regarding our denominational name. When I said “‘Southern’ doesn’t carry that connotation in my area. The race card doesn’t belong on the table here” … the “here” that I was referring to was not you, but the area in which I live.

  2. Job
    February 21, 2012 at 10:43 AM


    What should have been done? Let us say that this issue had been brought up for a vote. It certainly would have been defeated (for a number of reasons, including “Great Commission Baptists” isn’t much of a name … a bunch of kindergartners could have come up with something more descriptive and appealing … add this to the long list of jokes concerning things done by committees). But what of the people who had significant issues with the name that are trying to run churches in areas where the culture is more liberal (read more hostile to religion and especially evangelical Christianity … places were contemporary pastors like Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll are viewed as dangerous fundamentalists)?

    Yes, there is “majority rule” on one hand, but also mechanisms to prevent “tyranny of the majority” when the minority has legitimate issues. An example of this in our government is the Bill of Rights.

    Now, make no mistake: I was totally, completely opposed to the idea of a name change. I oppose this even more so if this is a “back door” to a name change later, because that would be the scurrilous tactics of miscreants that are unfit for leadership in any Christian organization. But if this is being done honestly and above board to merely provide church planters with another option … I see it as akin as Paul circumcising Timothy on one had (so that the unconverted Jews and the Jewish Christians wouldn’t have that as a ready-made excuse to accept him) while telling Gentiles not to be circumcised on the other. Anything less, and it is akin to telling the folks attempting to build churches and grow the SBC in areas where the SBC has never had much success that we don’t care about their legitimate issues and struggles, and if they don’t like it they can simply leave. Since the traditional, majority SBC isn’t exactly falling over itself to expand churches in these new areas, then that is nothing more than an admission that they don’t WANT the SBC to go into new places, especially if it means the newcomers CHANGING the SBC.

    Now of course, the real issue may yet be the inability to trust the current SBC leadership or take anything that they say and do at face value because of their actions in the past, i.e. the GCRTF. That is perfectly, 100% legitimate if this action is viewed in that negative context. The synergy between “Great Commission Baptists” and GCRTF cannot be ignored, I cannot deny that! And not only that, but so is the move to place Fred Luter as president. But apart from that context, if the name “Great Commission Baptists” helps them plant churches in Vermont (where virtually no evangelical churches exist) then I have nothing against it.

    Unfortunately, the lack of trust – trust which must be earned and at this time based on the statements of a lot of good people the SBC leadership does not merit – will keep a lot of people from viewing it this way.

  3. Lydia
    February 21, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Seriously, A “nickname” only confuses the matter more. It is also an
    “unofficial” name chosen by “official” people in an “Unofficial” task force. So how can a vote be anything but an acknowledgement that this was “official” all along? That in and of itself is confusing.

    This is why process matters, folks!

    • Job
      February 21, 2012 at 5:54 PM


      You don’t think that the church planters (the main ones who either drove this thing or were used to drive it) won’t be satisfied with this?

  4. February 21, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    First, good luck with your Son.

    2nd; I have shared my thoughts pretty strongly at sites in secular papers, Spartanburg,S.C. and Rome Georgia where the name change story appeared today. You can see a version of what I said in SBC Trends of
    In all sincerity, Howell, Hope you get your hands on a copy of Giberson and Stephens The Anointed soon and speak to it.

  5. Lydia
    February 21, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    “You don’t think that the church planters (the main ones who either drove this thing or were used to drive it) won’t be satisfied with this?”

    Job, I think this is one step in a more strategic long range plan of sorts. Not that it is planned out step by step on paper sealed in a vault somewhere. (wink)

    I think many of the steps toward this “broader goal” will change over time depending on how the convention responds to certain things.

    I think they (task force) sent up a trial balloon for the name change. The unofficial task force was one trail balloon. Then another was their promotion of the idea using certain bloggers and even the secular media (Jonathan Merritt comes to mind) implying it is racist to be against a name change, we need to move on, etc. The trial balloons gave them the feedback they needed to NOT make a name change recommendation. It is too much at this time.

    So, we get a nickname..a totally unofficial step on the way because the bigger step is not feasible at this time. My prediction is we will see church plants using the nickname. Some mega churches will adopt it and we will see tiny steps taken, quietly, toward a sort of new parallel convention encompassing SGM, Acts 29 and many others. A sort of loose conferation.

    I think this is the overall goal. And I am not wearing a tin foil hat, either. When the president of “Southern” Seminary, who promotes and partners with tons of non SBC entities that have brought him much celebrity…. announces that “Southern” is a part of the Great Commission Baptists, we need to get a clue of a much bigger picture at work. Even Paige Patterson does not want to miss this train.

    • Max
      February 22, 2012 at 8:43 AM

      One must eat an elephant one bite at a time.

  6. February 21, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    After a long day on the road from Dallas to Alamgogordo, I am finally settling down for the night and catching up on comments. I’ll try to address each of your comments individually.


    What should have been done is that the messengers should have either authorized or not authorized a Name Change Study Committee instead of the “unofficial” one that was created to circumvent the will of the messengers. Secondly, the nickname proposal seems, on its face to be some sort of grand compromise. It is not. I’ll have more on that starting Wednesday. The actions relating to leadership in the lead-up to the vote will not build trust and unity, but will do the opposite.


    At first, I thought that the nickname proposal was confusing. After having 10 hours to think about it, I have come to the conclusion that the proposal is not at all confusing, at least not to the YR&R crowd and others who have been pro-name change. This is not about incremental steps. This is about one last step in New Orleans that might take months — not years — to implement.


    You are spot on regarding Lifeway’s “surveys.” This, along with their thumbing their noses in the face of the messengers over the NNIV issue, proves that something is amiss among our leaders. You are exacttly right that the YR&R crowd love the nickname proposal. People need to ask the question, “Why?” This seems like a compromise. In reality, it will accomplish exactly what the Task Force was set up to do — change the name of the SBC. Keep reading the social media sites and you will begin to see clearly what is transpiring before our very eyes.


    Thanks for the kind words about my Stephen. Will try to interact with some of your comments over at BL.

    Thanks to all for your great comments. God bless,


  7. Tom Kelley
    February 22, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    Hmmmm… keeping the main thing the main thing … the “Red, Hot, and Blue” restaurant chain isn’t based in Memphis — there isn’t one anywhere in the state of Tennessee. The “Red, Hot and Blue” name was taken from an old Memphis radio show, and one of the founders was from Memphis, but the first restaurant was started in the Washington, DC area.

    Memphis is very proud of it’s excellent bbq (I’m sure you’d love it), and, as such, there are many places around the country that bill themselves as Memphis bbq and have a Memphis theme or connection. But the only Memphis-based chain I know of with restaurants in other states is Corky’s.

    The stuff you wrote about the SBC was kinda interesting, too. 🙂

    • February 22, 2012 at 9:56 PM


      Thanks for the clarification about “Red, Hot, and Blue.” My understanding was that the restaurant’s menu was based on recipes from some of Memphis’ famous bbq restaurants and that they had actually licensed these recipes for use in the “Red, Hot, and Blue” chain, none of which, as you say, are located in the state of Tennessee. Either way, I would gladly take Memphis BBQ any day over what they call BBQ in Texas 🙂 I have come to appreciate smoked brisket, but it’s still fun (and easy) to tweak Texans on just about anything, most especially food and the Cowboys! Thanks for reading about the SBC stuff, too. God bless,


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