- D.A. Carson
There’s an old joke about Baptists. “How many Baptists does it take to change a lightbulb?” Answer, spoken in an indignant tone: “Change? What do you mean change?!?! We don’t change.”
The truth is that we all change. The Bible is all about change. (2 Corinthians 5:17, for example.)
God changes a man’s name from “Abram” to “Abraham”, which means “father of many”. And then he fulfills that promise, and that childless man becomes the father of nations. He changes Jacob’s name to “Israel.” Jesus changes Simon’s name to “Peter”. Saul begins using the Greek name “Paul” after he begins preaching to non-Jews.
Names are important and even personal. Ancient people believed that to know someone’s name was to have power over them. A name represents a person’s character and nature. There are reasons that people think long and hard before they pick a baby’s name. A baby will often be named after someone positive, and will not be named with the same name as someone negative, like an old boyfriend or an infamous dictator.
There are good reasons to change names. In my own denomination, the "Annuity Board" became "Guidestone Financial Resources", "Baptist Book Stores" became "LifeWay Christian Stores", the "Sunday School Board" became "Lifeway Christian Resources". The Southern Baptist Convention recently studied its own name and finally recommended that churches be allowed to use the name "Great Commission Baptist" to refer to the denomination. Why? Because the names were no longer accurate reflections of what they did or who they were for.
Likewise, our church's name was not an accurate reflection of who we are in terms of chronology, style or vision. Our old name was: "The First Baptist Church of Bulverde".
In the Bible, God changes names as a way of setting people aside for a purpose. He also names them according to what they are going to be, not what they were. We are changing our name for many reasons.
The first reason is that the name is not an accurate reflection of who we are.
We are Baptist, but we are not “first”, at least not in chronological order. Another Baptist Church was actually the “first” Baptist church in this area. Also when people visit a “First Baptist Church” they are probably expecting an older, more traditional type church. We no longer fit that image. We have been in the process of changing for several years now and we needed a name that was a better reflection of who we are and who God is making us to be.
A second reason for the change is confusion. Many people cannot tell the difference between our old name and our sister church. We love Bulverde Baptist Church and are thankful for them. There is very regular confusion between the two that causes problems, like when funeral flowers get delivered to the wrong place or when someone shows up for counseling at the wrong church. (Specific examples would make this a very long blog post!)
The third and biggest reason is that we need a name that says something about who we are now. This is an exciting time for us! Like a baptism, it’s a new beginning. Jesus was always God’s son, but when Jesus was baptized, he was leaving the carpenter’s shop and beginning the mission God had for him. Similarly, we are the same church, but we are a renewed community. We will always have our history, but now we enter into our future.
The new name is “Grace Fellowship: A Baptist Community.” This Sunday we will have a special service to celebrate the new name. On that day our new sign will be unveiled and we will “Go Live” with the new website and new identity.
Notice what our new name says. “Grace” is God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration given freely through Jesus Christ. We are a people who have experienced God’s grace in our own lives and want to share it with others. We are a church for all kinds of people. “Fellowship” refers to the meaningful relationship that we have with God and with each other because of God’s grace. “A Baptist Community” says that while we are proud to be Baptist, you don’t have to be Baptist to be come here. “Community” says that being here means that we live real lives together. We are much more than a place that you attend once a week.