Several weeks ago, I shared on a Sunday morning that we are considering a name change. Nothing has yet been decided, but we want to answer some of the many questions we have received. Why are we considering changing our name? What else would change? How does a church change its name? Does a name change really matter?
I want to answer your questions honestly, so feel free to send me your questions or your suggestions:
Why would we consider changing our name? The word “Southern” has changed connotations over the years. To a growing percentage of our community, it communicates racism or it says that we are a “white church.” That is not who we are and we don’t want to be known for that. We are becoming and we want to be a multi-ethnic church. Secondarily, our name First Southern Baptist Church of Avondale is long and unwieldy. A shorter name, without the word “Southern” would help gain name recognition.
Do you really think it would help? Yes. Several of our members have told me of their experiences while inviting others to our church. As soon as they get to the word “Southern” they can sense and even see a change in attitude. This has happened to me numerous times, but I’m definitely not the only one.
Would we still be affiliated with the SBC? Yes, a name change does not change our affiliations. We would still be a SBC church and would show that on our signage, webpage, and other literature.
What else would change? Changing our name doesn’t change our doctrine or who we are in any significant way. Our name matters, especially in communicating who we are, but it doesn’t change us.
It seems like we’ve made a lot of changes. Why? The honest truth is that the world has changed tremendously, even in the 18 years I’ve been here as pastor, and we must make some changes to continue to reach people. When I came, I communicated primarily via land-based phone lines, first-class mail, and bulk-mailed newsletters. Now, I use email, webpages, texting, and video projectors. (I didn’t even have a cell phone until I came here, and my first one didn’t send texts!) We had only one worship service, and few–if any–community ministries. We’ve been forced to change, and many of the changes have helped us do God’s Work more effectively and efficiently.
How do we change our name? The church votes in a business meeting to change a name. It will be well-communicated to our members when we are ready to do so. Afterwards, we will change our corporation papers, signage, and literature.
Is this just your idea or do others agree with you? Actually, we have already taken the idea both to our deacons and our church council; both groups are in agreement that we change our name.
Isn’t it expensive? There is some corporate paperwork that takes time but that costs little. Our signs will need to be changed, but they fade over time and need to be updated every few years anyway. And since we print up our own bulletins, and publish our own webpage, that cost is minimal.
What will our new name be? We don’t yet have a suggestion. It won’t be Pigeon Rest Baptist Church (a tongue-in-cheek suggestion from someone noticing the pigeons in our neighborhood.) It won’t be The Right Church (another tongue-in-cheek suggestion from someone who says their friends are always trying to find the right church.) But we’re not yet sure what it will be.
Our desire is to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that a name change will help us do that. That is our only motivation!