What’s in a Name

Several years ago now, I had the opportunity to merge the church the Lord had raised up with another church that was in the process of dying.  That church was and is still Landmark Baptist Church.  To prepare my baby church for the transition I preached a message entitled “What’s in a Name”.  This baby church was about to merge with another church and it was going to lose it’s identity as Lighthouse Baptist Church.  To some this was a terrible thing.  This name carried ‘blood, sweat and tears’ with it.  We had toiled together and fought and been abused by an unthinking town board together and now we were going to lose that name…  However, it isn’t the name that made us what we were.  It is and was Christ and His doctrine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.  I’ve been considering how much of Biblical Christianity has been divided against itself in the past century or so.  We haven’t divided over doctrine so much as preference and fear; the fear of people that disagree with us.  Fear that our church may be swayed to that other opinion. Interesting… I think if that is the case than we haven’t spent enough time establishing our opinion and basing it in the Scriptures to start with.  We divide over dress, music, church polity, secondary associations, methods and so much more.

We separate and then you look at our doctrines and you see a remarkable, amazing similarity.  A church may use a different version of the Bible and yet have the doctrine of Salvation, Baptism and Discipleship, Deity etc… absolutely spot on.  A church may use Contemporary Christian Music to lead it’s people to worship the Lord; something that many conservative churches rail against and yet the doctrine and preaching is the same.  I have even heard preachers rail (1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a… railer… with such an one no not to eat.” Hmm… interesting…  a railer… there is certainly cause for separation…)  against such churches as preaching fluff and of only being centers of entertainment with just 15 minute sermons; then come to find out as you attend or listen online, these churches have deeper, more Biblically accurate and longer sermons than some conservative churches.  The list goes on. A church that doesn’t have the name Baptist is a not a good church, or is a compromising church, or is a church that we cannot associate with… Of course the name Baptist as an identifier of the church is NEVER used in Scripture… Acts 10:37 explains that the Gospel began AFTER the baptism of John.  Again in Acts 18 we see that the great Apollos knew only the baptism of John and though he was eloquent and powerful in his speech he lacked JESUS then Pricilla and Aquilla more perfectly explained to him Jesus.  In chapter 19 Paul the Apostle happens upon some disciples of John that didn’t know Christ.  They had been baptized in the repentance of John but not Christ.  When they heard this they were baptized into the baptism of Christ!  Baptist is a good name, mostly, but it isn’t the only name and using it as a litmus test for fellowship or ministry can be hazardous.

Lest in reading this you think that my desire on this topic it is to sacrifice essential doctrine for the sake of unity it is not; but to borrow from the original New England Baptist Roger Williams the gospel preaching churches were never meant to be uniform only united.  Ecumenicalism once meant a merger of doctrinally disparate churches.  It meant that you would work with a church that preached liberal theology, or false doctrine so long as Jesus was mentioned… this was and is wrong on every level. However, many churches have come to define liberal theology as something it is not.  Liberal theology now means anything that does not measure up to your standard of perceived holiness.  The verse in 1 Corinthians “Come out from among them and be ye separate saith the Lord” has come to be aimed at churches of like faith, but different methods.

My aim in this post is to simply state that things are not always black and white.  Good men of God have disagreed and will until Jesus comes back.   There are some really great ministries that lack the name Baptist and that no longer use hymnals as their primary source of worship material. I believe that doctrine divides and it should.  That said we should be careful that it is doctrine that is dividing us and not simply opinion, for Jesus said that as He was one with the Father and we were one with Him that we should be one with each other.

John 17:20-23   ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

Should we careful?  Yes.  Should we be ignorant and ignorantly condemn ministry that doesn’t look like ours? No.  Should we maybe, just maybe consider working with or fellowshipping with churches that are a little different than ours… the choice is yours.

2 Responses to “What’s in a Name”

  1. Erik says:

    The church has wondrous diversity built into it because the fallen human race is infinitely diverse. Jesus knows what he’s doing.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.