Identity is pretty important. There are aspects of all of us, including our nation, of which we are embarrassed and ashamed; but it’s pretty radical to desert your roots and heritage because of a few bad apples and because the times have changed. There are a few corrupt law enforcement people and some bad doctor; but God forbid that we damn them all! America is sin-sick, on a collision course to disaster; but I’m an American, and not ashamed to say so. Even when I’m in Europe or Egypt! There are some REALLY corrupt preachers; but I’m a preacher, and not about to hide it by calling myself spokesman or messenger or some other watered-down name.
There’s power in a name. It’s a distinctive. It tells people who you are, what you believe and lots of other information about you. On a check, on a legal document, on a marriage license, on a tombstone! It’s you. It’s your church. It’s your moniker. It identifies you, sets you apart! It brands you.
Jesus has a name. No other name carries more scorn, has been hated more. This name has been mocked, ridiculed, prostituted, abused and smeared. Every imaginable godless thing you can imagine has been done in the name of Jesus. The Conquistadors pillaged, conquered and murdered in the name of Jesus Christ. This day millions hate Him and the truths that are uniquely and distinctively His. Should we change His name? Should we rename Him to something without so much controversy and baggage? Should we hide who He really is in hopes of attracting people when our real goal is to bring people to Him?
I don’t mind telling you that Jesus is the sweetest, most precious name I know. I don’t say that arrogantly or defiantly; I say it humbly and sincerely. I want to bring everybody I can to Him. I don’t want to hide Him; He told me to put Him on a candlestick and exalt Him. I know the name of Jesus turns off multitudes of people, there’s a built-in offence in the cross; but we dare not change His name or His message. There is no hope anywhere else.
These days there is a wave, a move among good people to vail who they really are. The motive seems to be noble; we want to reach more. Since so many people are turned off and want nothing to do with Christians of strong convictions, the growing trend among churches is to hide or mask who they really are. The idea seems to be that we don’t want those we hope to reach to be turned off by our name.
There’s a lot of baggage in the name Baptist especially Independent Baptist. Oh yes! It is sadly true that some of us have been pretty ugly: cantankerous and ill-tempered, mean-spirited, negative and critical, unreasonable, anti-intellectual, extremely judgmental, self-righteous, harsh and lots more. Some of our brethren want to shun that image. That’s understandable; but to erase name, your identity and vail who you really are? I have observed that most of those bad and repulsive characteristics cut across the board: Baptists of all stripes, Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Bible churches; and yes, atheists, homosexuals, Americans and the populace in general. The grass always seems to greener on the other side of the fence, but it rarely is. It’s easy to jump out of a frying-pan and land in a fire.
There’s a deceptive ring to hiding who you really are in order to reach people. Maybe your name no longer fits, and you need to change it; but to basically be who’ve always been, and hide that reality so that prospects won’t recognize you till you’ve got ‘um somehow flies in the face of integrity and fundamental honesty. I see no justification of deception anywhere in the Bible.
I’m a Hutson, an American, a Christian and a Baptist. In all of these areas of my heritage there have been some really godless people; but I’m still a Hutson, an American, a Christian and a Baptist. I’m not about to let God-dishonoring people in either category drive me away from my heritage, my name. It saddens me to see Baptists dropping Baptist while calling themselves baptistic. What kind of mind and word game is that? I for one am glad to be identified with that long heritage of men and women who since Christ have stood for the Bible at a great price. I’m not ready to disassociate myself from them in beliefs, practices or name.