As I’ve posted previously, our church is in the process of changing the name of our church. Last month, one person sent me a letter offering one perspective on things to consider in the process. Today, I received another letter offering a different viewpoint. While neither viewpoint is necessarily right or wrong, they offer contrasting perspectives and should be prayerfully considered in the process.
Dear Pastor Mark,
In your blog, On Target, you recently posted a letter you received that shared some thoughts regarding choosing a new name for First Central Baptist Church. I totally respect the writer’s opinions and am glad he felt he could be open with you about his thoughts. Without reiterating his comments, but using the same headings, I’d like to offer my points of view on this important decision for our church.
Leave no remnants of the past
Steve Green sings these beautiful words: “Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.” My life has been shaped by many people in this church who have walked before me. Included are Sunday School teachers, choir directors, musicians, pastors, senior saints, prayer warriors, and people who have served in a wide variety of ministries. I also think about the missionaries and pastors who have been sent out from our church and are currently reaching people for the Lord all over the world – and they’ve been launched from the firm foundation at First Central. These people have certainly impacted more lives than mine. So I’m not being sentimental when I say, we should build on the foundation that was carefully and prayerfully laid for all of us at First Central. “Oh, may the fire of their devotion light our way.”
“Leave no remnants of the past.” – I’m new to quilting, but I know about remnants of fabric, the leftover pieces of sewing projects. Many beautiful quilts are made from those remnants! I think we should keep some of those beautiful remnants that make up the history quilt of our church. Although we have agreed to drop the name ‘Baptist’ from our name, “First Central” is a well-known remnant of our former name and is well respected within the Chicopee community.
“…We should start with a clean slate.” – The meaning of starting with a clean slate has the implication that everything needs to be erased because things are wrong, or inferior, or inaccurate, or headed in the wrong direction. We’ve recently erased the word “Baptist’ from our name. Not because that word was any of the things I just described, but because it was decided that ‘Baptist’ could interfere with our outreach. Our name came from the merging of two churches in Chicopee many years ago: First Baptist Church and Central Baptist Church. I don’t think using the words “First Central” will interfere in any way with our commitment to reaching the lost.
Keep it short and simple
I agree. Even though our church name was officially “First Central Baptist Church,” most people simply call it “First Central.” The new name should be easy to remember.
Do not incorporate local geography
If we’re trying to reach the lost, we should make it easy for them to find us! People are more likely to recognize our church as ‘”that pretty brick church with the electronic sign that’s near the falls” than by its name. If our church should outgrow our current building and we need to move to a new place, that’s wonderful! At that point we can decide to carry the name with us, or decide on a new name.
In the final statement of the letter says, “It is important that the name not reflect where the church is or has been, but rather where the church can be.” In the thirty- plus years I have been a member of this church with my family, First Central is, and has been a beacon of light in a dark world. God’s word was and is clearly preached, people love and care for each other, people are saved, baptized, and encouraged to grow in their walk with Jesus and to serve others. I pray this can and will be our future as well.
Thank you for your willingness to listen to and consider different but respectful points of view. I hope you will share my thoughts on your blog as well.