I’m not a regular reader of the Baptist Standard website, but I have been following attempts by the Southern Baptist Commission (SBC) to change their name to something more marketable, in light of declining attendances, memberships, and — what matters most — baptisms.
But as the article points out, this is a denomination where splits can occur over the color of the carpeting or the money spent on the new church organ:
There also were strong currents running against a change, however. Some objections were rooted in an emotional loyalty to tradition and culture that can make a debate over repainting the church walls into an occasion for schism.
“We believe that the equity that we have in the name Southern Baptist Convention is valuable,” said Jimmy Draper, head of the SBC task force. “It is a strong name that identifies who we are in theology, morality and ethics, compassion, ministry and mission in the world. It is a name that is recognized globally in these areas.”
In other words, “We’ve always called it this way.”
The article mentions a few other brand changes including some that are pending:
Campus Crusade for Christ, the worldwide ministry started in 1951 by the late Bill Bright and his wife, is this year introducing a new moniker, “Cru,” that some worry could become the “New Coke” of evangelical Christianity.
Elsewhere, evangelical leader Tony Campolo has taken to calling himself a “Red Letter Christian” because he worries that the evangelical brand has become too politicized. The rock-ribbed Christians at Bob Jones University in South Carolina have been looking—so far in vain—for an alternative to the “fundamentalist” label they once wore so proudly.
Mormon leaders are also making a push to have the church called only by its formal name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because they feel the “Mormon” label can be derogatory or raise undesirable associations with polygamist splinter groups.
But then the article strikes gold.
The word “Mormon,” like “Southern Baptist,” has strong name recognition and immediately conveys a clear image—both valuable assets. If that image is not the one you want to project—for example, a …survey showed 40 percent of Americans have a negative impression of Southern Baptists—then you have to figure out why rather than just slapping a new label on the same old product.
At which point, we’d be done with this story, except for this delightful ending, the kind of thing some writers wait years for:
In the end, all the Southern Baptist task force could do was offer an unofficial alternative, “Great Commission Baptists,” for congregations that want at least something a little different.
It seems unlikely the “GCB” moniker will win out, but an evolutionary approach to re-branding can work; International Business Machines effectively reinvented itself as IBM, and General Electric did the same by switching to GE.
Uh…was nobody watching ABC television last Sunday night? Or reading about it in the newspapers?
You can say GCB stands for Great Commission Baptists if you want to, but launch it right now, and all you’re going to hear is Good Christian Bitches. Why any Baptist insider would include that paragraph at this time — the post date is Thursday, March 8th — defies logic.