When to Change the Name of Your Church

I’ve been reading Dr. Matt Pinson’s opening letter in the beautifully-printed Free Will Baptist Bible College Annual Report: 2011. He makes a compelling case for changing the name of our denominational school to Welch College. Part of his reasoning, rightfully stated, is the fact that some of the terms like “Free Will Baptist” and “Bible” will create barriers to our missionary enterprise. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, 70 percent agree with changing the school’s name to Welch College. Among alumni who support the college financially, the number is 85 percent.

I underlined one sentence in the report, because it’s what I have been saying for years:

A name change does not indicate a move away from our denomination.

–Free Will Baptist Bible College 2011 Annual Report, p. 4.

That’s a very important statement. If it is true for us corporately (as a college) it is true for us individually (as churches). I’m grateful for the freedom we have in our denomination to exercise autonomy on this issue, and for our college in leading the way. Denominational loyalty isn’t demonstrated by a sign in the yard but by theological, evangelistic, and financial commitment to our cause.

7 thoughts on “When to Change the Name of Your Church

  1. I am very much opposed to the name change. I understand that when the board met and voted that one member was opposed to the idea and voted no. I have tried and failed to find which member did not agree to the name change and why he held that position. I fear that down the road the college will slowly change and become just another school. I do not expect that to happen in the short term, but over the years as the college becomes more secular to attract more students. We are now seeing these little changes all around us in society. I have a Southern Baptist background and never thought I would see them discussing a name change.

    I did receive a very nice letter from President Pinson explaining why the change was necessary. I agree with a lot of things he said, but feel that keeping the old name is the way to go. Change is not always good.

  2. I am very much opposed to the name change. I understand that when the board met and voted that one member was opposed to the idea and voted no. I have tried and failed to find which member did not agree to the name change and why he held that position. I fear that down the road the college will slowly change and become just another school. I do not expect that to happen in the short term, but over the years as the college becomes more secular to attract more students. We are now seeing these little changes all around us in society. I have a Southern Baptist background and never thought I would see them discussing a name change.

    I did receive a very nice letter from President Pinson explaining why the change was necessary. I agree with a lot of things he said, but feel that keeping the old name is the way to go. Change is not always good.

    1. Not to answer for Pastor Morgan, but “Free Will Baptist” isn’t on the church sign for The Donelson Fellowship where he pastors. Adding “Free Will” to “Baptist” for those who don’t have any history is often a deterrent from visiting.

  3. I applaud Dr. Pinson’s leadership on this issue. It was bold and had the potential to put his position at risk. I also appreciate that our individual churches are autonomous, allowing churches to minister most effectively in their local context. Free Will Baptist, put it on the sign or not. It literally should make no difference!

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