27. A denominational name for your plant horribly limits who you'll be able to reach.
If you've made it to #27 on the list then I commend you. However, this is the one principle where I start losing people. Just grit your teeth, open your mind and keep reading. There is absolutely no doubt that the most criticism we've ever received, and still do, is from our church name change. We started as Global Vision Baptist Church, which was a colossal mistake. I felt like I had to launch it that way because it's what my friends told me was right. Without realizing it I began to build the church that my friends and critics wanted but not the one my city needed. So to just be blunt about it, we went through an absolute hellish nightmare when we changed to Global Vision Bible Church. Yeah, I know, God forbid we actually elevate Bible above Baptists. As I look back that would certainly be one of the biggest things I would change if I had to do it all over again. I would NEVER launch a church with a denominational name. I know some of you are angry at this point, but you clicked the blog link. As I challenge pastors with this idea, deep down many pastors would change the name of the church tomorrow if they could "get away with it." You can deny the reality all you wish but the cold hard facts are that the name on the front of your church will automatically tell people who you want to reach. The church name will also tell most people who's allowed and who isn't. Well, at least that's how outsiders will perceive it. Someone said to me, 'The only reason you changed the name and dropped Baptist was to get more people in." Well duh, Sherlock, that's EXACTLY why we did it. As a matter of fact if you think that's compromise then I highly question your heart for the unsaved. I personally didn't start a church so people of a particular persuasion would show up. And then someone always says, "I wouldn't eat out of cans that had the labels removed from them." Well, first of all, it's not about you, it's about THEM. Secondly, that's probably because you're not hungry enough. Changing the name of our church was the single most liberating and explosive decision we've ever made as a church body. I mean who's applause are we seeking at the end of the day? John wasn't a Baptist denominationally. He was a baptizer of men. Jesus claimed no denomination. None of the early believers claimed any denomination. I'm glad for the "trail of blood" but the only blood that saves is from Jesus Christ. I could go on and on. The point is, you can call your church whatever you feel helps you sleep at night, but I promise you that placing it within a "framework" will greatly hinder who shows up. True, that's not popular with the brethren. But I'm called to reach the lost and disciple them. I'm not called to make my friends happy. Pastor/Planter, please listen. You CANNOT successfully or Biblically Shepherd a church if you're only making decisions that impress the guys across town or across the country. Now don't misquote me here. I DID NOT say that you can't reach the lost, have God's power or grow exponentially if you have a denominational name on your sign. Please remember that the great majority of what I'm writing is in reference to NEW CHURCH PLANTS. I preach in all sorts of churches with all sorts of names. Maybe you like working within limitations and pre-conceived ideas. That's cool. I respect that. Rock on my friend. I'm simply sharing what a lot of guys wish they could. If you're in the planning phases for a church plant, you should really think this through. There is no way around the fact that your name will make you or break you in your community. Don't be married to anything but your calling and commitment to Christ. "Labels are important" said no one ever in the Bible. Fuss over this all night and send those special messages my way but your churches "brand" is as important as the existence of the church itself. I could really roll on with this for a very long time, but let's quit while we can. The following is the letter that we shared on the night of our name change a few years ago. It serves as an example of our thought process. Proceed with caution. This created quite a controversy:
"We realize that this decision will invite much criticism, but we must move forward in an effort to reach our hurting community for Christ. This has been months in the making. This has been a unanimous decision on the part of our church family. It doesnt have to be the same decision that you would make. However, it is ours and we will stand behind it. The following is the letter I read to our church family on Wednesday night, June 1st of 2011. I cried through most of it but was met with grand applause from people that are eager to simply be used of God.
Here it is:
I wanted to write and give you a perspective of a change within our church that I feel to be very necessary. I have prayed much over this decision and I am not only convinced that it is the best direction for Global Vision. I am also fully persuaded that this is the very best time to implement this change. We are growing with wonderful steadiness and we certainly anticipate much more growth throughout this year. We have become a church that is known throughout this whole area for our un-compromising DNA structure: Powerful Preaching, Extravagant Generosity, Radical Compassion. In order for us to move forward and stay true to the identity that God has given us, I believe a word must be changed in our name. This is something that our community must see. I feel strongly that GVBC should simply stand for Global Vision Bible Church. Usually when our people are asked where they attend church they respond, "Global Vision". We are becoming well known to many and I am grateful for this fact. However a change in our name will allow us to be ourselves and not keep much of the community at arms length. Here is a list of reasons that I feel this is a very important move:
1. Because of our geographic location (Nashville) 95% of any Baptist church is automatically associated with the SBC. While I have many friends in the Convention, we are not affiliated as a church. I preach in some of the greatest Southern Baptist churches in the country but I believe GV should remain Independent in our structure and governance.
2. The IFB "movement" as a whole is totally out of control and I do not personally wish to be identified with it any longer. Practically, I am worlds away from where I was even 5 years ago and I cannot in good conscience give my full support to a movement that has become nothing more than a mini controlling denomination. I understand that every "camp" of churches has it's own issues, but I am unwilling to have GVBC submitted to the dictates of a legalistic mindset of man-made regulations. I preach in dozens of IFB churches, but we desire to be truly Independent, even in our identity.
3. The type of families/people we are reaching could care less about such an issue. I have come to realize that people's lives are so much more important that the name a church has on the sign. We are the church and if we are not healthy as a body it doesn't matter what the sign says. So many of our people are brand new Christians or are healing from an experience in the same type of church we are distancing ourselves from.
4. Because of our strong emphasis on Powerful Preaching, the term BIBLE would be much more in line with our DNA and overall vision. People say that to remove "Baptist" will take away our identity. Exactly! I want our identity to be nothing but the Word of God. We didn't start a church so people "like us" would show up. I want a church that is solely built upon the radical principles of the Book. If people know that there is a place like that, they will flock to it. However, if they merely think we are the same kind of church they grew up in, then we won't even get them in the door.
I don't want our church identity sabotaged by a loyalty to denomination, movement, camp or tradition. I want all my allegiance to God's Word.
5. Personally, I'm a very hard guy to put in a box. I feel like I have not been true to who God made me to be and it has caused me much frustration. If I were to start the church over again tomorrow, this would be something I would do from the very beginning. God has done so much in my heart these last few years. But overall, I have allowed this constant "identity crises" to become such a focus that it has greatly affected my judgment and my family. I say "NO MORE". How foolish I have been to seek so much of man's approval. I am at a point in my life and ministry that if I can't be who God made me at GVBC, then I must go somewhere that God can use me without the restraints of others that have nothing to do with our church. However, I know this is where God has placed me and I am positive that this is His leading. I'm not dying on the hill of being "Baptist". But I will gladly lay down my life for the truth of the BIBLE.
We are going to remain as fundamentally sound as we have ever been. We are not changing Bibles or compromising truth. We will continue to keep a red-hot pulpit and build our congregation on expository preaching, soul-winning and world missions. I am grateful for my IFB heritage, but it will not be my future. If others interpret this as an attack on IFB churches, then they have clearly read between the lines. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind". This is not easy, but I know for us it is right. I love you all. Now, let's change the sign and reach this town for Christ."