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'Great Commission Baptists': New Signs that Southern Baptists Are Gearing Up for a Big Name Change


Congregations of the Southern Baptist Convention are being encouraged to use the alternate name, "Great Commission Baptists," when referring to the largest Protestant denomination in the US. It's an unofficial name that was first approved in 2012.

The SBC executive committee also unveiled a new logo last month of its website showing the cross of Jesus Christ over an open Bible with the new name. 

SBC President J.D. Greear announced this week that the theme for the 2021 Annual Meeting will be "We Are Great Commission Baptists."

Greear told the Baptist Press that the church he pastors, The Summit in the Raleigh-Durham area, will begin to use the descriptor "Great Commission Baptists" instead of "Southern Baptists".

"Our leadership affirms the decision made by messengers in 2012," Greear said. "We believe now is a good time to use it due to the fact that the primary reason we are part of the convention is for the Great Commission."

Pastor Marshall Blalock of First Baptist Charleston, SC – the oldest Baptist church in the South – served on the task force in 2012 and was one of the first pastors to speak publicly about using the name Great Commission Baptists. He said in a 2012 article that the name was considered and eventually approved for three main reasons: for the sake of mission, to break down barriers and to describe our purpose, according to the Baptist Press. 

"The real key to our future is not in the programs we vote for or the names we choose," Blalock wrote. "The real key is whether indeed we are Great Commission Baptists."

In a Twitter post last month, Blalock urged SBC churches to use a mission-focused name, rather than one rooted in the past. 

"The Exec. Committee (SBC) published this new logo on their website. Will you opt to use this mission-focused name rather than the regional name (SBC) rooted in the past? We honor Christ most when we are truly Great Commission Baptists. #optforGCB," the pastor wrote. 

Important Part of SBC's History 

Greear explained to the Baptist Press that the SBC had received emails from around the country with pastors and leaders asking about using the name. Encouraging the use of the alternate name and using it as a theme in no way minimizes the significance of the group's past, either its accomplishments or its failures.

"Our past sins, as well as God's forgiveness and restoration, are an important part of our history. We not only preach the grace of God, we are ourselves a story of it. We owe it to those whom we sinned against to not minimize our injustice against them or their suffering in it," he explained. 

"At the same time, we are also grateful for many of the great achievements of God's grace in our past. For 175 years we have gathered for one purpose: mission. The landscape of our nation, and the world, is different because of Southern Baptist commitment to make the Gospel known in word and deed," Greear noted. 

"Utilizing 'Great Commission Baptists' is simply one more step to make clear we serve a risen Savior who died for all peoples, whose mission is not limited to one people living in one time at one place. Every week we gather to worship a Savior who died for the whole world, not one part of it. What we call ourselves should make that clear," the third year SBC president added. 

Decline in Membership

As CBN News reported in June, the name change comes as the SBC saw a decline of 287,655 members – the largest single-year drop in more than 100 years, according to LifeWay Christian Resources.

The total membership fell almost 2% down to 14,525,579 from 2018 to 2019, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay in cooperation with Baptist state conventions. 

The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 at Augusta, Georgia, by Baptists in the Southern US who split with northern Baptists over the issue of slavery, with Southern Baptists strongly opposed to its abolition, according to Wikipedia

The Southern Baptist Convention later grew to become the largest Baptist denomination in the world. 

The denomination's 2021 Annual Meeting will be held June 15-16 in Nashville. More information can be found at SBCAnnualMeeting.net.

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