Baptists > Issues > A Baptist By Any Other Name
Churches across the United States are dropping the name "Baptist" while insisting that they remain 100% faithful and true to our doctrines and distinctives.
   Numerous pamphlets, magazine articles, and web sites now address the subject.  Sad to say, most mistakingly state that the origin of the name was due to John the Baptist relative to our stand on baptism by emersion.  Some go on to declare that Jesus actually organized the first Baptist church.  Even others argue that the apostles fulfilled the offices of a local Baptist church and that all who claim the name today can trace an unbroken chain all the way back to the believers of the first century.  It is this kind of misinformation that only further convinces those who drop the name to do so, thus, distancing themselves from those who find it necessary to fabricate such a historical connection, lest their faith be in vain.
   Historically, the name "Baptist" first came into existence in England in the early seventeenth century. The Puritan-Separatist movement in the Church of England formed separate congregations which accepted only believers into their membership, and they baptized converts upon their profession of faith. Their opponents nicknamed them "Baptists," and the name stuck.  Therefore, our identification as Baptists has been with us for not quite 400 years.
   Although Baptist churches generally remained smaller (up to 150 attendees on a given Sunday), the twentieth century ushered in a time of unprescedented growth.  Congregations in big cities were going from the hundreds to the thousands.  By the late 1960s, Christianity Today Magazine officially pronounced that nine of the ten largest churches in the world were Baptist.  Of those, six of them were associated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship.  This group of churches were one of the first of the many Baptist groups to use modern day methodologies to ignite church growth.  From large bus ministries to promoting themselves using television, churches such as Detroit's Temple Baptist Church, Cincinnati's Landmark Baptist Temple, and Springfield's High Street Baptist Church (not to mention several others) were running five figure attendances.  In fact, the editor of that magazine, Elmer Townes, addressed the annual meeting of the BBF in 1970 to further declare their evangelistic success while warning them that internal negative forces (e.g. legalism, radicalism, politics) would eventually weaken their effectiveness.   His warning still needs to be heeded today as it was those almost forty years ago.
   During that same period of time, it was the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, that first reached over 100,000 attendees on a single Sunday.  Dr. Jack Hyles was the dynamic pastor of the church.  Those were days of great soul winning effort, tremendous growth in church membership, national influence, and large church ministries which flourished beyond what any of us ever dreamed or thought possible.
   Since then, the name has suffered tremendously.
   Fighting Fundamentalists have used the media moreso than any other persuasion of Baptist to set forth their radicalism, thus, scaring away the lost instead of attracting them to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Certainly, not all Fundamentalists are so combative but may be guilty by association.
   Angry Legalism has been the primary reason for the loss of respect for the Baptist name.  Instead of encouraging believers to grow in their faith internally, a kind of external phariseeism is preached with "uncompromising conviction" (their term).  This view labels Christians who do not attend movie theaters, do not listen to rock 'n roll, do not dance, do not drink, and do not smoke as being truly saved and spiritual.  They struggle with the traditional Baptist doctrine of Individual Soul Liberty.
   The King James Only Movement, started by Baptist radical Dr. Peter Ruckman, has generally become a name calling and shouting match.   Some of those who are committed to this view even claim that one cannot be saved if any other version than the Authorized Version of the Bible is used.
   Internal Conflict that results in numerous church and associational splits has injured the godly reputation of Baptists in local communities.  Wounded souls leave congregations where friction occurs.  Churches that once flourished are now greatly diminished due to internal strife and few ever recover from it.
   When one considers the above factors regarding why those who once wore the name as a testimony of their faith and practice are now discarding it, there is little wonder why it is being discarded.
   This web site truly seeks to encourage others to identify with the historical and traditional Baptist doctrine, distinctives, and practice.  However, if we are to continue being a people who adhere to God's Truth, we are compelled to look within ourselves and admit that our behaviour of late has not been all that it should be.  When a family member retains his or her identity but is too ashamed to identify with the family name, it might be adviseable to look in the mirror of God's Word to see if perhaps there is good reason to do so.

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