What’s in a name?

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I laugh each time I watch this video. But it’s more of an uncomfortable laugh for me. It’s funny, but I wish there wasn’t some truth to it. The term “Christian” has some unflattering connotations to non-believers.

I work with words on a daily basis, so they’re important to me. I try to pick each word I use wisely. Words matter, especially when dealing with sensitive issues.

As this discussion about people not wanting to call themselves Baptists has grown a bit in the blogosphere, some are noting that the negative connotations of the word Baptist are driving people away. Here’s a portion of a comment from earlier today that makes this point well:

Maybe they understand what the lost world sees, that Baptist means-judgmental. Tow the line and jump through the hoops that it takes to be officially labeled a Baptist in good standing and then we will accept you.

It’s a logical point. It may even be true. But are the connotations that come with Baptist any different from the connotations that come with the word Christian?

Research indicates the word Christian brings forth negative connotations for the non-believing world. Frankly, I’m not sure the term “Christ follower” brings forth anything different. No matter what we call ourselves, non-Christians have an image of believers as judgmental, close-minded, anti-abortion and anti-homosexual.

I’m uneasy relinquishing terms such as Christian or Baptist that people have been using for generations, even if they aren’t necessarily popular at the moment. There’s a richness there in the history and the tradition. For me, there’s value in holding to the strengths of the terms — the caring, the compassion and the eagerness to earnestly share. People who identified themselves with the labels Christian and Baptist have helped innumerable numbers of people discover the hope of Christ.

There’s nothing wrong with the words Christian or Baptist. At times, we simply have failed to live up to the best of what those terms mean.

Non-believers are intrigued by Jesus. They’re drawn to Him and His teachings. They simply don’t like us. No matter what we as believers call ourselves. Given how we act at times, I can’t blame them.

We don’t need to change the way we identify ourselves. We need to more closely align ourselves with the One we serve. Only then will the label we use — whatever it might be — send a positive message to the world.

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One Response to “What’s in a name?”

  1. Rand Says:

    I agree with you John. I also think that one reason people have a negative opinion of Baptist or Christian is that it is easier for many recognize what Baptists say they DON’T do over what they DO do. To overcome that, people must see that a Christian or a Baptist lives his/her life differently.

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