(After some direct messaging from Pastor Floyd this morning on Twitter, I would like to clarify a few items. These clarifications will appear in red throughout this Op)
Recently First Baptist Springdale Arkansas changed their name to Cross Church. Sounds very good and I would like to say that any autonomous church has the right and privilege to be called whatever they deem appropriate. Allow me also to say that I would not have even considered this post had not Pastor Floyd made it such a huge electronic media event. Now I understand that electronic media is one way to communicate to one’s congregation and it is needed when you have a congregation spread out like that of Cross Church. However, the icing on the cake for me came when Pastor Floyd posted the following tweet on his Twitter board:
With that tweet he invited the SBC to weigh in on their decision to change their name. (Dr. Floyd was tweeting to the SBC in order to assure the SBC world about the name change.) The link, you find in the tweet, takes you to a statement explaining the name change. However, you can go to this link and see a video that Pastor Floyd and his son, Nick put together to explain the name change and how it came about.
I followed others as they commented on this name change and Brother Robin Foster at Courageously Baptist presented a brief assessment of the change. He asked some questions that were never answered and it is a few of those questions I would like to address.
How is a multi-campus church a church in the New Testament understanding? As one scans the New Testament there is very little evidence of a multi-campus church. Certainly one will find many examples of the church in Jerusalem meeting in various houses and there certainly is adequate argument for “house” churches. However, one will find as the Book of Acts is studied that these converts meet together in the Temple until they were scattered because of persecution. If we in America were being persecuted one would never argue for a mass meeting to take place. However, that is not the case. Greg Gilbert at Nine Marks Ministry makes an excellent point in a paper on the issue. I agree with him when he says:
“…the meeting together of several different groups of believers does not fit snugly into the way “congregational meeting” has usually been understood.”
He goes on to say that particular model is more understood as “associational” than “congregational”. Thus, it seems that churches with multi-site meetings, such as First Baptist Springdale (now Cross Church) has moved from a congregational model to an association of churches.
How is the removal of ‘Baptist’ from the name a move toward Baptist identity? One of the things one has witnessed over the years is a direct move to remove the name Baptist. Dr. Floyd gives assurance that Cross Church will never cease being Baptist. I do not believe it will as long as Dr. Floyd is at the helm. However, what Dr. Floyd seems to over look is the progression of thought. J. Mack Stiles has questioned the lack of zeal for the Gospel within InterVarsity. In his paper he calls for the para church organization to return to the purity of presenting the Gospel. He uses a formula concerning the Gospel that reveals the decline and eventual loss.
The gospel is accepted –>
The gospel is assumed –>
The gospel is confused –>
The gospel is lost
Insert “Baptist” for “Gospel” and the progression will not change. For churches that are removing the name “Baptist” it appears they are in either the second or third category. If congregations are not careful they will move to the fourth category within one generation and not only cease being Baptist but being “baptistic”. (I am encouraged by Dr. Floyd’s directing me to Cross Church’s website to the “Partnership” tab that explains the commitment of Cross Church to partner within the SBC. Thank God that Cross Church clearly defines who they are in that video) Also, this formula speaks volumes concerning churches that are planted without clearly defining themselves as Baptist. The church plant begins either assuming themselves being “Baptist” or confused about being “Baptist”.
Was this change made with a congregational vote or a board of directors? Here is a major deficiency of biblical ecclessiology we affectionately refer to as Baptist. When one has only a Board of Directors to oversee the staff there are two concerns raised. First, how is the Board of Directors chosen? If the BoD is chosen by the Executive Staff then there isn’t much oversight done. That is known as a self-perpetuating board and that opens the door for demagoguery being the leader’s choice for leading the board and the congregation. Second, how does the congregational members have a voice in such a board? If the board is a result of the congregational nomination and voting process then we have a congregational ecclessiology. (Dr. Floyd expressed to me that his congregation votes on the BoD and voted on the name change.) However, if the board is a result of any other process then it leaves open the personal desires of the Pastor and nothing is able to be questioned. Sam Rainer, in a recent post on Personal Preferences and Following the Will of God cautions leaders from following their personal preferences. According to the video that Pastor Floyd did with his son Nick, this concept was hatched in his home during a staff retreat. Only the staff and Dr. Floyd know whether or not it is a personal preference. However, when a church moves to a BoD style it has moved as far as it can go to remain congregational in her polity. In reality, a church that is set up with a BoD is really an Elder-rule congregation which is a Presbyterian form of church government. Dr. Al Mohler has written an Op concerning the current scandal involving Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. New Birth is not a Southern Baptist Congregation but appears to operate with a Board of Directors the same as Cross Church. Dr. Mohler’s final paragraph calls our attention to the slippery slope churches rest on when they operate with a Board of Directors.
Well, the problem is that these ministries are built on charismatic leadership, so the congregation rarely tosses any leader out, regardless of behavior. In a confrontation with a Senate committee, Bishop Long was asked if he, rather than the church’s board of directors, was in actual control. We are about to find out.
Are these actions undermining the very claim to be in line with Southern Baptist theology? When a church, such as First Baptist Springdale moves to change her name but desires to remain Southern Baptist, one can only trust the rhetoric. Cross Church has on their website the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, an abbreviated form mind you, but it is there. With the doctrinal parameters clearly set one has to ask what the next generation will change? When a church changes her name and desires to maintain her theology she must hold tenaciously to the theology. Certainly having the name “Baptist” in one’s name does not mean one maintains a Baptist theology. One needs only look at some of the “Baptist” schools around to determine that. Wake Forest is being questioned by Baylor about their Baptistness. However, to say removing the name “Baptist” will make one more ardent a Baptist really does not make sense. Wake Forest University used this same argument and one can see clearly there is nothing Baptist about being led by a Presbyterian and now a Roman Catholic. Plus have a Church of Christ woman Minister as the head of the Divinity School. Of course no one expects Cross Church to abandon her Baptist Distinctiveness just because the name “Baptist” is no where present. However, remember the progression of thought I spoke of earlier? When a church removes “Baptist” from the name it is at best in the first level–Baptist is assumed. In one generation the members of such a church will be confused as to what it means to be a Baptist. That generation of church members will begin debating whether their church should require baptism by immersion. Give it one more generation and the church will have abandoned all Baptist doctrine including the inerrant Scriptures.