Why the name change?
The Southern Baptists are trying to extend their brand into the north and northeast, plain and simple. SBC mega pastors like Wright and others who regularly employ the services of church marketing consultants to grab market share in the south, would naturally view a move into the north as one of marketing strategy.
Expanding beyond the southeast and into the rest of the U.S. is part of their "Great Commission Resurgence" (GCR) strategy, but they have an image problem: "Baptist" doesn't sell all that well in the north, and "Southern" definitely doesn't sell. Might as well let the Yankee Baptist Convention try to make inroads in Georgia.
And why do they want to move to the Northeast and get more churches started? I know, they want people to pray a prayer and "accept Jesus". But in this day of churches paying marketing consultants and generosity consultants to attract people and to get them to let loose of more of their money - this is all about coming up with ways to gain access to a mostly untapped market of tithers. The SBC's seminaries are cranking out more and more professional ministers, and they need to grow their market as the south becomes more saturated. The SBC can't wait to get people up north to give money to churches so they can build buildings and hire full-time professional ministers.
And of course these mega church pastors down south need some churches up north to expand their preaching circuit, especially during those hot summer months. Imagine, a brand new market that hasn't heard all of their recycled preaching-circuit sermons!
I would remind you what Ronnie "Max Headroom" Floyd, mega church pastor and the head man of the GCR said in February 2010 in one of his GCR video taped presentations (this is the actual slide):
Yes, Yankees, you have money right now in your pockets and in your financial portfolios that the heavies in the SBC have their eyes on. Us church members down south are stingier than ever, still giving less than 3% of our income. They need you and your money now to advance the gospel (i.e. build church buildings and hire ministers), and they might change their name so you don't know who they really are.
The fundamental problem with their approach is that a brand name cannot mask the cold-hard facts of what the brand IS.
Maurilio Amorim has written a piece on this issue from a branding perspective, since he is a church marketer who makes a good living applying Marketing 101 principles to churches. Maurilio's number one point: "A new name doesn't mean you have a new brand." In fact, changing the name without making fundamental changes to the product can be seen as "bait and switch". People in our country already know what the SBC is, and to change the name to help them move north is nothing short of being deceptive, trying to mask who and what they are. Whatever the new name is, for the next generation the new abbreviation will be followed with "formerly the SBC."
Let's face it: "Southern Baptist" is a powerful brand name in western religion. They ARE southern. They espouse "southern" traditions: they interpret the Bible very strictly, they require strict adherence to secondary doctrinal matters, women have a very limited role in leadership, they pick and choose Old Testament doctrines to apply legalistically to church members and drinking any alcohol is considered a terrible sin.
And the SBC is and always will be known as the convention that uses "church autonomy" as an excuse to not hold their participating churches accountable for harboring and then allowing pedophiles to move on undetected. They are the convention that takes swift action to dis-fellowship churches who hire women pastors, yet takes no action to do the same with those that protect pedophiles.
It is this, it is what they ARE, that will be offensive to northerners, not the name.
And wait till Joe and Jill Yankee hear the first sermon on storehouse tithing, when they find out there was a minor detail left out of the gospel presentation: that once they are saved God requires them to give 10% on the gross to their "storehouse" to receive God's blessings and to redeem their income. Calling people up north who pay enormous income taxes to all levels of government "selfish" or "stingy" or "driving stolen cars" or "God collects" won't go over too well. People outside the Bible belt haven't been raised to believe the nonsense that Old Testament verses meant for the care of Israel apply also to their paycheck - they'll see right through that trick.
Maurilio says that a brand name should align with the "brand promise". I like Ergun Caner's idea for a new name for the SBC. Ergun tweeted today:
My SBC Name Change: "Fundamental Anabaptist Conservative Local Church Immersion Revivalistic Tithing Convention"Amen. Now that would be aligning the SBC brand name with the brand promise!