Clarifying our church’s identity for the purpose of sharing Christ with our community

Acts 1:8 Team

September 2022

Several months ago, the church enlisted us to serve on a task force called the Acts 1:8 Team. The
purpose of the team is to work with the pastor to clarify our church’s identity so that we can be more
effective in our mission of making disciples. One of our team’s specific tasks was to explore possible
negative perceptions of the word “Baptist” among those our church is trying to reach, and to discern
whether the church should consider changing its name because of such perceptions. Through this letter,
we are reporting to you that we do not recommend a change in the church’s name at this time.
Our team approached our conversations about the church’s name with open minds, asking God to guide
us, and telling Him we were willing to do whatever He led us to do. Then we started doing our
homework. We explored a number of national studies related to the perceptions of denominational
names. We had conversations with leaders of churches whose names were changed. We assembled our
own online survey, receiving responses to that survey from several hundred people, including many
people who rarely or never attend church.
     Our research pointed us to several important conclusions:
1. Perceptions of the word “Baptist” among those who don’t regularly attend church are almost entirely
negative (in responses to our survey, words like old-fashioned, judgmental, intolerant, and closed-
minded made frequent appearances).

2. However, those with negative perceptions of the word “Baptist” tend to have negative ideas about
church in general, and it is not clear that removing the name “Baptist” would move them any closer to
considering our church.

3. Therefore, we are not optimistic that changing the name would result in a dramatic shift in how lost
people consider our church and how welcome they think they would be in it.
It is quite possible that, in theory, a new name could make us at least a little more effective in reaching
unchurched people. However, we can think of dozens of other things we could do that would move the
needle more in terms of impactful outreach (for example: our upcoming proposed worship center
remodel, doing more friendship evangelism and outreach, doing more community service, increasing
our social media presence, doing more advertising, etc.). And we believe that if we change our church’s
name, it will actually make it harder for us to do all of those dozens of more impactful things. The
conflict that could result from a name change would make our whole church family less likely to invite
their friends, less likely to support the worship center remodeling, etc.
In summary, we believe that changing the church’s name at this juncture could actually harm our
church’s outreach instead of helping it.

We are grateful to the church for trusting us with the task of facilitating this important study. And we
want to affirm the church for being willing to consider such a substantial change: it is a sign of spiritual
health that our church is willing to discuss potentially controversial things if those conversations can
lead us to be more effective in reaching people for Christ.
Our team will now pivot toward exploring other steps we can take to increase our effectiveness in
outreach and to demonstrate to the community that the negative perceptions they may have of our
name are not reflective of who we are. Please pray for us as we continue that important work. And join
us as we step into the next season of life as First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit, united by our mission
to love God, love people, and make disciples.

Grace and peace,
Acts 1:8 Team
(Allen Baker, Ashley Brinker, David Byers, Nancy Hamby, Loren Hutchinson, Shirley Olson, Stu Reece, Lilly
Root, and Nathan Taylor)