Name Changes and the SBC

It seems that name changing is on the rise again.  The latest is Ron Artest as explained in this article.  It seems that people who want to change their name do so for a variety of reasons.  Not the least of which being religious.  Many people when converting to Islam will change their name to show commitment.  Actors in the early to mid-20th century changed their names to reflect something less European and easy to remember.  Why people would change names coming through Ellis Island I totally understand.  However, Metta World Peace, just seems like a shallow publicity stunt.

I read through the Bible and notice plenty of name changes, but for radically different reasons than publicity.

* Abram was changed to Abraham in Genesis 17.

 3 Then Abram fell to the ground, and God spoke with him: 4 “As for Me, My covenant is with you, and you will become the father of many nations.  5 Your name will no longer be Abram,  but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. 7

The former meaning exalted father.  The changes denotes the promise of God that he would be a father to the nations.  His descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens.

*Sarai was changed to Sarah in Genesis 17.

  15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. 16 I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

While both mean princess, the change is a cognate of an Arabic word meaning to become great in number or quantity.

*Jacob was changed to Israel in Genesis 35.

  9 God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10 God said to him:

Your name is Jacob;

you will no longer be named Jacob,

but Israel will be your name.

So He named him Israel. 11 God also said to him:
I am God Almighty.
Be fruitful and multiply.
A nation, indeed an assembly of nations,
will come from you,
and kings will descend from you.

Again this name went from a statement of fact to a reference to a promise from God.  Jacob meant supplanter, not a word we use very often today.  He was a schemer, liar, cheat, and more.  The new name identified him with the promise.  He got a new name, a new life, and new future all at the same time.

*Simon was changed to Peter.  Simon meant obedience, but Peter means rock.  Jesus was going to build the church on faithfulness as much as on obedience.  God desires a relationship more than religion.  Simon was obedient.  Jesus was making him a rock.  The strength of faith was required for us today.

These are examples of name changes with purpose.  There are name changes that speak to power and control.  The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians changed the names of Israeli leadership to exercise their power at the time.  These did not last, nor did the kingdoms.  However, when God makes a change in a person’s life it is permanent.

Throughout scripture names speak to character.  Abram was an exalted father.  Sarai was a princess.  Jacob was a deceiver.  More often than not the name would hold true through a person’s life.  When God intersected their life, things changed.  We know this to be true based on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

The changes occurred in correlation to God’s promise and with respect to God’s glory.  Abraham and Sarah speak of the promise in Genesis 12.  Israel is in accordance to this promise and the renewal made in Genesis 35.

So when our convention leadership moves to investigate changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention [ read this article ] we must consider motivation.  Why are we needing to change the name of our convention when local entities are autonomous and can name their local church whatever they want?  Are we changing to just be hip and cool?  Are we placating to a younger generation in an attempt to woo them back to the fold?

Is the motivation with purpose for the glory of God or power and the glory of man? Are we trying to make a name for ourselves or enhance the Kingdom of God?  What is being reported and released is the typical mantra of needing to impact lostness.  Somehow changing the name of our denomination will be magically delicious to the lost and they will now flood the doors of our churches.  Honestly, I don’t think the name is our problem.  Our practices and public relations are the problem. We have been seen as haters in this humanistic world dominated by hedonism.  Is it possible that we need to overhaul the way we love rather than our  name?  Isn’t it possible that if we truly love others then barriers will melt and relationships can be built?  From the very beginning God has been developing a relationship with humanity as the prime means of fostering our faith and eternal hope.  Why do we think that monograms, mantras, and names are the solution now?

What are your thoughts?


  1. “Our practices and public relations are the problem.” In part, this may be true. But I would not go so far as to say that all our practices and public relations are the problem.

    ”We have been seen as haters in this humanistic world dominated by hedonism.” This is a true statement. The gospel is a stumbling block and an offense to those in sin. A simple name change will not remedy this appraisal of us by the world.

    “Is it possible that we need to overhaul the way we love rather than our name?” This is a proper question. And it will be accomplished when we have an understanding of who God really is, and who we have been re-created to be in Christ. A knowledge of both will bring us to the true definition of love and a correct motivation for love.

  2. Interesting articles. I agree, a name change is not necessary. Still, if my name was Adolph I would probably think otherwise.

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