Contrary to the recent recommendation by a Southern Baptist Convention task force that the denomination introduce an "informal" optional title – "Great Commission Baptists" – more than half of SBC pastors say they would not like to use the tagline.
LifeWay Research released on Friday the results of a random survey of more than 1,000 SBC pastors conducted in April and May 2012, showing that 54 percent say they will not use the non-legal moniker, although more than 35 percent have not discussed it.
Only 4 percent say they will use both Southern Baptist Convention and Great Commission Baptists in their descriptors, and 2 percent indicated they will use Great Commission Baptists exclusively in their church identification, found the survey conducted in light of the task force appointed by SBC President Bryant Wright to study a possible name change for the 167-year-old convention.
Rather than a legal name change, the task force recommended in its report delivered in February that "a descriptor name be adopted to go with the SBC official name."
The LifeWay survey also revealed that 72 percent of pastors agree the name "Southern Baptist Convention" should continue to be used. Twenty-three percent disagree and 5 percent "don't know."
"Southern Baptist pastors strongly affirm the current name for the Southern Baptist Convention," said LifeWay Research Director Scott McConnell. "While more than one in five pastors indicate they are ready for a change in the name of the convention, across all subgroups measured the majority of pastors agree the current name should continue to be used."
Baptist Press quoted Jimmy Draper, chairman of the task force, as saying that approximately 90 percent of those who attend the convention annually are from the south. "For most of us, we see the value of the name as a brand worthy of maintaining," he said, adding that the task force made the "Great Commission Baptists" recommendation to benefit those outside the South, as well as ethnic groups.
Talks of a name change emerged as some expressed concerns that the SBC name was a hindrance for some and that it was too regional. But many, hesitant of a change, said they viewed the SBC name as more of a brand for biblical fidelity and effective missions than anything else.
The percentage of pastors who agree that the SBC should continue to be the name for the convention increases with age, the survey found. Sixty-one percent of pastors under 45 years agree, while 82 percent of pastors over 65 years agree. Also, pastors of smaller churches, under 50 in attendance, are most likely to "strongly agree" (64 percent) with keeping the current name.
Responses to the question on the new descriptor also vary by church size and pastor age. Only 36 percent of pastors of churches with less than 50 in attendance agree the non-legal name would be acceptable compared to 61 percent of pastors of churches with attendance over 250. The majority of pastors age 18-44 agree (59 percent), while the majority of pastors age 65+ disagree (60 percent).
"Of course, churches have complete control over the name of their own church, but messengers to the SBC annual meeting (which will be held in New Orleans, June 19-20) will decide whether to grant cooperating churches the latitude of using an alternative descriptor when they refer to the Convention itself," said McConnell.
After the task force delivered its report about three months ago, Wright told The Christian Post he was in "complete agreement" with it. "They (the name and the descriptor) could be used together, or a church or entity could decide to use 'Great Commission Baptists' by itself or together with 'Southern Baptist Convention' or use 'Southern Baptist Convention' by itself."
The regional aspect of the name "Southern" Baptists doesn't describe the denomination's mission "given by Jesus Christ to His church to go and make disciples of all people," the SBC president added. "That is our mission. That is what we do."