Two Rivers Baptist Church, a prominent Southern Baptist congregation in Nashville, is changing its name beginning March 20 to the “Fellowship at Two Rivers.” The church says the name change was driven by a desire to distance itself from controversies from the past few years that made headlines in local media. The controversy involved church members who were dissatisfied with former pastor Jerry Sutton. Some of them sued. Sutton retired early, telling members in a letter, “Although we have won court cases and church votes, the conflict continues.”
The church said in a January letter to members, “The past few years our name and church have been dragged through the sewer. Just do a search online and you will see what we mean. A new beginning and identity is needed. This name communicates that we are different as a church. We are still Baptist. Legally we are still Two Rivers Baptist, but identifying that in the name is not important. People will be drawn to our ministry by our actions and love. That is what matters.”
The church said it is not becoming “seeker sensitive.”
via Baptist Press
The letter can be read here
The letter states that the church is transitioning to ‘one service and one style’ that would most effectively reach people *unchurched and lost non-believers” (as opposed, I guess to ‘saved non-believers’ or ‘lost believers’).
That said (which sounds good to me), the letter goes on to say that they are ‘not dumbing down the church’. And that ‘we are not becoming a ‘seeker’ church’. If anything, they say, ‘we are raising’ the bar.
OK… I get it. The church obviously has some people in it that don’t like the word ‘seeker’. They equate the word ‘seeker’ with ‘dumbing down’ and ‘lowering the bar’. Instead, the leadership has decided on the path that would most effectively reach people (unchurched and lost non-believers). For the sake of sanity though, we won’t call those people seekers.
The other word people in the church are pretty sensitive to is the word “Baptist”. “We are still Baptist” is the only thing bolded in the letter other than the new service time. But the renaming from Two Rivers Baptist Church to the “Fellowship at Two Rivers” has some upset.
All this comes out of a bad few years for Two Rivers. They’ve been dragged through the sewer (their words). And they are seeking to revive a church that has been dealt some death blows in the media and community. No doubt, a tough task.
I applaud the leadership at Two Rivers. Change is hard, and they are deep in the throws of it. The waves are crashing. And the people upset about the words “Baptist” and “Seeker” add to the strife.
I LOVE the last paragraph of the letter:
It is imperative that through this transition we donâ€™t give the lost and un-churched people more of a reason to not go to church. During this time, we ask for a positive spirit of unity and excitement. While we want each person at Two Rivers to make this transition and be a part of the exciting places God is taking us, we understand that everyone will not make this transition. We ask that each person see the vision and pray about where God would have them serve to accomplish His purposes and mission. While not our desire, if God leads you to another place we understand and wish only the best for you.
Brilliantly played. I’m’ sure they have realized in the past years that everyone won’t make the journey to the other side. The same is true here… but it’s seemingly the right step to revitalize a crippled church.
Would you have played it any differently?