A Church by any Other Name
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet… -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
With all due literary respect to Mr. Shakespeare, names are significant. Building a case for the importance of a name is somewhat simple. From the initial naming of creation in Genesis to the new name the faithful receive in Revelation, Scripture emphasizes the importance of a name. Hence, many of the names we see in Scripture communicate identity and attributes.
- Abraham was the “father of a multitude.”
- The divine name expressed in the letters YHWH reveal something of the eternality, liberty and holiness of the “I AM.”
- Elijah means “YHWH is my God” and his life bore witness to that reality.
- Jesus means “savior” and Hebrews describes Him as of the order of Melchizedek - the true and better “king of righteousness.”
We even see occasional significance in the changing of a name to accompany a new identity or renewed sense of mission. Before he was Abraham, he was Abram. Jacob wrestled with God and became Israel, Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul. Remaining who they were in one sense, the name change signified a new season of grace and calling. We see echoes of this even in our own culture as a bride takes the name of her husband to symbolically portray the mystery of the marital union.
In 1904, Foote Baptist Church was formed by residents of the rural community of Foote, TX. Some 86 years later, Foote Baptist was renamed Parkway Baptist as Virginia Parkway was expanded, paving the dirt road leading up to the old clapboard chapel where the church continued to meet. A name change is thus not without precedent in the life of this little body in McKinney.
Much Ado about Nothing
For the past year, our church has sensed a new season of life for our body. It seems to us that the Lord is leading us into a renewed reflection upon our identity and mission and a deeper desire to reach McKinney for our King. In this process, we felt compelled to carefully pray about and ponder a name change. In particular, we wondered if it was necessary for us to retain the term “Baptist” in our title. The more we thought about it, the more doing so seemed to represent a potential barrier to our mission.
The mission of the church is to glorify God by making disciples. In pursuing this calling, our hope is not to grow simply by means of church migration, but by seeing lives radically transformed by the gospel as people are transferred from a kingdom of darkness into that of the beloved Son. We simply want to posture ourselves in such a way as to welcome and receive them without an initial barrier beyond that of the gospel itself. Whether it is justified or not, the fact remains that many of the lost, hurting and broken in our area have negative connotations associated with the term “Baptist.” As a result, many would not even enter our doors given these presuppositions. By removing the term, we might have an opportunity to engage in conversations we would not otherwise and we feel as though it is worth the loss of the name for the gain of the gospel.
To be clear, we are absolutely not rejecting our roots. We are still and will remain Baptist in every significant and meaningful theological manner and we appreciate our heritage and history. We still believe in and embrace everything that makes a body distinctly Baptist: the vision of autonomous local churches, believer’s baptism by immersion, and a membership marked by regenerate believers. We are not changing these fundamentals at all. We are simply removing a label to reduce a potential hindrance to our mission, which is to reach the people of McKinney for the sake of the kingdom.
Therefore, earlier this year, Parkway Baptist Church began to call itself The Parkway Church. Rather than renaming completely, we loved not only the historical roots of the Parkway name, but also the vivid imagery of a parkway.
What is a parkway? It originally referred to any road cutting through a park or public garden. Today, it is more commonly used to refer to just about any roadway with landscaped trees and grass along the sides and middle, as Virginia Parkway is to this day. This image is a beautiful picture of what the church should be - a small manicured slice of garden surrounded by the heavily traveled thoroughfares of the world.
We find ourselves today situated in McKinney between the two gardens of Eden and eternity with a mandate to be fruitful and multiply such that the second garden would be inhabited by people of every tribe, tongue and nation and the King would receive the glory He deserves. That’s the vision and passion of the history of redemption.
And the way that we bear fruit and multiply to populate this second garden is different from how mankind was called to fill the first. People were born into the first garden, but people are reborn into the second and thus our mission is not so much procreation as it is proclamation and faithful demonstration of our role as image-bearers.
And so we toil here in McKinney to that end.
The Parkway Church…for McKinney…for the kingdom.
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