Kiffin, Keach, Bunyan, Carey, and Spurgeon are just some of the men, now long gone, I look up to. I'm a baptist, not by heritage but by conviction (of course the two need not be mutually exclusive). I planted and serve at a baptist church that is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. We affirm historic baptist confessions. Some of us really affirm them. We plant baptist churches. Sometimes the question is asked, "If you're baptist why doesn't the name of your church reflect it? Baptists only ask this question.
It's not a bad question. In fact, it's a good question that opens up a good conversation. And now that our little baptist church has planted two other baptist churches, and is currently starting another, all without "baptist" in their names, I thought it would be good to give a public answer.
Because we are church plants we have to come up names for our churches. While we embrace the baptist label we were moved away from using baptist in our name because of what we wanted to communicate about ourselves that is most important. In choosing our name there were two principles that guided us toward the name Redeemer Fellowship.
One piece of advice I received early on in the process of planting was from the pastor of a large church in our area.
He said, "You should name the church after a tree and a body of water."
"You mean, like 'Willow Creek?'" I asked.
"Exactly! Even our Chicago neighborhoods and cities have similar names."
I appreciate the idea of finding ways to connect with the culture around us, but we wanted to go with a name that was theological. We wanted our name to carry significance. Oak Creek, Willow Spring, Maple River, and Redwood Lake didn't say anything to us. So we began considering names that would speak to what we are about, or Who we are about.
There are many labels that can be rightly applied to Redeemer Fellowship. We are orthodox, evangelical, reformed, and baptist. I like labels. When they are accurate and rightly understood they can be very helpful. "Baptist" is an accurate label for us, but it is not often rightly understood in our context. I've had several of our members tell me that they would never have visited had "baptist" been on the sign. However, they are thrilled to be members of a baptist church today.
More importantly, we wanted our name to address the deepest part of our identity, not just one aspect of it. We wanted to point to Jesus. We chose "Redeemer Fellowship" because it highlights the Savior and his work as well as the nature of the church.
We are not closet baptists. We speak of our baptist roots, practice, and partnership from the pulpit, and in depth during our membership class. It's not hidden in the fine print, but it's not on the sign out front either. We are about Jesus Christ and his gospel above everything else, so he get's top billing.