One Monday morning at staff meeting, Jerry, our pastor of student ministries, told us that it had happened again. A high school student had invited a friend to the church youth group, and the friend was planning to come, until he found out it was at a "Baptist" church. Then he backed out because he felt his parents would disapprove.
This had become an ongoing problem. Nassau County, just outside of New York City, is about 55 percent Catholic, 25 percent Jewish, and the remaining 30 percent covers everything from any world religion to atheism. In our neighborhood the word "Baptist" is met with complete ignorance or is considered a form of extremism.
The high school student was open about it, but we knew that for countless others, even if they didn't say so, our name was an obstacle.
When I was called to be senior pastor of Manhasset Baptist Church in the fall of 2002, I realized that changing the name of the church would need to be one of my early priorities, if we were to reach beyond the ...1