Who can do it better? The church or Coca-Cola?


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In 2012 a committee assigned with the responsibility of coming up with a new name for the Southern Baptist Convention decided against changing the name and concluded that adding a descriptor to the name would be preferable to a name change.

The descriptor is supposed to define us. After a year of prayer, deliberation, and thoughtful consultations the committee proposed that the descriptor for Southern Baptists should be Great Commission Baptists.

First, I have hardly heard any mention of the descriptor since the 2012 convention. Perhaps it was simply an idea whose time has not yet come. Perhaps those of us in positions to communicate ideas, events, policies, practices, missions, ministries, and news have not done a good job of keeping the descriptor alive and a part of our conversations.

Second, descriptors are generally earned rather than bestowed upon the undeserving. Since it is time for the Major League Baseball playoffs, I am reminded that Reggie Jackson was not called “Mr. October” in hopes he would have a productive October at the plate, but he was called “Mr. October” because he had a record of hitting on a torrid pace in the month of October. Although Southern Baptists would like to be known as Great Commission Baptists, I am not sure we have earned the title.

Third, the fact that the International Mission Board has called home or offered early retirement to approximately 1,000 missionaries doesn’t seem to make the descriptor an accurate portrayal of who we are.

Fourth, while the descriptor does not adequately describe us, neither has it sufficiently motivated us to be Great Commission Christians, because our baptisms continue to plummet. And unfortunately, most of our baptisms are the baptisms of the children of our church members.

Fifth, we are undeserving of the descriptor, because the national agency once well staffed to promote, encourage, and emphasize the essentiality of evangelism no longer has soul winning, witnessing as a primary core objective. Consequently, very few churches seem to be training their members to share their faith. And, only a small percent of churches seem to be having special evangelistic events or revivals.

Sixth, if a rose by any other name smells as sweet, is it not also true that a tune by any other name sounds as melodious and a snow-capped Mount Everest by any other name looks as majestic? Therefore, does changing a name really make any difference? The true character of a person, a church, an entity, or a denomination may be found in the principles, the passion, and the purpose that drives them

We are supposed to be pushing back the darkness, reaching the unreached, and winning the lost. If we are going to live up to our name we had better begin to obey the mandate of Matthew 28:18-20.

A comparison

Let me compare the Great Commission to something everyone easily recognizes: Coca-Cola. A pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, invented Coca-Cola in Atlanta in 1886. He concocted a caramel-colored syrup in a brass kettle in his backyard. He mixed his formula with carbonated water and it was deemed excellent by those who sampled it.

Coke was basically an American drink until the company got serious about global expansion in the 1970s. The executives set a goal of making Coca-Cola available to every person on the planet.

I remember the Hilltop Singers performing the song:

“I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love,

Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves.

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,

I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”

Then in 1979 there was the “Have a Coke and Smile” commercial with a young fan giving Pittsburgh Steeler “Mean Joe Greene” a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola. In the 1980s there were memorable slogans such as “Coke is it," "Catch the Wave,” and “Can’t Beat the Feeling.”

Who can forget the series of animated commercials featuring polar bears with the “Always Coca-Cola” catch phrase? From the early slogan “The Pause that Refreshes” to the current “Taste the Feeling” Coke has dominated the soft drink domain for decades.

Coca-Cola is the most recognizable brand in the world. Coke remains an industry leader in both product sales and marketing. The Atlanta-based company is close to reaching its global goal. A recent survey revealed that 97% of the world’s population has heard of Coca-Cola. Seventy-two percent of the world’s people have seen the Coca-Cola logo, and 51% of the world’s population has tasted a Coke. Every day, there are 1.6 billion servings of Coke.

With such amazing global expansion over the past 125 years, someone said if Jesus had given the Great Commission to the Coca-Cola Company, the gospel would have already been presented to every person on earth! But He didn’t give the Great Commission to Coca-Cola, or Apple, or McDonald’s. He gave it to us!

If our convention is to be the Great Commission Baptist convention we must build Great Commission churches and in order to build Great Commission churches each one of us must become a Great Commission Christian!

Coca-Cola, evangelism, Great Commission, name change, Southern Baptists