What's in a name?
Perception and image, according to 93 percent of those attending First Baptist Church of Modesto. That's how many voted Sunday to rename their 107-year-old church to CrossPoint Community Church.
The church had left its affiliation with the American Baptist denomination about 30 years ago, said the Rev. Wade Estes, the congregation's senior pastor. Leaders had discussed changing the church's name in the intervening years, but the timing was never right, he explained Tuesday.
Over the past several years, he said, staff members heard the same story: Parishioners would invite their friends to services, but some weren't interested in visiting a Baptist church.
"Some people thought it was a church for only old people," Estes said. "Others thought we'd be rigid, inflexible, narrow-minded. One young Latina woman told me her grandmother was pleading with her not to go to a Baptist church because it was racist and we would hurt her."
About 18 months ago, the church surveyed a cross-section of its congregation to get a feel for their experiences and whether they would be open to a name change. Overwhelmingly, Estes said, the response was positive, even among longtime parishioners and seniors who might have had an emotional attachment to the name.
Next began a search for a new name. Some proposals were the same names as other churches in town or too similar, Estes said. Among the final names, CrossPoint "rose to the top" in surveys, he said.
"I think most of the spiritual significance to us in the church is that the 'cross' refers to the cross of Jesus, that he died for people's sins so that they could have a relationship with God. The word 'point' for us means we are seeking to point people to Jesus, so they can understand who he is and his love for them.
"The 'community' will speak to the fact that it's open to anyone in the community. It's not just open to one kind of people (Baptists, for instance). Now that 'Baptist' is removed, it's going to help people to be willing to come and experience what the message of Christ is and experience him personally."
Estes said the theology, leadership and ministries of the church, which draws about 2,500 people regularly, will not change.
Because of the difficult economy, he noted, new signs at the church will be phased in over the next 12 months. Banners with the new name will be up soon and a new logo has been designed.
CrossPoint is at 1301 12th St. in downtown Modesto. Worship services are at 9 and 10:45 a.m. Sundays. For more information, call 521-0181.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2012.