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120-year-old Illinois church ditches 'Baptist' name over 'negative stereotypes

The First Baptist Church of Geneva in Kane County, Illinois, has totally rebranded, dropping “Baptist” from its name in hopes of shedding the “negative stereotypes” associated with the denominational identifier. The new name is Chapelstreet Church. (Image source: Chapelstreet Church/YouTube screenshot)

After more than a century of being identified as “Baptist,” one Illinois church is ditching its denominational designation.

The First Baptist Church of Geneva in Kane County will now be known as Chapelstreet Church. With the new name, the congregation is hoping to brush aside the “negative stereotypes” associated with the “Baptist” title.

“ ‘First’ is a historic reference to the first white church established in a city. ‘Baptist’ is a misunderstood term that in our culture brings with it negative stereotypes,” the church explained on its website.

The leadership said the church’s name “should reflect who they are, align with their vision, and should not present any unnecessary barriers to people hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Chapelstreet is following in the footsteps of its parent denomination, the Baptist General Conference, which in 2008 changed its name to “Converge Worldwide,” and in 2015, switched to simply “Converge.”

“For us, changing our name is advantageous for multiple reasons, and the launch of a third site is an opportune time to make this change,” the church stated. “While we’re proud of our Baptist heritage (and firmly committed to our theological distinctives), the name presents a barrier to many.”

Pastor Jeff Frazier assured the Kane County Chronicle that Chapelstreet is “remaining a Baptist church” despite dropping the identifier from its name.

“We know and love what it is to be Baptists — and it’s a wonderful thing. But the culture at large — for many, not all — it’s a bit of a deterrent,” Frazier said. “There are all kinds of associations. The perceptions in the culture are negative.

“Baptists are known by what they are against in our culture,” the pastor continued. “[W]e wanted a name that removed unnecessary barriers and sounded inviting and lined up in some way with our mission as a church.”

In addition to dropping the words “First” and “Baptist” from its name, Chapelstreet also did away with “Geneva,” because according to the church, the “location is no longer accurate, as we attract people from all over the Kane County.”

Frazier told the Chronicle the church incorporated “chapel” into its name because the word refers to smaller houses of worship connected to a larger body, which he said describes their denomination perfectly.

For those looking for an explanation as to why Chapelstreet chose a name change, the church recommended a 2014 blog post, “Six Reasons Churches Change Their Names,” by LifeWay Christian Resources CEO Thom Rainer.

Rainer wrote that many churches will rebrand “to create a clear or new priority,” “to identify with the community more clearly and emphatically,” or “to change a geographical distinction that is no longer relevant.”

So far, Frazier said, no one he knows of has left the church over the name change.

“They might have quietly left, but most are pretty excited about the change,” the pastor said.

The church asked for prayer as it makes the transition to the new Chapelstreet name.

“This is a significant transition for our church, and we need wisdom to navigate the implications of a new name,” the website reads.

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