I am unashamedly Baptist. And I am a member of a Baptist Church. When my church ceases to be a Baptist church, I will disassociate with it and find another Baptist or “baptistic” church.
It’s not that I believe that Baptists have a corner on truth or that a person must be a Baptist to get to heaven or anything like that. Nor am I stupid enough to believe that all Baptists believe all the same things; in fact, they don't. It’s just that I believe the body of doctrines and practices as they pertain to the theology of the church, that are summarized in “The Baptist Distinctives” are biblical.
I know those “Distinctives” broadly characterize all baptistic churches, but they are not always embraced, taught, or practiced in every Baptist church. However, that is not a problem with Baptist churches in general. It’s a problem with errant, so-called Baptist churches; churches that subtly abandon those Distinctives and bring shame to the name of the denomination. They are ashamed to be Baptist and should either change their behavior or change their name.
So whenever any Baptist Church abandons or ignores any of the Baptist Distinctives, it is a church of a different stripe. It is NO LONGER A BAPTIST CHURCH.
For example, the first distinctive has to do with the Authority of Scripture. In most Baptist Church, doctrinal statements will be found the phrase, “The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice.” (that means, not only what we believe but also, what we do.) Those are great words but do we believe them? Do we always consult the Bible in all matters of church polity, programs, purposes, and practices?
How about that second distinctive about the Autonomy of the Local Church? That means that although the local church is accountable to God for everything it does, all human authority for governance lies within the local body; baptist churches are governed by their members. Whenever that authority is usurped by dictatorial leaders or handed over to a hierarchy, it is no longer autonomous.
Baptist churches are comprised of saved, baptized members. I know it is increasingly popular with many churches to de-emphasize membership today. Some have suggested that we need to “tear down the fences” (figuratively speaking) and make our churches more attractive and friendly to the outsiders. After all, membership is restrictive and controlling, they say, and baptism is too ritualistic and divisive. What is important is fellowship. So they let them in, get them connected and involved in hopes that maybe they will somehow get saved by assimilation. But that is not what God’s Word says (oops, there's that pesky first distinctive) about His Church.
I think there are good reasons for churches to change their names. Sometimes they are for simple, pragmatic purposes like a change of location. If the Elm Street Baptist Church moves across town to Shady Lane, they should take a new, locally appropriate name. But most name changes reflect underlying and subtle philosophical shifts. When a Baptist Church is no longer identified by the Baptist Distinctives, it is NO LONGER A BAPTIST CHURCH and it should choose a name that better reflects its new philosophy.