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Friday, November 4, 2011

Calling Their Names

I am part of a local congregation that has a long history of specifically calling the names of persons with needs in prayer. Persons are mentioned by name in prayer during all services of worship. Those who wish that their privacy be protected are merely mentioned as 'unspoken requests' from unnamed sources.

In peering around the landscape of American Christianity today, I get the distinct impression that such a thing has become fairly rare. Over the past 10 years I have been in countless churches. I can't even begin to count the number. But other than my present 'home church,' I have only been in ONE that engages in the practice of calling the names of persons in prayer.

Perhaps this is due to the growing movement toward large, 'mega-churches' with multi-thousands of members. Such churches seem to be a perfect breeding ground for anonymity. It is much easier to get lost in such huge crowds and to simply fade into the woodwork unseen, unnoticed.

Some people are happy with that, which is fine. To each his or her own. But I will have to add that in my view something precious has been lost in such environments.

Church is not meant to be a place for anonymity. Christians are not meant to be 'lone rangers' who behave as if the rest of the Christian body is either unimportant, unneeded, or an optional luxury that believers can discard if they please.

The New Testament Church is the model, and there there is no such thing as anonymity or a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. You are either all in or you are all out. And if you are all out, then there is a big question as to whether or not you are a real Christian at all.

In addition, in New Testament churches, the Bible says that they 'bore one another's burdens,' and that they 'cried when their brothers cried,' and 'rejoiced when their brothers rejoiced.' This indicates a certain level of trust and intimacy, a sense of belonging.

And mark it down, if people do not get such an experience at church, they WILL get it elsewhere, which is precisely one of the reasons the TV series 'Cheers' was so popular for so long. It was the 'place where everybody knows your name.'

Interesting as to how something that was once a staple of Christianity can now, in many instances, only be found in a bar.

This is why I shy away from mega-churches. I am happy that they reach so many people, and I can rejoice with them on that score. But I would not want to worship there week after week. I need a church that is small enough to where people can actually get to know one another to the point that they can literally 'bear one another's burdens,' and cry when others cry and rejoice when they rejoice. I want a church where people know my name, my family, where I come from, and what is important to me.

And, I want a church that, when I get sick or have a special need, I am immediately missed if I don't show up. And I want to know that they will call my name in prayer when there is a special need.

It's awfully hard to 'bear one another's burdens' as the Bible directs if you don't even know who is sitting next to you in the pew or if you have no earthly idea of the burdens that person must bear each and every day.

So, a word to the wise. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

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