“I’m sure you don’t remember me but…” Sometimes when people call me they start the conversation like this, assuming I don’t remember them. They are surprised when they see that I remember not only their names but something personal about them as well.
I know almost all of our church members’ names because I pray for them every morning. I pray over their family prayer requests, which are collected at the beginning of the year. I also pray over any special prayer requests, which are submitted every week.
One of the reasons church members liked me when I first came to Seoul Baptist was that I remembered their names so well. But remembering names does not come naturally or easily for me. It takes a good deal of effort. When I first came here, I asked members to submit their family pictures so I could match their names with their faces when I prayed for them. It was only by having this reference that I was able to learn people’s names well.
As I get older, it gets more difficult to remember everyone’s names. Sometimes, when I’m talking with deacons I see several times a week, I find that I can’t recall their names and I find myself stuttering. Sometimes I remember a member’s name but can’t place his or her face. So recently I started bringing my laptop to the sanctuary during morning prayer times. My computer has pictures of both visitors and church members. When I pray for visitors, I do it while looking at their pictures so I can link their faces with their names. When I pray for church members I look at their picture only if I cannot remember their faces.
Many pastors of large churches lament the fact that because of their size, they can no longer recognize all of their own church members. I actually don’t think it’s necessary for a pastor to know all of the church members’ names. Moses was a great leader but I’m sure he did not know all the Israelites individually. The important thing is not whether a leader remembers everyone’s names. What matters is that everyone is looked after. Moses appointed leaders for every thousand, hundred, fifty and ten people so everyone would be cared for. Similarly, our church appoints shepherds and shepherd-leaders to look after our church members so that no one will be overlooked.
As I get older and our church grows bigger, it will become even more difficult to know and remember everyone’s names. But I am determined to do my best and remember as much as I can. Believers are not only church members but also children of God. And just as God knows each of us individually, I will continue to strive to know each member on an individual basis.
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