The Value of a Name

I could not, for the life of me, remember his name!   I could picture him.  His name was on the tip of my tongue.  I couldn’t remember his name.  Has this ever happened to you?

It was on Sunday while watching the Bronco’s and Colts playoff game that I spent more than a few agonizing moments trying to remember the name of the great football player and former quarterback of the Denver Broncos.  This isn’t supposed to happen!   This is ridiculous!  What’s his name?

Suddenly, my wife after doing a quick Google search (she also could not come up with the name), declared:  “His name is John Elway.”    Embarrassed!  As a former Coloradoan, I can’t believe I couldn’t remember this name! When we hear the name John Elway, I think immediately of his wonderful sixteen season football career as a Bronco quarterback.  He is now working as the vice-President of operations for the Broncos…as well as numerous lucrative business ventures around Denver.  I knew this stuff.  I couldn’t remember his name!   Unfortunately and sometimes embarrassed, I experience some challenges in remembering names.  I just couldn’t come up with his name.

Why share this embarrassing story?  While John Elway is a name that has a tremendous amount of value in the football world, we each have tens of thousands of names that point to the stories of the people behind these valuable names.   Just in the books we read — think about all the names behind the stories!

I learned years ago the value of paying attention to the names of people who assist me in cashing my check or serving my meal in a resturant.   Referencing a person’s name in conversations gives this person and his or her story value.  I promise, calling a waiter or bank teller by name will almost always guarantee better service!  If nothing else the “valuing of a person” by the use of his or her name is a way of saying:  “I appreciate you and what you are doing for me”.

For those in the clergy community, the world in which I live, I point you toward a blog written by Becca Messman — “Three Habits of Highly Effective Pastors[1].  She point out this truism:  There is nothing worse than calling a person by the wrong name!

And in forgetting names we may use the excuse:  “I’m not good with names”.  This is disastrous for pastors.  Pastor’s need to remember names!  While in daily life it’s important to remember the names of people around us, for clergy it’s an important part of our “valuing” the relationship we have with others as baptized members of the body of Christ.

In my last parish I took pride in knowing the name of every church member.  I always tried to call on people with the use of their name.  I am sure it helped that this was a smaller parish and we didn’t have that many visitors.

I also learned that when we had a visitor the value of learning of his or her name as soon as possible….in then using that name the next time I saw that visitor.  With a church in an urban setting, this was vitally important when it came to learning the names of people who would come to the church asking for assisance.  The first door I could open for a visitor was the use of his or he name.

This is also true with children.  We as clergy persons need to value these children by using their names.  Children are amazed that the pastor remembers his or her name!

So are you having a hard time remembering names?   I learned early in my ministry that there is no shame in pulling out a piece of paper and writing down a name.  The use of name tags in worship is a valuable asset in helping a larger congregation become a “community” of people — each with a name!  And this important point:  The first step in recalling the story of the person behind the name is the name itself.

Just some thoughts in thinking about John Elway and another man named “Rod” who just helped me get my car serviced.


Why Haven’t You Invited Me?

A seminary friend and colleague, Rev. F. Lee McDermott, is pastor of yoked churches in Fayette County, PA.   He has created a blog with a wide variety of sermon notes, stories and random thoughts on current issues.  I always remember Lee as a man with a lot of neat antidotal stories.


In many ways Lee has already accomplished what I hope to accomplish in creating a blog of thoughts and insights on issues that concern me.


In October of 2013 Lee posted a short little story/illustration I found insightful for this season of Lent.  It is a call for all of us to think about how promote our love for the church.  This question:    Do we have the same passion to invite a friend or neighbor to church as we do a concert or basketball game?  Rev. Lee McDermott’s short illustration/story:



Why Haven’t You Invited Me?


“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Rom. 10:14-15)



   Nathan Williams told of two men who had been business partners for over twenty years. They met one Sunday morning as they were leaving a restaurant. One of them asked, “Where are you going this morning?”


  “I’m going to play golf. What about you?”


  The first man responded rather apologetically, “I’m going to church.”


  The other man said, “Why don’t you give up that church stuff?”


  The man asked, “What do you mean?”


  “Well, we have been partners for twenty years. We have worked together, attended board meetings together, and had lunch together, and all of these twenty years you have never asked me about going to church. You have never invited me to go with you. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that much to you.”


  We are told by Jesus that our task as the church is to extend invitations to “come and see” and share the good news, but most often we don’t. We allow our fears or embarrassment rule our behaviors rather than look around at the people we have know even for many years and we fail to act.



  What’s the point of any conversation? Is not conversation about sharing life together? Getting to know one another better? Connecting? The best conversations leave us with a mutual respect and increasing fondness of each other with the hopes of continuing the conversation soon. If our faith, our church, and our discipleship is important to us should it not come up in our conversations. But conversations like that seem to be few and far between, especially if they get wrapped up in what we think is “evangelism.”



  If our stories of what Jesus has done for us and the fellowship we have found in the church family is truly important to us should it not come up in our conversations.


   We often make assumptions about people about their appearance, their mannerism, and we form stereotypes in our mind about specific groups which in turn kills relationships. “Come and See” (John 1:46) are the words the disciple Philip says to his friend Nathaniel. On one level, it is an invitation to friendship, discovery and discipleship. Our faith can be communicated in this way and it can be done with respect and fondness for others. We don’t have to sell Jesus, the Holy Spirit will do this for us, if we are willing to share our own stories of what Jesus means to us.


   Today, I have a short video below called “Time to invite someone to church,” which illustrates that we make too many assumptions about people which may prevent us from extending an invitation. Watch the video and consider in your prayers and thoughts today, what prevents you from extending an invitation to others to come and see.


Rev. F. Lee McDermott