The hungry soul of man, craving recognition, responds to the sound of his own name. Just to feel that we are known is good. Man is intensely interested in himself. Show someone a group photograph and first of all he looks for himself. Display a roster of names, and we hear the question, "Is my name there?"
This symptom of human selfishness should be understood and appreciated by the ministers as Paul understood it. Read Romans 16. Thirty-five fellow laborers are mentioned by name in the apostle's affectionate salutation. Paul was a master leader of men. He was not impersonal. Some of us are too impersonal. He knew men by name. We should know men by name.
Some people say, "I remember faces, but I cannot remember names" or vice versa. Association is the solution to this problem—association and a will to remember. . . . "Brother Jones is the tall, dark, middle-aged brother who teaches the visitors' class in the Sabbath school." . . . "Elder Smith is the short, kindly appearing man with the horn-rimmed spectacles, seen each Wednesday night at the prayer meeting." . . . "Mrs. Roberts is the lady that comes to church every Sabbath morning at eleven, and sits in the balcony on the north side in the rear."
Recently one of our preachers took over the pastorate of a large western church. From the very first he determined to fix in the filing cabinet of his memory the names of all his people. Night after night he would rehearse these names in his mind until he was able within one month's time to call by name the principal and most widely known members of his flock. Obviously he became a popular pastor from the start.
A will to associate the names and faces of our church members and prospects for baptism will pay us big dividends.
God has given to all of us a memory, which is underdeveloped more often than not. This unexercised faculty awaits our use. We may stir it up and make it a profitable and obedient servant to the glory of Him who has called us to the highest development possible of every power of the mind.
Some weeks ago I was discussing the faculty of remembering names with a member of my church, and she told me the following story. A young man in the East, just starting out in the ministry, came upon a certain parishioner one day whose name he could not recall. He greeted her cordially, then at once inquired, "Now how do you spell your name? I've forgotten how you spell it." The kind lady, with a twinkle in her eye, took out her notebook and pencil and slowly spelled out the word: S-M-I-T-H.
One does not have to stretch his imagination to get a picture of the intern's flushed look of embarrassment. Surely Smith is not too difficult a name to remember. But there are thousands of preachers the world around who daily are confronted with this avoidable jinx of forgetfulness, but who could remember both names and faces with their proper associations if they only made up their minds to.
It is said that former Postmaster General James Farley could remember all his political cohorts for years back, and call each by his first name. It was this personal interest in men of all walks of life that prepared James Farley for his position in the cabinet, and his office as chairman of the Democratic Convention. At present his genius for "mixing" with people has won for him the most important sales position in one of America's wealthiest concerns.
Preachers are salesmen, too. But neither the man nor his message will be "sold" to the multitude until he learns to know men—know them and be able to call them by their names.
Jesus knew all men; He knew what was in man. ( John I :24, 25.) He knew their names; the date, place, and circumstances of their birth; the need and condition of their souls. He whose divine vision caught the inspiring spectacle of Nathanael's prayer for light under the fig tree was acquainted with the character of the "Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile !" It was the Saviour's knowledge of the man that called forth Nathanael's ardent confession of faith: "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel." John 1 :49.
More men would awake from the spiritual slumber of sin if our voices, like the voice of Jesus speaking to the son of Hannah, could be heard in this hour of deepest night, calling, "Samuel, Samuel, Samuel."