Today is the Boston Marathon. Everyone who finishes will receive recognition for life as a finisher of the prestigious race.
Have you ever met anyone who likes to be known as someone who does not want recognition? I don’t think I have ever met anyone who really doesn’t want to receive recognition. Who doesn’t love to be recognized for an achievement? Who doesn’t want to be loved, accepted, and noticed?
Recognition at Church
My formative theological education came from my mother’s faithful teaching. Mom always conducted Bible Clubs called Joy Clubs or Good News Clubs one night a week after school. In the summer she would have week-long Five-Day Clubs in the church or in the neighborhood. We always helped recruit our friends for these clubs. She taught us the books of the Bible and basic elemental theology. She taught us that we should read our Bibles, pray, and witness daily. She had us memorize Scripture verses. She taught us songs and missionary stories.
At certain levels there were awards. At the first level the award was a felt beanie with the word JOY on the front. The word was spelled in macaroni letters. When I think of it now it seems silly but I remember the deep satisfaction I felt when I was eight years old and I had achieved the first level award and I stood in the mirror and looked at myself with my own Joy Beanie. I was eager for people to see what I had achieved.
When I was a boy our church joined with other churches one Sunday night a month for what they called “Hymn Sings.” After our Sunday evening service we would all drive to one of our sister churches and spend an hour singing hymns together, the church full of people. You could always smell coffee brewing in the church Fellowship Hall. The food they would serve then would always be called “refreshments,” but before we were dismissed to enjoy the coffee, cookies, punch and banter in the basement, there was always one important item of business. There would be a roll-call of churches. Each pastor would stand and announce how many attended from his church and the percentage of Sunday Morning attendance that represented. The church with the highest percentage present at the Hymn Sing would be recognized with a banner. The church that held the banner from the previous month would ceremoniously hand the banner to the new winner.
Ten years later I would travel to Chicago to study at Moody Bible Institute. A Bible knowledge exam was a part of our orientation. I scored well on the exam. I still have a record of that. It was the Joy Clubs, the Good News Clubs, the stories and treats and beanies and prize Bibles and the recognition that motivated me to store away those Bible facts in my mind. Arguably the most successful ministry program now in use in evangelical churches is the AWANA children’s program. It is based on a system of awards and recognition. Every year ends with the church auditorium packed with children, parents, and grandparents with flashing cameras and whirring video recorders capturing images of a few moments of public recognition.
A Simple Idea
In the late forties a young church staff member named Louis Entzminger came up with an idea to promote Sunday School attendance. It was a very simple idea that gave recognition for five things. Be present at Sunday School. Be on time. Bring a Bible. Prepare your lesson. Bring an offering. Those who did those five things every Sunday of the year received a one-year Sunday School pin. Some people who did this year after year ending up with decorations like war heroes.
This idea was adopted by the Southern Baptists and became a part of Southern Baptist culture. As a result there are many who have logged fifty or sixty years of perfect Sunday School participation.
Dr. Robert L. “Bob” Sartain is a mathmatics professor at Howard Payne University. He has had perfect attendance for fifty-five years. He started when he was an eleven-year-old boy. His faithfulness has inspired his wife and children. Their family has a cumulative total of more than 146 years of perfect Sunday School attendance. Once while visiting Colorado the family drove forty miles to attend Sunday school. Other and higher motives come into play, but the patterns of devotion were initially stimulated by simple recognition.
Recognition in Business
If you eat at Arby’s Restaurants you will notice that just as you go out the door there is a large, bright bell mounted there. The sign beneath it reads; “Ring the Bell if you received great customer service today.” That is a great way to give immediate recognition for fast, friendly, cheerful service because it is a basic law of human nature that people like to be recognized for what they do.
It’s Everywhere You Look
Athletes have basements full of trophies. Scouts have sashes full of merit badges. Lodges and Civic organizations have titles and ranks and elaborate systems of recognition. Soldiers and sailors have honors, and medals, and citations. From the kindergarten to the University scholars are motivated by systems of recognition. They have letters behind their names. They have degrees and diplomas and certificates of recognition on their walls. The little girl parading the prize lamb and the grandmother whose mince meat pie took the blue ribbon at the County Fair are all examples of the power of recognition to motivate people of all ages, all races, all genders, and all cultures. It is basic human nature to desire recognition. People will brook incredible hardship and make unspeakable sacrifices to stand on the victor’s dais with a medal hanging from their neck and listen to their nation’s anthem and receive a few moments of public recognition.
“You are our joy our crown of rejoicing at his appearing – ” The Scriptures are filled with references to God’s intent to recognize and reward faithfulness. A few of the many references include: (1Pe 1:4; Dan 12:3; 1Co 9:25; 2Ti 4:8; Jam 1:12; Rev 2:10, Rev 3:11) God knows all of our basic human needs and instincts. He designed them into each of us for a specific reason. He gave us a desire for recognition and reward, he has promised us rewards, and he will one day gather us and reward us publicly. In the deepest part of us we long for this. No human reward will ever fully satisfy that desire, only the smile of Jesus.
To mine jewels out of the dark places of the earth for the crown of Jesus, that is what we were made to do. To snatch people out of danger, to “infect” others with a holy obsession with their creator and redeemer, that is what we were made to do. That is our original design and that will be our ultimate reward. That reward will be given before the face of God and before the company of the faithful in the great awards assembly at the Throne of God. That is why there is a universal desire for recognition and rewards.
Hope is standing over at the door of the bathroom where Lois is putting on her makeup and she is reviewing her reading lesson from yesterday. After the review Hope then said; “So will I get another blue star today?”