Sunday, June 24, 2012


When I went to my first appointment back in 1971, one of the three churches on the charge was named Bethel.  Every 4th Sunday I preached morning and evening at this small country church in Glascock County.  I am sure I was not the first, nor the last, preacher to use the story of Jacob's dream at a place he named Bethel as a preaching text.  Back then I learned that Bethel meant "House of God."  Over the years I have decided from my own observations that Bethel must be the most popular name for a church.

On a recent road trip I saw new evidence to support this observation.  Not only did I see more churches named Bethel than I could count, I also saw churches named "New Bethel," "El Bethel," and "Big Bethel."  None of these churches were very big buildings, not even Big Bethel.  When I saw Big Bethel, I started looking for Little Bethel, but that one was never seen. 

I can understand why so many might choose Bethel as the name for their church.  It is certainly Biblical as it brings to mind that story of Jacob found in the 28th chapter of Genesis.  Jacob had this dream in which he experienced the reality of God's presence and the promise of abiding presence.  It was such a powerful, life changing moment that he woke that morning, marked the place as sacred space by pouring oil upon the stone he had used as a pillow, and said, "Surely, the Lord is in this place...How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:16-17)  Would it not be a wonderful thing if we regarded our sacred space in such an extraordinary way!  What a difference it would make if we did!

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