Do Genealogies Really Matter?

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:1, 16

family-treeSo, what does a genealogy really tell us about a person?  Are we to believe that our ancestors really do inform who we are and who we will become?  Does it really matter where we have come from, or is where we are going all that matters?  I suppose these questions are mostly a matter of perspective and personal outlook.  I for one am not one to look backward all that much.  Though I definitely believe we can learn from the past (especially from the mistakes of the past), my general outlook is usually cast more forward than backward.  But one thing seems irrefutable to me: my genealogy paints a picture of the hand of God at work orchestrating a family tree that would eventually produce me.  That, at least to me, is significant.

So, when I read the genealogies of scripture, I am always fascinated by the vivid picture they paint of God at work in lives over a long period of time in order to produce people who would change the world.  In Jesus, we were given a savior whose genealogy included amazing men and women of God but also thieves and murderers and adulterers and swindlers.  God used the collective lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, David, Bathsheba, and so many others to eventually produce a savior for the world.  The more I ponder it, the more amazed I am at the wonders of our God.  I don’t know about you, but in a million years I would not have considered putting this kind of lineage together in order to save the world.

But then I got to thinking beyond the genealogies of individuals.  What about churches?  Does their genealogy matter?  I worship weekly with a church that is celebrating its 150th year this year.  It’s genealogy is filled with both triumphs and failures, teamwork and conflict, Spiritual ecstasy and unspeakable pain.  But taken together, it shows the clear hand of God at work among a body of believers and the surrounding community.  Looking at our history, there are some obvious consistent directions in which God has pushed and pulled this old church.  There is a continuity to His ways among us, some distinct patterns in our past that tend to shed some light on our future.  We can draw those lines through our history and then extrapolate them, showing how God is working today and is likely to work tomorrow among us.

If your church has never worked to understand its genealogy, i.e., its past (especially how God worked through it historically), then you are missing a huge piece to the puzzle of what He is doing today and what He will do tomorrow.

What does a genealogy tell us about a church?  It paints a glorious picture of how God worked in that church’s past, and some important clues about tomorrow.  That, I think, is a worthwhile pursuit.

© Blake Coffee

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