Johnson, Anderson, Jameson, Harrison, Jackson, Branson, Edison, Gibson, Jefferson, Peterson, Carlson, Patterson, Robinson, Simpson, Wilson, Thompson, Nelson, Madison, Nicholson, and many other names have something obvious in common. They all end in the letters s, o, n. Son. A name like Johnson declares that this person is John’s son. At least that is how it started out. Now many of these are common last names and some have resurfaced as classy first names for both sons and daughters. We even have a lot of these names in our church! How many other names that end with “son” can you think of? Who did I miss in our church?
What I’m getting at is not what you could name your next child but that these names used to mean something more than they do now. It used to be that identity was very closely connected with parents. In biblical genealogies we see the things like this:
“Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai…”
Ok, so it started off a little unique since it’s the genealogy for the God-man Jesus, and for brevity and your continued reading interest I will spare you the next 13 or so verses that are all part of the same holy run-on sentence until it climaxes with these words in Luke 3:38, “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
If you study the list you will find some pretty amazing characters along the way like David, Boaz, Noah, and Enoch and I’m sure all the names I’m not as familiar with have amazing stories as well. There are a lot of reasons these genealogies were important that I won’t get into today but don’t miss this: great importance was given to the identity of the parent for the identity of the child. In a sense, it should still be so today.
The identifiers that denote who we come from may not be in vogue equally today, and that’s okay, but the impact of the identity and specifically the habits and character of who we come from remains. Whether we are biological children or adopted, no one on earth naturally influences who we become as much as the people that raise us, our parents. Their identity is the most formative for ours.
I understand this quite well as the associate pastor overseeing our children, youth, and young adult ministries at Chapel Oaks. Some may look to me as the one who is supposed to disciple the young people, and I am certainly here to help with that, but according to the stuff I read on ministry to young people, the primary people that disciple all of us for good or bad are our parents.
Youth ministry does not work like when you drop off your car at the mechanic for a day and receive it back later with new parts, ready for high performance. An hour in Sabbath School or our amazing Adventurers or Pathfinders Clubs or a vespers or a Bible study does not undo what is done the rest of the week at home, what has been done in that day in day out habitat for years, not to touch much on school and the crazy schedules we maintain that all hugely effect what is important to our kids. Children will not reflect in their lives so much what we say they should do or be but who we are and how we live.
You know this from your own life. Do you have crazy habits that you can’t seem to shake and you don’t know where it came from? Look to your childhood. Look to your parent’s habits. Look to their upbringing and the way your grandparents were raised. It will help you to understand yourself much better. Don’t be afraid to dig in and see what has been passed down by prior generations. There will be good and there will be bad and in all likelihood, there will be some ugly. That’s ok. We have to start with reality if we want to move forward better. If you don’t, the bad and the ugly will surely be passed down to those coming after us in some form or fashion instead of all the blessing we would intend.
Youth ministry expert Michael McGarry says that 9 of 10 parents believe they have the primary spiritual responsibility for their kids but most parents don’t spend any time discussing or studying spiritual things together.
Let’s change that. Could it be because we parents need to be discipled as well? McGarry also has this thought-provoking idea: Youth ministry is for adolescence, family is for life and church is for eternity.
This tells me that our students need more than me and my team for their younger years. To navigate this life best, they need their family to be healthy and close. They and the whole family needs the church because that is our forever family of God’s people. Jesus said, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Let’s focus on doing His will first and foremost in our families so that our church can be a healthy, healing people that accomplish His mission to reach the lost together.
The youth ministry functions best when it works as a bridge between families and the church. Your pastors are certainly here to help with connecting you and your family to the larger church and we have some exciting plans to strengthen these connections but for now, dig into the reality of what makes your family what it is and then reach out and let us know how we can support you as disciples of Jesus on a journey together.
A note of hope: I love that Jesus’ lineage was traced all the way back to His true Father. We can do the same. There may be a lot of baggage between here and there but that is where our ultimate and rightful inheritance comes from. You are children of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Today is the best day to take the next step towards Him. He gives us a new birth, a new identity and calls us His own. Whether your name is Johnson or Nicholson or anything else, may you always know that You are God’s “son” and if you let Him, there is nothing He won’t do to help You experience all it means to be His Child forever. - Pastor Nick