I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to you to learn that genealogical research is today one of the most popular pastimes not only in Canada and the United States but around the world. A quick Google of the word genealogy will bring up 34 million responses—in English alone! It might take you a whole afternoon to visit every one of those sites! Indeed, a January 2012 report by the market research firm, Global Industry Analysts, estimates that as many as 84 million people around the world are involved in genealogical research and spend anywhere from $1,000 to $18,000 a year on research-related expenses.
In fact, the only online search item more popular than genealogy is porn. For the record, I recommend sticking with genealogy as your hobby of choice. The popularity of genealogical research is showing no signs of slowing down either. It’s estimated that, by 2020, the number of people involved in genealogical research worldwide will have grown by 36 percent—three times as fast as any other area—including pornography!
My father and brother are two of those 84 million people involved in genealogical research. Over the past several years, they have done all kinds of research into the Jackson family tree and have uncovered reams of information on our roots. So far, they haven’t found any kings or emperors but they have uncovered the odd mercenary or two and that ought to count for something. Personally, I find genealogical research fascinating. I don’t have a great deal of time to devote to it but there’s no feeling quite like solving a mystery or uncovering some previously hidden gem about one’s ancestors. I just know that if I dig deep enough I’m going to uncover some connection with King Richard the Lion Hearted. Just a coincidence we have the same name? I think not!
Why is it that millions of people are willing to spend so much time and so much money researching their family tree? What difference does it make? Why’s it so important? I believe that genealogy is as popular as it is because it helps satisfy a fundamental human longing to know where we come from and why we are here. There seems to be an innate need in each of us to feel connected to something beyond ourselves—to feel rooted in our history and our culture. It gives us a sense of belonging—of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. It helps us understand how we fit into the broader world around us. There is something profound in the knowledge that I am the end product of many generations that came before me. Without such knowledge we are left feeling adrift and anchorless with no connection to anyone or anything.
As Christians, it is just as important for us to know and feel a part of our spiritual roots. As a believer, you are not just part of a biological family. Even more importantly, you are part of a spiritual family whose roots extend back thousands of years. And just as knowledge of your biological family tree gives you a sense of rootedness—a sense of being a part of something beyond yourself—your spiritual family tree offers the same benefits. Do you ever wonder, “What are my spiritual roots?” “How is it my faith came to be handed down to me?” “Who are some of my spiritual forebears whose faith and devotion made my own spiritual journey possible?” To embark on such an adventure is truly a journey of discovery. If you haven’t begun this journey yet let me suggest a few of your ancestors you are definitely going to want to acquaint yourself with:
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)—Brilliant writer, defender of the faith.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)—German theologian and pastor—martyr in struggle against Adolf Hitler.
D. L. Moody (1837-1899)—Evangelist and founder of Moody Bible Institute.
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)—The greatest preacher of the 19th century (and perhaps the past millennium).
Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845)—Prison reformer.
William Carey (1761-1834)—Father of modern missions.
William Wilberforce (1759-1833)—British abolitionist.
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)—Roman Catholic mystic.
William Tyndale (c. 1490-1536)—Father of the English Bible.
Martin Luther (1483-1546)—Founder of Protestantism.
The preceding names are but a drop in the bucket of the men and women who make up your spiritual family tree. Each of them and countless more have contributed something to your spiritual heritage. If it were not for them you would not be sitting here today reading these words. Go ahead—delve into your family tree. It’ll be the start of an amazing adventure!