Why Carson & Coleman

Several have asked about the twins’ names. And we’ve been meaning to put this post together for two weeks now. But all the back and forth between home and hospital kept us from having the time to sit down and do it well.

Now that we’re home and settled, we’ve had the time. So here’s our effort to explain Coleman Richard and Carson Thomas.

It Wasn’t Easy

First, we should say that this wasn’t an easy process for us. We started in different places, one of us vigilantly wanting the names to be especially meaningful, the other making sure they functioned well, sounded good, and worked on their own, with the middle names, and with our last names. It wasn’t a recipe for ease, but we think it did bode well for finding good names once we were both agreed on them.

It was actually only a few days before the twins arrived early at 35 weeks that we agreed on the two full names. And even then, we weren’t ready to make them official until we saw the babies face to face, and confirmed that they worked.

Middle Names

The boys’ middle names are easily explained. By the end of our long process, we thought that having two boys at the same time provided a great opportunity to name one of the boys after each of our fathers. Richard is David’s dad, and Thomas is Megan’s.

Once we had decided on the first names, we tried Richard and Thomas with each name and thought that Richard went best with Coleman, and Thomas with Carson.

Since we didn’t want to name the boys before we had seen them, the guys remained Baby #1 and Baby #2 for the first hour or so of their lives, while Megan recovered enough from surgery to be wheeled upstairs, with David in step, to make the names official with the babies in plain view.

Having seen the boys, it was clear for us which name went with which twin. We immediately saw the Mathis resemblance (especially David’s dad Richard, and so Coleman Richard) in Baby #1, and we thought Baby #2 favored Megan and her dad Tom (thus Carson Thomas).

Grandpa Rick with Coleman Richard

Grandpa Tom with Carson Thomas


We discussed the name Carson even before we were pregnant, but it took several months of discussion and thought to confirm. Over the months, we found ourselves increasingly liking the name.

Since moving to the Twin Cities in August 2003, David has been significantly impacted by the teaching and writing of Don Carson, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Dr. Carson is also an adjunct professor for Reformed Theological Seminary, where David is working on a distance degree and was able to take a weeklong intensive class from him in March 2006—the same month David started to take an interest in Megan.

Perhaps the most significant idea that the name Carson stands for in our minds is the importance of the centrality of the gospel in all of the life of the Christian. Often we Christians can be prone to think that the message of the gospel—that Jesus died to save us sinners—is essential for becoming a Christian but doesn’t have much relevance for the day-in, day-out Christian life after conversion. As much as anyone, Dr. Carson has helped us be more and more conscious about making the gospel central in everything.

Here’s a quotation from Dr. Carson’s book The Cross and Christian Ministry. We pray that our Carson will be a man who keeps the good news of Jesus central in everything and heeds Dr. Carson’s advice by not letting peripheral concerns replace the gospel at the center:

I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (page 26)


The name Coleman is our attempt to commemorate our experiences with Campus Outreach (C.O.), and to pray that our little Coleman will grow up to be a man who embodies the key lessons we learned as part of C.O. (Also, we really like the nickname Cole.)

David first got connected to Campus Outreach as a freshman at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, in the Fall of 1999. At Furman, David met Ken Currie (now college pastor at Bethlehem and director of Campus Outreach Minneapolis) and was discipled by two men who Ken was discipling. David then came to Minneapolis in August 2003 with the Campus Outreach Minneapolis team, and he worked on staff with C.O. through the Summer of 2006.

Megan also first heard of Campus Outreach as a freshmen in college—at the University of Minnesota in the Fall of 2003. Meg was discipled by a Campus Outreach staff girl while at the U, and in the Summer of 2006, we were on a C.O. leadership team together when we started dating.

Where the name Coleman comes in is that likely the book on Christian ministry most referenced by C.O. staff and students is Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism. In the book, Coleman tracks Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels and points out that the heart of Jesus’ ministry was not his preaching to the crowds, but his relational and intentional investment of his best energy in his 12 disciples. His main emphasis wasn’t the public ministry of speaking to the many in larger settings, but of investing himself in the few among the 12.

Don’t misunderstand, Jesus didn’t shun the masses. He was willing, and eager, to bless them. But he pursued his disciples and invested deeply, and primarily, in his few.

So for us, the name Coleman symbolizes not only the life-transforming experience we had with Campus Outreach, but also the ministry principle that deep investment in the few, who are trained to invest in others (and they in others), is the heart of the Master’s plan, and central to what it means to fulfill his Great Commission to “disciple all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

The Coleman quote that we hope embodies our boy is this:

We must decide where we want our ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for. (page 32)

Rhyming with Relatives

Also, we should note that the names rhyme with the names of the twins’ two boy cousins. Now Grandma Peg can write a poem about her four grandsons Mason, Noelan / Carson, Coleman.

What the Names Don’t Mean

We guess we also could take the opportunity to say explicitly was these names do not mean for us. We did not name Carson after legendary Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, or NFL quarterback Carson Palmer, or television host Carson Daly, or frontiersman Kit Carson, or Canadian poet Anne Carson.

And we did not name Coleman after former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman, or former NBA player Derrick Coleman, or the late actor Gary Coleman (though David did enjoy watching reruns of Diff’rent Strokes as a kid).

NASCAR Associations?

Some might ask whether the possible NASCAR associations of the names were intentional. One could note that Cole was the name of the lead character played by Tom Cruise (Cole Trickle) in the 1990 racing movie Days of Thunder, and that the name Carson conveniently includes the word cars. Shrewd observations.

As unashamed NASCAR fans, we’re happy about both of these coincidences, but neither was a seminal motivation in using these names.

Also, it wasn’t till after we’d selected the two names that David’s mom pointed out that one of the names ends in man and the other in son. That must be why these names seemed masculine to us, but it wasn’t conscious in their selection. And there’s no veiled reference on our part to the Christological title Son of Man. We’re trying to avoid putting too many Messianic expectations on the boys too early on.

Our Prayers for Carson & Coleman

And so two of our main prayers for our twins, as they grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man, is that they would be men who keep the gospel central in everything and that they seek to strategically invest their lives well in a few who will carry on their gospel-advancing work after they’re done, and thus prepare well for generations after them, not merely living for the moment.

May God be pleased to answer our prayers.



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8 Responses to Why Carson & Coleman

  1. Aunt Mare says:

    It is such a blessing to read about how yall named them and to read the verses and prayers for each of them. I cant wait to see them face to face. I just looked up some airline tickets 🙂 Love you Mathis Family!!

  2. Aunt Mare says:

    and yes… I read the whole thing!

  3. i’m just thankful that Tony or Stewart did not make it into their names…

    • mathises says:

      Funny! Sadly, I did give some thought to Dale and Rusty, but neither got any traction with Meg. My friend Matthew in SC (huge NASCAR fan) recommended we name the boys Dale and Dale Jr., but I told him you can’t have the second twin be the junior to the first. But otherwise…

      • i can’t believe Dale and Rusty didn’t send Meg’s wheels spinnin’ to name the boys that!

        I can totally see the issue with Dale and Dale Jr. I guess you could of went with Bobby and Terry (the Labonte brothers). Oh well, maybe with the next set… 🙂

  4. Heidi says:

    I LOVE their names and the story behind them! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Auntie Deb says:

    Please post pics of Grandma Jane and Grandpa Rick with Cole and Carse!

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