The Impact of Thanksgiving
Did thanksgiving transform my ministry? Did it make a difference when things were good . . . and even when they were bad?
I'm not at all sure my prayers of thanks directly improved Irvine Presbyterian Church, making the good things better and the bad things more tolerable. "Thank you, God" are not magic words that supercharge our supplications. So, did my thanksgiving transform the church? Not obviously. Did it make the mean people less unkind? Not that I could tell. Did thanksgiving transform my ministry? No, not in the sense of making programs or people evidently better.
But thanksgiving did transform me, and in this sense it did also transform my ministry. When things in the church were going well, my taking time to say "Thank you" to the Lord enriched my appreciation of his grace. I'm one of those people who can rush right by God's gifts without stopping to delight in them. Thanksgiving slows me down so that I might actually enjoy God and his goodness. It enables me to relish the good times, which leads to further gratitude and deeper joy.
Thanksgiving also helped to keep me humble. When the church was thriving, when we built new buildings or gave birth to new ministries, taking time to offer prayers of thanks reminded me who deserved the credit . . . not me, but God. We pastors can readily be poisoned by the venom of pride. Gratitude is an effective antidote.
Thanksgiving also helped me discover God's presence in difficult times and challenges. It allowed me to see my ministry in a wider perspective and to remember God's grace to me. Extended sessions of gratitude didn't make my problems go away and, to be honest, they didn't completely expunge my natural tendency to worry. But the spiritual discipline of giving thanks even in hard times helped me to be more patient, more hopeful, and more peaceful. And these qualities surely helped me to be a better pastor, thus transforming my ministry. I expect thanksgiving will do the same for you.