Churches Can Show the Way to Giving Thanks
In a couple of months, offices across America will have few people in them as the annual Thanksgiving exodus takes place. Where I live, that coincides with hunting season. Years ago, some area school systems threw in the towel and made the week a fall break. Half the students weren’t showing up anyway.
This Thanksgiving, people who have lost their jobs (or fear they might) may wonder what reasons they have to be thankful. After watching my income decline noticeably this year—you can argue whether we’re in a recession, but mine started a year ago—I can understand such sentiments. Yet I suggest this is a perfect time for pastors to deliver messages of thankfulness and remind their parishioners that economic challenges don’t mean that God has taken a vacation.
This became quite clear in recent weeks when I wrote a story about the closing of an automotive plant, which will eventually cost more than 550 employees their job. In a town of 2,500, that’s a stinging setback. Yet, in such circumstances the Church can have its greatest impact. Many take benevolence ministries for granted. But when people are out of work and job prospects are grim, food, clothing and help with utility bills and medicine are like manna from heaven.
So is prayer. An interesting discovery I made working on this story was that another plant in the same town was due to close last summer, but at the last minute another company purchased the facility. Two engineers attended a church whose members had prayed fervently for someone to buy it. Although one was temporarily laid off, he was rehired. The other had to take a pay cut but after the takeover got a salary increase.
“I believe they were answered specifically,” the pastor said of those prayers. “We began to ask God to allow a company to buy ‘em out, let ‘em stay and let ‘em make more money than they had. And all that came true…God answered our prayers and even more so.”
Prayer Offering Of Comfort and Hope
Prayer doesn’t always lead to a miraculous rescue. Still, it can offer comfort, solace and hope at a time when people are struggling to find all three. To get some perspective for this story, I called a couple pastors from a town that lost 3,200 jobs when a clothing plant closed 10 years ago. That was almost a third of the town’s population.
Despite the grim circumstances, today things are better. Community leaders worked to diversify their employment base. No longer are they dependent on a single, major employer. In the interim, though, times were tough. One pastor told me, “Prayer was very important. There were people who felt God had let them down and they were lost. They felt they had no hope.”
While there may be some painful times ahead for anyone who endures such setbacks, this pastor emphasized that God wasn’t surprised by what happened. People sometimes need reminders that He won’t leave them stranded. One of the most important things churches can do during times of distress is to offer encouragement and let people know that God hasn’t forgotten them, he said.
“Let them know there is light at the end of the tunnel and that (Christians) are going to stand with them,” he said. In this Thanksgiving season, pastors have opportunities to minister words of healing and optimism to people who desperately need them.
This article “Churches Can Show the Way to Giving Thanks” by Ken Walker was excerpted from: www.churchcentral.com web site. September 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”