Thanksgiving Day 2021
First, the service was celebratory; giving thanks to God for the many blessing we have received.
Second, it was linked to a gospel mandate and the sermon focused on the spread of the kingdom of God in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven that permeates the whole loaf.
Third, there was a very creative children’s ministry segment. At the front of the church, a life-size red bag was situated. It was a very large version of the smaller bags we were to fill at the supermarket. Some kids were invited forward and a brief message was given and out of the large replica bag, items such as soap, toilet paper etc, were catapulted through the air by an unseen hand in parabolic arcs with the kids scrambling to catch them in their small bags.
Fourth, there was a powerful video featuring a school principal and a chaplain of a disadvantaged school talking about the impact that the goods had in the lives of kids from fractured families.
Fifth, we also heard an interview with one of the volunteers who helped walk the streets of Brisbane CBD distributing items to the homeless and inviting them back to church for a meal. She also testified to how she joined the ministry and how much satisfaction it gave her. The whole service highlighted the vision of the church to reach out to the community spiritually, and practically. At the end of the service there was a monster morning tea with an assortment of tasty goodies.
Later I asked one woman for her impressions of the service. She felt it was a celebration of generosity to those who were not as well off as we are. There was real joy and delight in our being able to help. It made her reflect on how many blessings we have received from God. She noted that we don’t understand why some of the recipients are in the plight they are in but we have the opportunity to give mercy without judging. On the theme of Thanksgiving, she felt that this was not merely about being thankful, but the day gave her the opportunity to pay it forward, attributing the blessings to God and focusing on our ability to share those blessings.
I asked her if she felt in any way manipulated. She said she felt no manipulation at all and felt by contrast that people who think the churches are in the habit of manipulating people to give, are most likely being manipulated themselves by the modern zeitgeist.
The take-away is that raising resources involves sharing a gospel vision for the advancement of the kingdom of God and asking people to give generously toward it. That almost always produces funds for gospel ministry and a sense of delight in the congregation. For more on the theme of generosity see my book, Giving Generously. Buy the Book