Thankfulness as worship

I remember reading The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith a few years back.  One of the exercises was to make a thankfulness list: Write down all the things – big and small – that I could say “God, thank you.” And don’t just write 3 or 4, but really press into it. Make a long list! Journaling a “thankfulness list” is a simple practice, but I’ve found it has an amazing ability to focus my thoughts and feelings in the right place: on God and his grace.

In our missional community / simple church gatherings we tried to foster an environment of regular thanksgiving around a meal or in our focused group “bible time.” We included the kids in this and encouraged families to do this at home. I believe that the “essence” of group worship is simply saying “thank you” to God.

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Thanksgiving became a very simple, yet profound way to worship God together.

I’m in a season of reflecting on our season of “being church” in simpler ways. My first three posts are on general background, our vision, and why we selected the city we did.  Before I get into a series of “We thought this…but found this…” posts, I thought I’d share my thankfulness list.

This feels a bit like one of our prayerletters instead of a blog post, but I thought it would be important to start with thanksgiving. One church planting coach reminded me to not forget the good things that happened. “No spin” was his exact phrase…don’t exaggerate OR dumb down the good things or the hard things. Just be real.

What am I thankful to God for? I thank God…

  • that our simple church helped those who were not connecting with God in a “brick church.” One family in particular shared how they hadn’t been a part of a church as a family in very long time.
  • for the way we learned to gather for worship with kids involved. There is something powerful about worshiping and reading scripture with our own kids.
  • for the relationship that we all built – in our simple church of course, but also in the nursing home and with a couple homeless guys. We were far from perfect, but I feel like we were able to free up “church” time to invest in relationships.
  • for the perseverance of a few couples, especially early on when there were an awkward 6-10 people trying to figure out appropriate worship rhythms for that size group!
  • for the chance to walk with a few younger couples through getting married or having big life transitions.
  • for the younger single guys who loved on all the kids and took a beating with light-sabers and body slams.
  • for the way my kids got to see the lived-out faith of a few other adults.
  • for providing for us financially through ministry supporters and an internet reselling side job.
  • for two families who got a vision for starting simple churches / missional communities- one among Muslims and the other among rural Americans.

Thanksgiving helps me focus in the right place–on God’s work in ways that I sometimes forget. It honestly has also helped me grieve well (it’s hard to see a season go!) while keeping a thankful heart. What might be on your “thankfulness” list this week? How can you incorporate thanksgiving in simple ways in your Christian gatherings?