Thanksgiving week is here, and that means many people across our nation will stop to reflect on the things they have to be thankful for. Some will do this out of obligation; others will realize just how much God has given them and sincerely seek to express their gratitude to him.
I realize that I have countless things to be thankful for. I know that there is no limit to the depth of what God has done for me. It only remains for me to consider and respond to them.
But I thought it would be appropriate for the season, helpful for my soul, and encouraging to the church I serve, if I could take a few minutes to consider the things I am particularly thankful for in one particular role: my pastoral oversight of the church I serve.
Here’s a far-too-brief list of things I am thankful for as a pastor at my church; I hope these are encouraging for every church member everywhere who wants to help produce grateful pastors.
- I’m thankful that the people in the church listen to my 45+ minute sermons every week and keep coming back because they want to hear God’s word (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
- I’m thankful that they pay me to do a job I would do for free.
- I’m thankful that they bear with my early-years preaching weaknesses and still encourage me anyway.
- I’m thankful for the privilege of getting to see the word of God and the grace of God at work in the lives of real people who matter (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
- I’m thankful that people deliberately ask me how I am holding up – and that ministry is not a one-way street (Romans 1:12).
- I’m thankful that people look at my family as people to serve and care for, rather than people to critique.
- I’m thankful that many people have truly caught the idea that their growth is to be turned around and used to help others grow – to encourage them to follow their example as they follow Christ (Philippians 3:17).
- I’m thankful that people see ministry as a whole-church responsibility, and ask to do what they can to make sure the work of ministry gets done (Ephesians 4:12).
- I’m thankful that they are concerned that we grow in depth and breadth of knowledge and maturity (Ephesians 4:13), and at the same time in real love for one another and for all people (1 Thessalonians 3:12) – and that they don’t see these two things as opposed to one another (Philippians 1:9).
- I’m thankful that they are careful to be unified with one another and to preserve the joy of a loving and united church (Ephesians 4:2-3).
- I’m thankful that they “endure sound doctrine” and do not having itching ears that seek out simply what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
- I’m thankful that they walk in the truth (3 John 3-4).
- I’m thankful that the faith of so many of them is stable (1 Thessalonians 3:8-9).
- I’m thankful that I more and more regularly discover that people have gotten together for the purposes of fellowship, mutual encouragement, and spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:15).
- I’m thankful that 6:00 a.m. every Friday morning means several men wanting to grow in knowledge, character, and ministry ability; as well as a super-gracious host cooking us hot breakfast (with eggs and pork of various kinds) (2 Timothy 2:2)
- I’m thankful for children’s Sunday school and Sunday evening teachers who work long hours to prepare to teach the children who come, trusting that God is able to work through the message of his own word as they learn and understand it (1 Thessalonians 2:9)
- I’m thankful for people who show up week after week, an hour before everyone else, to unload equipment, to set up tables and classrooms, and to rehearse music for the rest of us (Hebrews 6:10).
- I’m thankful that almost everything gets done at church without me doing it – because it means the body is at work (Ephesians 4:16).
- I’m thankful for small group hosts and small group leaders who help create environments where personal ministry can take place (1 Peter 4:9)
- I’m thankful for a fellow elder who serves tirelessly with faithfulness and a biblical approach to ministry (1 Peter 5:2-3).
- I’m thankful for a ladies’ ministry leadership team that complements one another brilliantly; labors eagerly and selflessly; and is a joy to serve alongside (Titus 2:3-5).
- I’m thankful for musicians who know and demonstrate that they are not to be performers, but facilitators of congregational worship (1 Corinthians 14:26).
- I’m thankful for nursery workers who come week after week on a frequent rotation to care for our children and enable many parents to give greater attention to participation in the worship services.
- I’m thankful for people who serve in ways that most never see: e.g. pulling the trailer, setting up signs, handling finances, scheduling nursery, updating online content, and running slides from the sound booth.
- I’m thankful to have a sending church nearby that we can lean on for joint events and classes and for leadership questions and accountability (Philippians 1:3-5)
- I’m thankful that God gives the church everything it needs and cares for it deeply (Acts 20:32, 28).
- I’m thankful that the people in the church are saved and protected by the hand of a faithful God (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24), even as I understand my responsibility to guard the flock (Acts 20:28-31).
- I’m thankful that the everyday affairs of this world are a very small thing to them, especially in light of the eternal future they will inherit (1 John 2:15-17).
- I’m thankful that God saved them and me and that what we do in this life is only the start of shared eternal life with Christ that will only grow sweeter forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
So what about you, fellow pastors? What are you thankful to God for about the church you are a part of?