I’ve been seeing the idea of gratitude everywhere for a few years (if not more). We’re told naming three things we are grateful for each day will improve our blood pressure and mental well-being. We’re told that positive people are more successful. Looking at life from the perspective of gratefulness seems to be a big trend—and a good trend. I believe living with gratitude in our hearts really does make a difference in how we live.
Why aren’t we doing this in the church?
I feel assailed by reports that the mainstream Protestant church is flailing. Numbers are down. Giving is down. We’re losing the new generation. New pastors are having trouble finding calls. Internal struggles leave us discouraged.
I know there is truth to these reports. I know we can’t ignore them. I know we need to address what is happening with open eyes and be proactive about moving the church forward. I get it.
But I can’t live this way every day. I am so tired of feeling anxious and threatened and feeling like I’m hanging on by my fingertips. I’m exhausted by watching the church down the road pull in members—without even trying, it seems—while the congregation I serve has to choose between what it wants and what it can afford. I’m drained by hearing reports of job cuts and empty sanctuaries and dying Sunday Schools.
And I’m not just tired—I’m moving into an even more dangerous place—I’m getting bored.
We are encouraged to discover our strengths, to find gratitude each day, to live from a place of joy.
I want to do this with church too.
We waste so much energy thinking about what we are not, we forget what we are. What if we started keeping church gratitude journals? What if we celebrated all we do, instead of constantly looking at what we don’t do? What if we noticed the ministry that is already happening instead of thinking, “We’ll be a successful church when…”?
We don’t get anywhere by hating ourselves. Hate brings out competitiveness, pettiness, and belly button gazing—and it’s boring.
Joy and gratitude bring out generosity, acceptance, truth, hope, confidence—and they are energizing.
I feel when we as a church are so hard on ourselves, constantly comparing ourselves to other congregations and denominations, focusing on where we seemingly fail—we are teaching people to judge themselves, their families, their lives and even their bodies in the same way.
Let’s live as a gratitude-soaked church. Let’s rejoice when one hurting young child feels accepted and loved by an adult in Sunday School. Let’s celebrate when a few people quietly and faithfully serve at a local homeless shelter. Let’s laugh at ourselves and have fun together and reach out with confidence in who (and Whose) we are. Let’s get rid of all our insecurities so we can open our arms to those who bring in new ideas and perspectives. Let’s make mistakes and try scary things and enjoy being the church.
Let’s stop thinking—and worrying—about ourselves.
And most of all, let us be thankful to God for the countless blessings we receive—and for the blessed challenge of being God’s disciples.