Thanksgiving Day, offers the opportunity to pause and reflect. Paul, wrote: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’ people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)
• You will be made rich in every way… speaks to the promises of God for your life. Why?
• …so that you can be generous on every occasion… is the opportunity to give back to others.
• This will result in thanksgiving to God…overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
The result is a rich and satisfying service to others. This is what the church should and could be.
Over the last few weeks, I asked: How do we take God’s amazing grace outside our church walls? How do we focus more on bearing fruit for Christ? How can I present myself more as a fellow-pilgrim rather than an expert? How can you be an activist, whose actions speak louder than words? How can we witness better through our artistic and creative abilities?
One answer is the Lighthouse challenge. Choose three to five people in your family, neighborhood or workplace. Then, for 30 days: Prayer: Pray for them regularly by name and ask God to use you as an influence. Care: Look for opportunities to demonstrate God’s love with simple acts of caring. Share: Trust God to provide an opportunity to share your faith in an appropriate way.
Another answer is to experiment with new ways of doing church.
Fort Hill United Methodist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia like many churches has declined in attendance over the years but rather than lose heart or give up, they were determined to try something new that would offer something of interest to the community. They remodeled a room and recruited and trained members of the congregation to prepare for a radically new worship experience called “Lifetree Café.”
According to the website: “Lifetree Café is an hour-long experience packed with interesting stories, fascinating people and lively conversation that will feed your soul. The main entrée at LifeTree Café is food for thought. Sound good? Then Lifetree Café is your kind of place. Come see what everyone’s talking about.”
Entering the Lighthouse Cafe feels more like entering a plush coffee house than a church. The room is painted with vibrant colors and decorated with plants and home style furniture. There are small round tables, each surrounded by four chairs. Coffee and finger food is nearby. The sign proclaims: “You are welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome. We are all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”
On my first visit, the topic was “Second Chances: From down and out to up and at ‘em. How to bounce back after a setback. The featured story was about author and entrepreneur Weldon Long. A high school dropout and addict, Long was in prison the third time when he decided to change: “I was desperate, and desperate men do things,” says Long. “I became obsessed with changing the course of my destiny.”
The second chance that Weldon received is the same Second Chance offered to us through God’s grace. “By his mighty power at work within us God is able to do far more that we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hope.” (Ephesians 3:20)
The hour passed too quickly as we watched the interview and shared experiences around the table. Everyone was friendly and easy to talk to but there was an atmosphere that offered an opportunity for change… a second chance. Three words guided Weldon: Honor, Integrity and Character. We were invited to use those three or choose our own and think about them daily.
Two weeks later, the topic was “Hard to be Healthy” featuring an interview with one of TV’s Biggest Losers, Jaron Tate, who lost 100 pounds and discovered a new life for himself and his family. Jaron stressed: “Not everyone is given health. To be given health and to disrespect it is a bad call. It’s disrespectful to God to say, ‘Here’s what I’ve done with what you gave me.'” I learned ten simple and practical tips for weight loss and greater health. In the midst of learning how to make healthy choices for myself and my family, I also learned how to better love myself as God loves me.
Future topics include everything from deeply serious and controversial to the lighthearted. For example: The Power of Thankfulness. How the Next Generation will Change the World. Finding Peace When Life is Difficult. What Would You Do for Love? Angels.
The promise of Lifetree Café? “Come enjoy a comfortable, safe place. A place to meet old friends and make new ones. To share your thoughts about compelling topics and hear the thoughts of others. A place you’ll discover ways to serve your community and your world.”
Lifetree Café represents an option for churches seeking: How do we take God’s amazing grace outside our church walls? How do we focus more on bearing fruit for Christ? How can I present myself more as a fellow-pilgrim rather than an expert? How can you be an activist, whose actions speak louder than words? How can we witness better through our artistic and creative abilities?
“The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of the pain, thanking God during the trials, trusting God when we’re tempted to lose hope and loving God when He seems so distant and far away. At my lowest, God is my hope. At my darkest, God is my light. At my weakest, God is my strength. At my saddest, God is my comforter.” – Spiritual Inspiration
This is what the church should and could be. Happy Thanksgiving.