Over the last couple years, I’ve done some thinking and writing on the subject of gratitude. So, I’m compiling it all in a book titled, “Thanful Through the Wilderness.” To help in this process, the plan is to release a chapter section by section, every couple of weeks. I invite you to read along, and even offer your feedback.
I wrote this book for a selfish reason. I wanted to help myself. I’m a recovering complainer. After years of serving Jesus as a pastor, and preaching many sermons on the dangers of complaining, I still find it easy to grumble.
Pastors dream, plan, and work all week to make Sundays amazing, but there’s always a fly in the ointment. Try as we may, it’s never flawless. That’s because the church is made up of broken people who come together to find grace. When we team up to do life it’s always exhilarating and at times painful.
For example, growing up as a pastor’s son, my dad and mom had a passion for Easter and Christmas productions. Everyone in the core was involved in some way, and we all invited our friends to the main event. One Easter, our youth pastor was nominated to play the part of Jesus, mostly because he had brown hair, a tanned complexion, and the ability to grow facial hair.
On the opening night, with a packed house, the curtains opened for the big crucifixion scene. There, our devoted staff member hung in a loincloth. As the soldiers gambled for the robe his cross began to lean. The soldiers were so intent on getting to the next scene they never secured the cross properly. Our Jesus whispered from the side of his mouth to his soldier friends but they froze, hoping the cross would stay put. Tragically, it came crashing down, with Jesus landing face first!
That night there was no resurrection scene. The curtains slowly closed, and my dad came up to attempt an altar call. He acknowledged the prop failure and said in a moment of divine inspiration, “You know, some of you have fallen off your cross. Tonight it’s time to make it right.” To our amazement, several made new commitments to Jesus.
In the early days of my first pastorate, we met in an older, elementary school. Hanging on the back wall was an actual pay phone. During this altar call, someone decided to call that pay phone from their cell. It rang and rang and rang, until a timid usher picked up. He hung up and then they called again and again.
Later, we had an attractive, young couple, who’s attendance was sporadic, write an offering check in the name of another church. This happened several times. They literally didn’t know what church they were in. The stories could go on and on.
Most pastors fixate on the failures week after week. These minor mishaps grow into mountains that overshadow the great work God is doing. That’s why Mondays become “Moan-days” and “Groan-days.”
How about you? I’ve heard all Hell breaks loose as church goers get ready for worship on Sundays. All the frustrations and unmet expectations of life surface 30 minutes before worship. As the family rushes to get fixed up in their Sunday best, sore spots are exposed. On the car ride to God’s house there’s shouting, shoving, glaring eyes, and lots of griping. If they make it at all, their spirits are full of bitterness instead of praise.
As I was going through one of my own complaining spells, I came across a verse and it stood out like the first time. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I like this verse because it tells us where, how, why, and what.