The 5: Celebrating Thanksgiving with a focus on others

We are just days away from Thanksgiving 2022. We have so much to be grateful for—much, I fear, that we take for granted. This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to turn your attention to the spiritual needs of others. Here are five ways to do that: 

1

Invite an unchurched family to
join you for your Thanksgiving meal
Many of us invite family members to join us on this holiday. Some extend an invitation to other believers who attend their church. In my experience, it’s not often we intentionally invite an unchurched family to join us—and we miss an opportunity to show the love of Christ. Think about your co-workers and your neighbors. Pray for them and open your home to them on Thanksgiving. 

2

Serve at a homeless shelter or
local ministry on Thanksgiving Day
Out of gratitude for God’s goodness to you, serve a meal at a homeless shelter that day. Doing so doesn’t preclude having your family meal, but it does turn your focus outward toward those less fortunate than you. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to tell others about God’s gift of life to you while you serve them. 

3

Take time on Thanksgiving to thank God for getting the gospel to you—and pray throughout the day for an unreached people group somewhere in the world
Go to www.peoplegroups.info and learn about the thousands of people groups that still have no sustained Christian witness among them. Tell your family about the needs of the group. When you say grace over a meal on Thanksgiving Day, pray God will send witnesses to that people group.  

4

Invite an international student or family from another ethnic group or world faith to join you for Thanksgiving and ask them to prepare a dish from their culture
The Lord is bringing the world to North America—many from countries unreceptive to missionaries—and we have opportunity this holiday to get to know some of these folks. Learn about them. Listen to them. Love them. Lift them up in prayer. Look for ways to show Christ’s love to them.

5

Fast for one day during Thanksgiving week
and cry out to the Lord on behalf of a non-believer
I realize “fasting” and “Thanksgiving” hardly go together, but that’s the point: we ought to long for our friends and loved ones to know Jesus more than we long to eat. Fasting on behalf of a non-believer during Thanksgiving week says, “Lord, I desperately want (name) to experience the grace You’ve given me—and for which I am so grateful this Thanksgiving season.”

Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. For more from Lawless, visit chucklawless.com.

Dean of Doctoral Studies, Vice President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers
Chuck Lawless
Southeastern Seminary
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