REV DOTSON LIVE: Thanksgiving & Discipleship Opportunities to Engage Your Community

By Junius B. Dotson

The Psalmist declares in 100th Psalm: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

In other blogs, I have told you how our awesome team at Discipleship Ministries is ready to walk with you on your journey to develop stronger and healthier leadership for more effective ministry, but this blog has no tips for how-tos for you. I simply want to offer three words of encouragement.

First, I want to give thanks to you for your willingness to serve on this mission field, even in the midst of anxious times and difficult moments. Our ministry would not be possible without leaders and influencers like you who are willing to pioneer, to innovate and to be early adopters to movements like #SeeAllThePeople. You play an indispensable role in this disciple-making movement.

Follow me, and Ill show you how to study the word. Follow me, and Ill show you how to pray. Follow me, and Ill show you how to be faithful in even difficult moments. Ill be your pacer.

If you have ever been on a bike ride or a long distance foot race, you know that the strongest rider or runner will usually go just ahead of the group. They serve in the role of a pacer. They set the tempo and show the way. Pacers set the right pace so that the group can arrive at its destination faster than if they had to try it on their own.

I am grateful for the mature believers in Jesus who have been walking with God, and who now serve as pacers. I am grateful for those who have played that role in my life, those who said, “Follow me, and I’ll show you how to study the word. Follow me, and I’ll show you how to pray. Follow me, and I’ll show you how to be faithful in even difficult moments. I’ll be your pacer.”

In a nutshell, that is what discipleship is all about. Disciples develop disciples.

So I want to say thank you for being a pacer. Thank you for allowing me to play that role in your ministry, for the privilege of being able to speak into your ministry. I do not take that for granted.

For my second word of encouragement, I simply invite you to celebrate and to give God thanks for the small steps that you have taken this year. Let me share a story that I hope will encourage your soul.

This is the story of First United Methodist Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois. They are one of the winners of the Discipleship Ministries’ One Matters Awards.

At First UMC Oak Lawn, they like to celebrate small victories on the way to major victories in the future. The Rev. Jonathan Crail said, “If the mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, then every interaction with members in our community is an opportunity to plant seeds for future fruit.”

In 2015, when Crail was pastor at Oak Lawn, the church recognized that they didn't know their neighbors who live just a few blocks away, so they launched a plan to build new relationships to see all the people. They held an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood in a park, rather than in the church yard. Although they only had about a dozen children who attended the church, they were pleasantly surprised that almost 60 children came to the first event. So they scheduled it for the following year.

To their amazement, they had not 60, not 100, but 160 children, plus their parents, totaling almost 300 people to show up. The pastor called it beautiful chaos

That year, the church planned for 100 children and promoted the event across the neighborhood, around the wider community, through word of mouth and social media. On the morning of that particular hunt, small groups of families began to show up. To their amazement, they had not 60, not 100, but 160 children, plus their parents, totaling almost 300 people to show up. The pastor called it beautiful chaos.

Crail said, “We haven’t changed the world – yet. We have begun to touch our neighbors in new ways and we have great expectations that in God’s hands our small steps will lead us to many more stories like this one.”

I want to say to you as leaders: Celebrate the small steps you've taken this year. Celebrate the small victories as you continue to reach out and to see the people that God is calling you to reach in your neighborhood.

Finally, I want to encourage your spirit as a leader in this season of Thanksgiving.

Philippians 4: 6-7 reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

There you have it. Worry about nothing, pray about everything and thank God in all things. The result – and I pray this over your life and over your ministry – is a peace that surpasses all understanding.

The Living Bible translation says it like this, “If you do this you will experience God’s peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your heart quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

I am hopeful that you have a very happy Thanksgiving and a blessed season of Advent.