Thanksgiving provides Christians with an immediate opportunity not only to thank God for what He has done, but also to share the love of Jesus around the Thanksgiving table.
How can we effectively be evangelistic when we gather for the Thanksgiving meal? How do we know when and where to share? Christian leaders from across the state offer their perspective.
PAUL AKIN, dean, Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The beauty of the Thanksgiving holiday is that it brings families together. When we share meals together it is natural for us to converse and talk about the things going on in our lives.
For some, bringing up Christ, the gospel or church can result in an awkwardness around the table. We know from the New Testament that the gospel is a stumbling block and an offense to unbelievers. But we also know that it is the power of God for salvation!
I would encourage Christians during Thanksgiving to prayerfully seek to weave threads of the gospel into their holiday conversations. Discuss the things God is teaching you personally and what you are learning at church, ask compassionate but intentional questions of your family members regarding matters of faith, ask how you can pray for family members and specific things going on in their lives.
As those conversations and discussions progress you can look for opportunities to expand the conversation by drawing upon gospel tools like 3 Circles, The Story or Creation to Christ.
TANYA YORK, pastor's wife & Southern Seminary Wives Institute instructor
I love celebrating Thanksgiving! Setting the atmosphere of a welcoming grace-filled warmth is crucial. Prepare beforehand to make it your chief goal to show and share the love of Christ even more than fill their belly with the best of foods. One of the best ways to introduce Christ into the conversation is to simply ask each guest who are some people you are most thankful for in your life this year. Everyone can very easily name countless people. When I share my list of people, it is a natural move to Jesus Christ because through Him I have the greatest grace of God and the free gift of heaven. He gives me all that I am thankful for.
Also look for one on one opportunities in the off-table conversations. Remember the chief goal isn't simply a fabulous feast or a fancy table. Invite your "one" to come early for prep or stay late to help recover after the feeding frenzy. Use the time strategically before and after the meal of setting the table or cleaning up to share your thankfulness for them as a friend or family member and why you feel certain God gifted them into your life. Then put away any fear and boldly say, "I hope I share the love of Jesus with my life to you. Do I?" From here I have the perfect lead into how my life is different because of Jesus.
TODD GRAY, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention
In prayer (at the Thanksgiving table) we can acknowledge that though we are made in the image of God we have all sinned and come short of God's perfect standard.
We can confess that though our sins deserve God's wrath that He has instead given his grace through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
RUTH RIPKEN, retired IMB Missionary (35 years of service)
It is through opening our homes and sharing meals that people come to faith. Muslims come to faith when they see us in our homes, around our tables and as families. Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to do this.
Internationals in our communities when asked what their greatest emotion or feeling about living in America they share that "This is
the loneliest I have ever been." It is in the midst of loneliness that Christians must step in and lay down their feelings of fear and help people feel welcomed.
Nik and I shared one day in a chapel service about how to welcome the nations in our midst to our community and homes. A couple in the audience knew there was a couple that lived across the street they had never met, and when they went over to invite them over for dinner they were surprised to find out they were from another country. At the conclusion of the evening the woman began to weep and said she had lived in America for 13 years and had been desiring to have a friend. As they said good night the woman said, 'I now have a friend.'
Here are some suggestions:
1. Look around your neighborhood for people from other cultures and invite them for Thanksgiving dinner.
2. Serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal for your family and share why this is special for you. (Note: If you are inviting a Muslim family don't serve pork.)
3. Go around the table and share what each person is thankful for this year. Don't start with your guests; let them observe a few people sharing so they realize what you are doing.
4. Pray for the meal and thank God. Allow them to experience you worshiping God around your table.
5. Talk around the table about where they are from and learn about their holidays. Do they have anything similar to Thanksgiving? You could even share the history of Thanksgiving in America.
6. Take time to hear their story. Share your story.
7. Bless them as they leave.
KENNY RAGER, church evangelism strategist of the Kentucky Baptist Convention
Thanksgiving began as a day of giving thanks for the harvest, so this year consider what Jesus said about the harvest. "Don't you have a saying, 'It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest."
At the Thanksgiving table open your eyes and look around. Who are the people that God has sovereignly placed around you? Are they loved ones who are sharing a meal with you? Maybe they are lost souls that you need to share the gospel with?
ANDY MCDONALD, church evangelism strategist of the Kentucky Baptist Convention
Be intentional to invite one or two lost people to be your guests for Thanksgiving. Think family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Allow everyone an opportunity to share reasons why they are thankful this year.
This is a great opportunity for a believer to thank the Lord for their salvation and to share the 30 second story of how they were saved.
Marina Shelton reports for the Western Recorder. She is associate for web and social media communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.