Today marks the annual Thanksgiving Day celebration throughout the United States. Many people will cross all diet boundary restrictions, watch parades, visit family and friends, and watch football. As we engage in the annual traditions of our culture and remember the purpose of Thanksgiving Day – we should likewise take a moment to thank God for the church and the many blessings that come to us as members of a local church.
Thankful for Preaching
In an age of confusion regarding the voice of God, we must not forget that our God speaks today. Our God is the speaking God and He continues to speak to us through His Word. If we want to hear the voice of God, we do so clearly through His Word. It’s through the preaching of God’s Word that the gathered church hears the voice of God and submits to Him.
The right preaching of God’s Word that minimizes man’s opinions and elevates the Word of God line-by-line is the key to hearing God’s voice clearly. As we assemble in a long line of God’s people throughout church history, we continue to hear God’s voice spoken to us through His unadulterated Word. It’s not through mystical experiences and strange phenomenons that we come to hear God’s voice. It’s through the faithful preaching, (I believe expository preaching is the truest definition of faithful preaching), of His Word that we hear God speak.
Thankful for Prayer
Prayer is one of the great privileges of God’s people. God’s people have the privilege of prayer and can boldly access the throne of grace in private, but there is something unique and special about the gathered church coming together in prayer. Paul urged the church at Ephesus to be constantly praying for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). Colossians 4:2 speaks of being “steadfast” in prayer. Jesus instructed us on how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15. One of the great truths of the Christian life is that we as God’s children have access to the Father by the Spirit (Eph. 2:18). Alistair Begg has written:
Prayer is an acknowledgment that our need of God’s help is not partial but total… Yet many of our church prayer meetings have dwindled in size and influence. Ultimately, the explanation can be traced to spiritual warfare. If, as the hymn writer says, Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees,” then we may be sure that he and his minions will be working hard to discredit the value of united prayer. The Evil One has scored a great victory in getting sincere believers to waver in their conviction that prayer is necessary and powerful. 
Thankful for Singing
The true child of God has a reason to sing. Consider what happened immediately after the children of Israel were brought across the Red Sea. They sang a song (Ex. 15:1-18). Then Miriam sang, “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:21). The church is pictured as a singing church in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. The church assembled will sing – not based on preference and style – but based on truth and genuine desire to exalt Christ. One of the most important things a church does is sing the gospel. David penned these words in Psalm 9:11 – “Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!” Something unique happens when the gathered church sings the words to Isaac Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Thankful for the Ordinances
The ordinances of the church are intended for two purposes—praise and worship of our God. We praise Him through the waters of baptistry as we identify with Christ as our Savior and proclaim His resurrection to those who witness. We praise God through the Lord’s Supper as we remember the very body and blood of Christ that was given as a substitutionary atonement in order to satisfy the holy justice of God. These ordinances are designed to be observed with the assembled church – not as fragmented groups on the beach, in a dorm room, or with a single family in an empty room. We gather together as a church to worship God and He has designed the ordinances to serve that unique purpose of praise.
Thankful for Discipline
Any church that refuses to practice biblical church discipline as mandated by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20 forfeits the title of a biblical church. Contrary to popular opinions, biblical discipline is the loving thing to do. Jonathan Leeman writes, “Churches should practice discipline for love’s sake: love for the sinner, love for weaker sheep who can be led astray, love for non-Christian neighbors who need to see a holy Christian witness, and love for Christ and His reputation.”  The idea of discipline being a necessary mark of the church is rooted in Jesus’ words and historic confessions such as the Belgic Confession from 1561. Beware of any church that allows people to live loose lives of sin under the banner of “love” and a refusal to be judgmental. That’s not true love.
Thankful for Fellowship
God’s people need the church. For people to view the church as a burden, apparently they have no idea what it means to be a member of a local church. God never intends his people to be “lone ranger” believers who sail out on the high seas alone. God intends for His children to be identified with a group of people who live life together, worship together, engage in mission together, pray together, serve together, and fellowship together. God’s very best place on planet Earth is the church of Christ. It’s within the realm of the church that we should have our deepest relationships and it’s within these friendships that we laugh, weep, eat, and sharpen one another in the faith through biblical discipleship (Acts 2:42-47; Titus 2; Prov. 27:17; Heb. 10:24-25). Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.” 
As we spend our time thanking God for all of the blessings of this life, don’t forget the enormous blessings that God showers upon us as members of His church manifest through our membership in a local church. Thank God for the church!
- Alistair Begg, Made For His Pleasure, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 52.
- Jonathan Leeman, Reverberation, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 188.
- Charles Spurgeon, Sermons, 30.597