Thanking God through Testimony

A New Year’s Eve Service of Thanksgiving and Testimony

The Chinese church my family attended when we lived in Toronto, Ontario, has always held several special annual worship services. One of them is the New Year’s Eve Service of Thanksgiving and Testimony, in which people look back at the year past and publicly recount God’s grace and deeds, give thanks for answered prayers, and acknowledge God’s guidance and leadership as they start a new year.

In a worship service, giving testimonies can be formal and structured. For example, career missionaries often share their calling and ministry stories when they visit their supporting churches. Likewise, students and families who participate in local or intercultural short-term mission work tell stories about their encounters and how their perspectives and lives changed because of the experience. But sharing testimony during a worship service might also be informal. Some congregations invite members to give spontaneous testimonies about experiences such as answered prayers, God’s miraculous intervention in life, or walking in faith during challenging situations.

Indeed, everyone has a story. Reformed Christians believe that God is sovereign: the entire world belongs to God. Thus our story is part of God’s story. Theologian Luis Pedraja observes that sharing testimony “is not something a person does; it is something a person has—it is an integral part of that person’s life” (“Testimonios and Popular Religion in Mainline North American Hispanic Protestantism,” 2010, p. 11. Online article published by the Lived Theology Project). Therefore, as we reenact the gospel story in our worship, sharing testimony is giving personal witness to God’s deeds.

The Grand Story

This is my Father’s world; the birds their carols raise;

the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world; he shines in all that’s fair.

In the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.

—Maltbie D. Babcock, “This Is My Father’s World,” P.D.

The practice of giving public testimony has been an integral part of Christian worship throughout history. In Old Testament times, the central themes of Israelite worship are remembering the covenantal relationship with God (Genesis 17:8; Exodus 2:45; Leviticus 26:45; Ezekiel 14:11; Jeremiah 32:38; Zechariah 6:16), retelling the deliverance in the Exodus story (Psalm 78:14; 81:10), and giving thanks for God’s lavish provision (Psalm 105:5). Christian worship in the New Testament church also centers around Christ’s salvific deeds—his incarnation, his suffering and death, and the redemption of the world through his resurrection. In other words, the gospel—the salvation story—shapes our worship as the gathered people retell and reenact the biblical narrative.

In worship, we sing and speak of God’s beautiful creation but also lament the brokenness in the world and in ourselves. We also give thanks and express our hope in Christ’s redemption as we receive a charge to live as salt and light in God’s beloved world. New Year’s Eve, therefore, is a perfect occasion for the body of Christ to gather to remember the goodness of creation and look forward to the marvelous things yet to happen.

The Personal Story

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound— that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;

‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

—John Newton, “Amazing Grace,” P.D.

The lyrics of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” are a powerful testimony of salvation—the “before” and “after” of a personal story. It is a story of how God intervened in our lives when we were in a state of hopelessness, a story of a changed outlook. More importantly, the story continues until shalom returns.

We all have stories to tell. Sometimes the stories are dramatic, such as a “wretch” being saved. Sometimes the stories are simple, the day-to-day unfolding of God’s grace and provision. Pedraja recognizes that our testimonies “are not always dramatic accounts of God’s power, but merely a tacit understanding on the part of the people that God is present in the everyday struggle of life” (Pedraja, 33). When we retell these stories in a worship service, we practice giving thanks for and nurturing hope in redemption and eternal life. If your congregation does not have a time for testimony in its regular worship liturgy, New Year’s Eve provides a perfect backdrop for the congregation to give testimony of how God walks alongside us in our journeys and how the experience strengthens us as we move forward.

A New Year’s Eve Service of Thanksgiving and Testimony

The following is an outline for a New Year’s Eve service of thanksgiving and testimony for which the congregation may gather in the afternoon or evening of December 31. Feel free to expand it based on your chosen theme and the stories of your congregation. The service is based on “Thanks to God,” a hymn written by Swedish hymnwriter August Ludvig Storm (see music on this page). The song lists twenty-four things for which the author was thankful. In this thanksgiving and testimony service, you may group some of these items together as themes for people’s testimonies. After each segment of testimony, the congregation can repeat the song.

Call to Worship

For a testimony-sharing service:

God calls us to worship, and we come,

some with laughter and songs of joy.

God calls us to worship, and we come,

some from a sense of obligation or habit.

God calls us to worship, and we come,

some with hearts heavy with grief.

God calls us to worship, and we come,

some with distraction or exhaustion.

God calls us to worship, and we come,

some with eagerness and enthusiasm.

God calls us to worship, and we come,

some with stress, loneliness, or depression.

As God’s dearly loved children,

we bring all our joy and pain, hurt and hope

into this place of Spirit-given grace, love, and hope.

—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS 1.2.28).

For a thanksgiving service:

We will give thanks to you, O Lord, with our whole heart;

we will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

We will be glad and exult in you;

we will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

—from Psalm 9:1–2, NRSV. Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS 1.2.2).

Songs of Thanksgiving and Testimony


“This Is My Father’s World” Babcock, LUYH 21, GtG 370, SSS 17

“I Love to Tell the Story” Hankey, LUYH 262, GtG 462, SSS 569

“Thank You, Lord” Sykes

“My Testimony” Elevation Worship


It is good to praise the Lord

      and make music to your name, O Most High,

to proclaim your love in the morning

      and your faithfulness at night,

to the music of the ten-stringed lyre

      and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord;

      I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

How great are your works, O Lord,

      how profound your thoughts!

You, O Lord, are exalted forever.

—from Psalm 92:1–5, 8, NIV. Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS 1.4.5).

Scripture Reading

Psalm 105

Testimonies: The Story Among Us

Consider using the hymn “Thanks to God” or another hymn to organize the themes of the testimonies, singing the stanzas in between. For example:

Stories of God’s gifts of salvation and peace

“Thanks to God,” st. 1

Stories of God’s gifts of answered prayers and love

“Thanks to God,” st. 2

Stories of God’s gifts of hope and unexpected moments of joy

“Thanks to God,” st. 3

Closing Songs


“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Chisholm, LUYH 348, GtG 39, SSS 48

“I Stand Amazed” Gabriel, LUYH 174, SSS 537

“Thank You, Lord” Moen and Baloche

“You Never Let Go” Redman


Know therefore that the Lord your God is God;

he is the faithful God,

keeping his covenant of love

to a thousand generations

of those who love him and keep his commands.

—Deuteronomy 7:9, NIV. Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS

Dr. Kai Ton Chau is associate editor of Reformed Worship and resource development specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He is a member and choir director at Blythefield Christian Reformed Church in Rockford, Michigan.

Reformed Worship 145 © September 2022, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.