by Joani Schultz
We couldn’t wait to go to church.
We were on a Cuban cultural exchange to encourage our Christian friends there. So our Lifetree Adventure team split into small groups eager to visit six different churches one Sunday morning last month.
All of us had incredible experiences. Here’s mine:
Horse carts and hitchhikers dotted the near-empty highway. We rode to church in style in a restored ’50s car—complete with air conditioning. Really cool!
As we got closer to the narrow street and packed-out house church, I thought of the 4 Acts of Love that Thom and I wrote about in our book “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.” We were about to see love in action. We were about to see what the American church can learn from our Cuban brothers and sisters.
1. Radical Hospitality
Big smiles and open arms greeted us. Our new friends ushered us to a spot they’d saved for their American friends they were expecting. Everyone exuded joy to see us—even though they’d never met us before.
Do your church members exude joy when they see visitors?
After the service, the pastor’s family invited us to the backyard (their home was the church). The pastor’s wife served us scrumptious homemade flan and cups of delicious Cuban coffee. We exchanged thankfulness and joy. What a warm and welcoming time!
Does your church share food and drink with visitors in a homey atmosphere?
2. Fearless Conversation
To our amazement, the pastor handed over the microphone to one of us! Jose, one of our team members, shared his very personal message. Jose began the sermon time by telling the congregation that he was born in Cuba!
As a toddler, his family escaped the country. As an adult, this was his first day back in Cuba. His message unfolded, celebrating the love and grace of God. The congregation graciously accepted him.
Would your church let a stranger in the pulpit? Now that’s fearless!
3. Genuine Humility
We like to say that genuine humility exemplifies that “We’re all in this together.” Our worship experience celebrated that.
This church filled a narrow living room. This church didn’t have a worship band or organist—but it did have a CD player and sound system. If you’ve ever heard upbeat, joyous Cuban salsa music and dance, this was it! Beautiful young girls dressed in matching white dresses led the congregation in joyous worship and dance. Surprisingly, two of our team members happened to be talented dancers (not me!) who joined the church’s dancers leading worship. What joy! What celebration! And in what seemed like a random arrangement of who visited which church, I marveled that God orchestrated our group to worship at the “dancing” church!
Does your church worship offer freedom and joy?
4. Divine Anticipation
All of our teams experienced one thing: A unity in Jesus. What a wonderful reminder that amidst government oppression or denominational walls, the Cuban church is flourishing. Praise God! Cuban church leaders reminded us that denominational differences crumble when we focus on Jesus.
Does your church worry more about what separates Christians or what brings us together?
We’re all in this together with this prayer:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Check out Lifetree Adventures. www.lifetreeadventures.com.