Fresh back from a ministry trip to Cuba, I gained some new perspectives on the American church.

First, a bit of context for Cuba. The Communist grip is palpable. “Give us our daily bread” is no trite, symbolic prayer. It’s literal. The bakery shelves are often bare. People line up daily for rations of food. Simple things like toothpaste become unavailable for extended periods.

Unlike some other Communist regimes, however, Cuba tolerates the church. And God’s people here have a special glow. We in the American church can learn some things from them.

When I returned to my own church I found myself making comparisons. Here at home the amplified sounds of our worship band and polished singers overpower the sanctuary. In contrast, in Cuba the voices of the congregation fill the room. See a video clip: Worship in Cuba

The American church has become largely a professional stage performance. The Cuban church remains a participatory worship experience. And they sing and worship with gusto. In our country we pay the professionals to worship for us.

The Cuban church’s approach to growth also struck me. A Cuban church planting coordinator explained how he helps start churches in people’s homes. As they grow they can accommodate as many as fit in the living room or the back yard. “Then what?” I asked. “Do they move to a larger building?” No, he said. The government does not authorize new church facilities. Instead, when one home church fills, they simply start another one in another home, with new leaders.

For them, the goal is not a crowd. Or a focus on a gifted communicator. Rather the focus is on Christ and his Body.

I love our country and the freedoms we enjoy. But I marvel at the faithfulness of God’s people who exude the sense of freedom they enjoy—not in the state, but in the Lord.