I wrote this recent blog for www.waleswide.org when I was on the road with Third Day recently:
Being based in Wales but travelling in and out of the USA for the last 15 years has given me an interesting perspective on church. One of the questions I get asked on both sides of the Atlantic is 'what's the spiritual temperature like in Wales/USA?' - as if I'm the one person who can judge that! Touring widely in the USA has shown me the best and the worst of Christ's church on earth, but rather than focus on the negative I want to share 3 traits of the church in the USA that I believe we could learn from in Wales.
1. The church in the USA has a positive 'can do' attitude.
Someone once said to me that the difference between Christians in the UK and the USA was this... in the UK we say 'without Him we can do nothing' emphasising the 'nothing', but in the USA they say 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' with the emphasis on 'all things'. If churches in Wales are to be planted, repositioned for ministry, grow and be strengthened then we must be more positive in our thinking, more creative in our outreach, and more confident in the power of God. We must break the hold of discouragement and despondency over the church across Wales, and also the negative thinking and lack of vision that it breeds.
2. The church in the USA understands the priority of mission.
Whenever I'm in a church in America I try to chat with the missions pastor - the very fact the church has such a person shows how they take mission seriously. It's a common conversation for me to hear that churches have a thought out programme to reach their local community, to make a difference in their state and country, and to go out to all nations. The Lord is calling an increasing number of churches in the US to see Wales as a place to commit long-term mission resources to. Many churches are willing to mobilise people, prayer, energy, focus and finance into reaching the mission fields God has placed on their hearts. If you have been to any Waleswide meetings over the last year or so you will have heard our cry that Wales is again a mission field. Lost people don't become found, nations aren't reached for Christ, without existing churches and church leaders being prepared, confidently and in faith, to count the cost.
3. The church in the USA is trying hard to be known for loving arms reaching out rather than a single finger of judgment pointing accusingly.
It hurts me so much when I speak to strangers in an airport, or on a plane, or in a hotel lobby, and their perception of Christians is that we are the people who are 'against' everything or 'protest' at this or that. The majority of Christian leaders and their churches in the USA, without compromising Gospel truth at all, are attempting to genuinely reach out with the Good News message of Jesus and show His love, His compassion, His grace, and His mercy.
We know that legalism and the judgmental message it sends out has been one of the 'church killers' in Wales over the years, and so one of the challenges is to be Good News in word and deed - reaching out to the poor, the marginalised, the broken, the hurting, as many churches across Wales are already doing, but to also be able to articulate why we are so doing, and in whose name we are ministering. The cynicism about 'church' can truly be banished across Wales if we simply show people Jesus rather than an outdated institution that operates with few Christlike characteristics.
Don't get me wrong! I don't think America is the answer to all our problems... far from it. Yet I do believe we can learn some things from what the Lord is accomplishing through His church in the USA