Somebody has said, “Confession is good for the soul.” Well, I have a confession to make. Last Sunday evening, after the ice cream get together time was over, I was really bummed at how few people showed up. I was grateful for each person who made the effort to be there, but it was really only a small percentage of our Cross Culture family.
I thought, “Is there really that little interest in community? Have I failed to help Cross Culture understand the importance of loving on each other, being with each other, being a family? Am I only fooling myself in thinking I’m leading people into a deeper walk with Christ, and a deeper level of commitment? I can’t even get them to follow me to eat ice cream, what makes me think I can get them to follow me in a charge on the gates of Hell?”
“Geez Clay, aren't you being a bit of a drama queen? It’s only ice cream.” Maybe it is, but I’m just confessing how I felt. For some people, “Church is just a place I go once a week. I see some people, maybe work with them. Most of them are nice, but I’ve got my life to get back to, my family to worry about.”
But I’m convinced that’s not what God had in mind when He sent His Son to die, not only so we could be forgiven, but so we could be family, part of His family; a family that can’t wait to see each other, be with each other, minister to each other, even eat ice cream with each other.
So I was feeling bummed, and then I got an email Sunday night from Whitney Bailey with a testimony about the Cross Culture family, and a simple way they displayed love to the family, and how God can use that to make His name famous to those outside the family. I invite you to read it, and be encouraged to remember that family is something very special.
I want to share a small testimony. It's a dumb, small, almost unnoticeable thing, but today it spoke at top volume. Today, Lauren had auditions for the dance company at her studio that meets about a block down the road from our church, the Carolina Dance Center. It was so important to her to try out for the company despite the fact that she's the youngest age allowed to audition, and there are only 5 spots available. She's been talking about it for a year!
Part of the dress code for this audition was a “stage quality bun” hairstyle. I am terrible at doing hair. I mean... terrible. So obviously I asked Kristi Arriaga to help me with my child's hair before her audition! A large part of Lauren's desire to join the company has been Emily Arriaga's influence. Emily is in her studio's dance company, and exhibits the grace, maturity, and elegance that any little girl would want to emulate.
But today I didn't just get Kristi's help with hair. What I got was Kristi and Rosanne Powell jumping in to gel, pin, spray, encourage and PRAY over my child before she went to dance. A dumb, small, thing, right? That's what we do, we're a community!
But when Lauren went to her audition she walked in with her head held high and announced to everyone: “My teachers at church did my hair.” “My coaches at my church did my hair so I would be ready.” “My teachers told me I would do a great job when they did my hair.”
Everyone in that studio knew that her church loved her so much that they would do her hair before a dance audition. And more than a few moms asked (almost incredulous) “Where do you go to church?” I got to sit with several anxious mothers and tell them about our church. (A block down the road!) About the love, grace, and peace that our God has shown to me. About the relationship with Christ I've watched my child develop in the last year. That's not a conversation easily started during a Wednesday night dance class!
I don't know if Lauren will make the Company, but I know that the conversations one “stage quality bun” just opened up, will last me until September! Today two women at our church spoke Godly love over a child in her “worldly” pursuit and so she was not afraid to tell HER world about that love. It just so happens that her world currently speaks a language punctuated by bobby pins, hair gel, and buns.
When I read stories like Whitney and Lauren’s I’m encouraged, and reminded that the love and concern displayed by Kristi and Rosanne in this story is displayed in many people’s lives at Cross Culture, serving, giving, ministering in a variety of ways, many of which most of us probably never even know about.
So, maybe we really do love each other. Maybe Cross Culture really is making a difference in lives. Maybe I am being overly dramatic. Maybe, we just don’t love ice cream. But, I still love being your pastor.
We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith flourishes more and more and the love of each one of you all for one another is ever greater. (2 Thessalonians 1:3 NET)
Dr. J. Clay Stevens is Lead Pastor of Cross Culture Church in Raleigh, NC. He is author of the book I Get It! Discovering How To Really live In The Promises Of God. His life mission statement is: "To take people from where they are to where God wants them to be."