My goal was simple.
I wanted to gather people together for encouragement, and learn who is ready to help launch a network of microchurches here in Sarasota.
As of Saturday morning we had exactly one microchurch of twelve people who had been meeting for 8 weeks as a beta group, plus a handful of others who were definitely "in" but not yet meeting. We felt it was time to move it from theory to practice, so we held our first monthly meetup to see what God would do.
We really didn't know what to expect.
I was hopeful and prayerful, but also content with whatever we would learn because I knew this first meetup was going to set the scope and pace of whatever we do next.
We met at a neighborhood community center in the middle of Sarasota. Close to sixty people had RSVP'd, some of them as "maybes," but we were prepared.
People started showing up around 3:45 and we spent the first 45 minutes just talking and getting to know each other.
By 4:30 forty people had shown up. Mike Christner grabbed the mic and got everyone's attention. He talked about how meetings like this are intimidating when we don't know everyone. And then he set our minds at ease by pointing out that actually none of us there knew everyone there! (So true. Even for myself, as the primary point of contact, there were people there I had never met before!) And then he encouraged those of us who enjoy meeting new people to reach out to those of us who aren't as comfortable with it. Then he prayed for the meal and we all sat down to conversations around a meal of enchiladas, tacos and sweet tea prepared by Wendy, Felicia, and Betsy.
It's always hard to interrupt the conversations.
The conversations sounded lively, but we were there for more than that. We were there to lean into a concept we're calling X242. And at the root of it is a shared simple agreement (one-four-two) that I knew I wanted to explain again. So I took the mic to do just that.
Earlier in the day I was reflecting on my week, and found the conversations remarkable, so I spoke about them off the cuff.
I told those stories and then asked, "Why?!"
Why are we doing this? Why are we looking to plant a network of microchurches here in Sarasota? Or anywhere for that matter? Are we just a bunch of Western Christians who are bored and think this might be a cool new way to do church?
Of course not. It's hard to imagine that against the background of stories about brothers and sisters in other parts of the world where it costs so much to follow Jesus.
But still the question: Why are we doing this? My answer is that it's for the same reason my Nepali friend goes up into the Himalayas during monsoon season. He wants to make sure people know about Jesus.
We don't have remote villages here in Sarasota where I live, but we do have remote hearts that are isolated and defended by impoverished values and hostile family systems. And we certainly have impoverished people in every sense of the word -- financially, relationally, spiritually...
Wherever it reaches, this X242 ministry is all about inviting people to follow Jesus with us!
I rehearsed our Simple Agreement.
"We follow One Path." We follow Jesus together. I read John 14:6 where Jesus identified himself as the way, the truth, and the life, saying that no one can get to the Father except through faith in him. I told about my own story where I whispered "Jesus" and how it turned my heart around in a moment. And the fruit of that was that I now follow Jesus. This is our faith for anyone who calls out to Jesus. We follow Jesus as Lord.
"We practice Four Devotions." I read Acts 2:42 (of course) as the model for our practice where we devote ourselves "to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." I told about my own microchurch and how we do it -- and especially how opening scripture together is helping us to see scripture in a fresh way. I explained the personality of how we do it, and that each microchurch will feel different. But we'll all be devoting ourselves to the same four things: scripture, fellowship, a common meal, and prayer. This is our practice.
"And we fulfill Two Loves." I quoted Matthew 22:34-40 where Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second greatest is like the first, to love your neighbor as yourself. Or as we're saying it (to reawaken the radical nature of it): "We love God with all we are and love our neighbor with all we have." That's our mission.
In fact, this new way to be church is not our mission!
Really. Our primary mission isn't to plant microchurches or a network of churches, although that certainly is what we're aiming to do. But make no mistake about it: Our mission is love. Love for God and love for neighbor. And I believe that what we're setting out to do is fulfillment of that.
Everything we do -- what we do, and how we do it -- is all because of why we do it. We are making it our mission in life to Love God with all we are, and love our neighbors with all we have. And we believe this X242 model is helpful to that. We believe such a life of love can thrive in this model, so that's why we're doing this.
I wrapped up by asking everyone to let me know how they want to be involved.
I had them fill out a piece of paper where they could select all of the following statements that apply:
Then we prayed, and people filled out the form while dessert was being served. Then we just hung out for another hour or more, just enjoying each other's company.
It's time to plant a few microchurches here in the Sarasota area! If you signed up you'll hear from me soon.
But some of you told me that you're so new to the conversation, you need to consider it prayerfully a bit longer. I totally respect that. That's the right call. This isn't something we do flippantly. Like I said Saturday, I'm looking for at least a three month commitment to this, with grace of course.
And others of you weren't able to be here Saturday but you're ready to jump in with both feet. I want to give you opportunity to officially jump in!
For all who continue to pray for us, and support this network in so many various ways, thank you so much. You are a strength and encouragement to us. May the Lord fill your life with love, joy, and peace as you delight in him and in fellowship with his family!