This past week, Heather and I traveled to Tampa to the Underground Open Conference. It was a very full three days. If you are engaged in missional work or leading a missional community/network, I recommend learning what you can from the Underground. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put the conference on your schedule.
The theme was “To Change the World”. I’ve been thinking and writing recently about changing the world in the right direction for a long time to come. I want to see the world to changed! I don’t just want want to see injustice, oppression, and evil diminished and expelled. I want to see relationships restored, marriages strengthened, families blessed, people thriving and healthy, workplaces that cultivate dignity, work that provides and brings joy and satisfaction, for the people to know God as they are known! (How about you?) Well, the Underground Network is actively engaged in taking part in joining God in his work in Tampa.
Tampa Underground is a network of 200 or so micro-churches that are aimed at releasing God’s people to do the work they are called to do wherever they are. I think I heard that about 6,000 people are involved, but that its kind of hard to know. They have micro-churches engaged in all kinds of work: some are mainly communal organized for neighborhoods, immigrants, or athletes. Others are engaged in elevating struggling neighborhoods or failing schools. Some are pushing against the darkness by taking on prostitution, racism, human trafficking, addiction, etc. The work is both focused and broad, pioneering, and yet sustained. They are ready to come along side and equip anyone who is feeling called to a group of people. So the work they do is potentially as broad as the concerns God stirs in the hearts of any of his people.
It is one of the most multi-cultural, multi-ethnic group of Christians I’ve ever learned from or worshiped with. Two biblical points I’d like to make. Hanging out with them gave me a sense of what it means to be “no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…” because our new identity found in Christ Jesus makes us one. (Galatians 3:26-29) Secondly, what I saw there makes it easier to believe that Jesus meant it when he told Peter that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against the church. They are fighting a spiritual battle there. It is a hope filled group. But they were also very realistic. They emphasized that this is missionary work. It’s hard. They said that suffering and pain are pretty guaranteed for anyone who steps into it.
In terms of our work, it helped me get a sense of what we’re doing right and how we could make some adjustments here. It’s good to learn from someone else’s experience. It was encouraging, too. We are doing a lot of things pretty well already.
That’s enough for now. But if you’d like to learn more, check out this documentary on the Tampa Underground.