Our Story (so far). In the Spring of 2013, God pulled together about twenty people from five different churches. We had a number of things in common. Many of us had been inspired by followers of Jesus we’d met on mission trips. We earnestly desired to see Christ change lives and renew our city. We had heard that God was doing that in other places through groups called missional communities. And we were willing to try. We agreed to meet together for a season and we organized our life around worship, prayer, fellowship, and mission. This temporary micro-church was a “trial missional community”. We learned a lot about ourselves, our neighbors, and how to (and how not to) be a missional community. We also discovered strength in community, how to be more natural and public with our faith, more courageous in prayer, more adventurous in service, and how good God is. We began to experience the joy of discovering that God does in fact have a mission and has invited us into it!
After our season together, about half who’d been with us returned to participation in their home churches. But the experience had a deep impact and that led to a worship service at Norma and Andrew’s house where we formed First Coast Missional Communities (now LoveFirst Coast). We still valued our connections to traditional local churches but we could not return to church as usual. We committed to journeying together, devoted simply to blessing our neighbors and serving in our city. As our ministry became established, the administrative load became lighter, and the leadership for the ministry was shared. Eventually, our pastor was able to become “bi-vocational”, working a traditional job while continuing to lead our church.
We began developing rhythms of doing life together around fellowship and worship, discipleship and mission. Sundays, many of us engaged in local congregations. On Mondays, many of us served together in a ministry called Young Lives. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, some gathered to learn tools and skills for discipleship (we call these “huddles”). One Saturday a month, we gathered for worship. We began developing traditions, too: food drives, retreats, mission trips, a Good Friday sunrise worship gathering. And then there are the “organic activities”: neighborhood parties, prayer walks, going to movies and sports events, helping one another move or do a home improvement project, and meals, desserts, snacks, and coffee.
Over time, our missional activity has grown. Pretty much each person in our church has developed a sense of call to missional life. We are helping in work with teen moms, youth, and refuges through our partnerships with Young Lives, Young Life, and World Relieve. But by volunteering, serving, or simply getting up and going to work, we have an evangelistic ministry at the Navy base, a grief support ministry at the National Cemetery, a preaching ministry on the beach, a ministry to patients, their families and medical staff at three hospitals, a mid-week discipleship ministry, a ministry on a college campus that touches students and faculty, and a steady witness of prayer and encouragement in several construction related companies.
Mike Breen says that the engine for the missional activity is discipleship. Our discipleship huddles have become places where we help one another learn from Jesus to live like Jesus. Our pattern is simple. We enjoy fellowship over a meal and share God stories. We study and practice skills for mission and discipling. We pray. And God pulls us into his what he’s doing. It’s simple but powerful.
We are a small group of people who are growing more keenly aware of being redeemed, forgiven, blessed, and healed through the love, grace and mercy of God! What God has done for us, we are seeing God do through us. Our mission is simple: Because God has loved us, we are here to love the First Coast. (I John 4:19)