Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
This document is an attempt to define the values and purpose of the Lake House community. These are core values, to be present regardless of who may leave or join the community over time. We are an eclectic group striving towards spiritually, economically, and ecologically sustainable practices. We are moving toward deeper expressions of our values and a more stable sense of community.
Jesus Christ is the Lord of our house. At the heart of all of the following values is a commitment to Christocentricity. We are created and defined by Him and His leadership in our life together. He is our common ground; everything else grows out of this. We seek to make real in our town the incarnation of the Son of God, and so we commit to these values.
Ministry: Our house is a church in the most primitive sense. We are a gathering of believers that worships God and has a mission in Tampa Bay. Our micro church is a part of the Underground Network and we trust this umbrella of leadership to hold us accountable to Christ’s commission. Each week we gather together and open our doors to our neighbors to break bread, to pray and to study the teachings of the apostles.1 Our hope is to develop a core group of committed members that do not live with us and partner with them to serve the poor and reach others with Jesus’ message of the present Kingdom. Being part of a network of micro churches gives us the opportunity to partner with our brother and sister communities for the sake of collaborative mission. We support their work and enjoy their involvement in ours.
Neighborhood- We take responsibility for our neighborhood, and consider it less of a duty and more of a privilege to serve the families, adults, children and elders who live around us. We value spending time with our neighbors and look to share our lives with them as they share theirs with us. We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom in all places and work to bring it about in Ybor Heights.
Community: We share in each other's passions, burdens and ventures, so that none of us is ever ignorant of or completely uninvolved in our communal efforts.
Prayer- While the form and frequency of our common prayer time is to be determined by the group, we are committed to maintaining spiritual discipline as a community. This can be expressed in morning or weekly prayer time, fasting , fits of intercession, et cetera.
Underground Network- We consider other micro churches that make up the Underground Network2 to be part of our broader community. While not mandated, we encourage each member of our home to contribute towards the efforts of and attend the larger gatherings of our Network, and to share in the worship and sacramental life of the Body of Christ.
Time- We meet as a group every Sunday evening. This time is set aside to be together, hear out our convictions, ideas and grievances, plan our week, make decisions, pray, find accountability, and review and recommit to each other and the values we share. We commit one day each month to spend the entire day together.
Hospitality: There is no more repeated charge in scripture than ‘Welcome the stranger’ and we are committed to a posture of hospitality.
The Poor- We seek to learn about and meet with Jesus in our interactions with those in need around us. Jesus said that when we serve the poor we serve him. We maintain that serving and valuing the poor is central to who we are because Jesus is central to who we are. “It is our conviction that God is always on the side of those who have no one on their side. For that reason we believe the church should also stand on the side of the poor and in so doing stand in solidarity with the heart and work of God.”3
Cooking- In our effort to serve and provide for each other’s needs we share the responsibility of providing dinner for our community and its guests. Each person has an assigned night to buy food and prepare a meal in time for dinner. The specifics of the weekly schedule are revisited and agreed upon an the beginning of each new term.4
Sharing and giving- Many individuals who come through our door are in need and ask for money. While we don’t rule out giving money to a person in need, our hope is to get to the bottom of the actual need and meet it as directly and gracefully as we can. Many people need food and we would much rather welcome them in and share a meal. They may need a bus pass and if it is possible we would much rather drive them to their destination. In meeting needs directly we not only ensure that money is not hurting the people whom we seek to love, but also that we have the opportunity to build real and sometimes lasting relationships. “In sharing what we have with others we confess that God is the true owner…In giving we destroy the grip of materialism over our hearts…”5
Voluntary Simplicity- “We value a life style free from clutter and the allure of materialism. We believe that every believer and every community of believers has a responsibility to renounce the sins of its own people. As North Americans we renounce the slavery and idolatry of materialism by embracing a simple lifestyle. We do not believe that money or things are in themselves evil or to be avoided, but that the love of money and things is one of the greatest perils facing western Christianity in our time.”6
Finances- We share most of our living expenses, including the mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, utilities, food and a variable fund held in common, to be used at the group’s discretion for anything from new windows to a block party.
Household Maintenance- With gratitude for the resources entrusted to us, we all take part in keeping and improving our home. Having a clean house is a tangible way to serve each other and create a welcoming space for visitors. Chores are assigned and done consistently toward this end. Together we look for ways to continually improve the property as a house and as a home.
Ecology-From theological reflection on nature and emphasis on the biblical basis for protecting and celebrating the environment, we are committed to ecologically sustainable practices. As we strive to use less resources and meet as many of our needs as possible through cultivating the little bit of land entrusted to us, we learn to value our food and the earth that produces it. We believe that raising our own food helps reconnect our relationship to the lives that are taken for our nourishment. We are committed to recycling, composting and otherwise reducing waste; we are here to contribute to our community, not to its landfill.
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it."7 "The land is not to be permanently sold because it is Mine, and you are only foreigners and temporary residents on My land."8
Creativity: We serve a God that has created all the beauty we find in our natural world. Having been made in his image we find that we are also fulfilled and find goodness in creating. Artistic expression is immeasurably valuable and we long to grow closer to the heart of God as we worship with, seek justice by, and enjoy exercising the creative impulse.
"In the wondrous blending of sounds, it is Your call we hear; in the harmony of many voices, in the sublime beauty of music, in the glory of the works of great composers, You lead us to the threshold of paradise to come. All true beauty has the power to draw the soul towards You and to make it sing in ecstasy. The breath of Your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets and scientists, who reveal the depths of Your creative wisdom."9
Gratitude: "What inexhaustible riches must invariably open up to those who by God's will are privileged to live in daily community life with other Christians! Of course, what is an inexpressible blessing from God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trampled under foot by those who receive the gift every day."10
In learning to love and share and be with people as they are, overcoming the petty influence of personal preferences and offenses, we believe that God reveals to us the treasures He has invested in each person; the unchanging value of being made in the image of Divinity. It takes us by surprise. So it is with this disparate group with no sure bond but the surest one: Christ in us. We celebrate and enjoy each other's company, help, correction and influence. We have fun, and we're grateful for it. Gratitude opens our eyes to all there is to enjoy around us, so we choose to dwell on that and fight the very natural tendency to let familiarity breed contempt. After all, what is our common life, if not a reason for thanksgiving?
Notes 1 Acts 2:42 "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." 2 www.tampaunderground.com 3 “What We Value” taken from http://intervarsity.faithweb.com/underground/values/ 4 Ideally a pair of individuals can share the cooking responsibility on a given night. It is better to have a few nights on which there is no community dinner, if it enables members to share this experience and expense together. It sometimes works out that certain nights are not worth cooking on based on each member’s schedule. 5 “What We Value” taken from http://intervarsity.faithweb.com/underground/values/ 6 Ibid 7 Genesis 2:15 ESV 8 Leviticus 25:23 HCSB 9Akathist of Thanksgiving, Gregory Petrov 10Life Together, Dietrich Bonnhoeffer