I am writing this letter today from our new tiny underground building (the TUB) in downtown St. Petersburg. I have been dreaming about this county where I grew up and thinking of ways to invigorate our work here. About 130 years old, the city experienced a boom in the 1950’s (due to the invention of air conditioning) that transformed it into a destination for tourists and retirees; people that wanted to slow down. That slow moving vibe makes these beach-front cities a great place to rest or relax; but not necessarily to build, grow or achieve. There is a spiritual challenge to doing ministry here, and our missionaries have been heroic just maintaining what they've accomplished. I don’t know how else to say it, this is a hard spiritual climate.
Having said that, I also think this weakness is also a great strength. These cities carry a vibe that is friendly to creativity, art, and the love of beauty. I often drive over the bridge when I need an innovative solution or need some creative space. Most of the artists in the Underground Artist Collective actually live in Pinellas County. We have to build around that. Still, there is a need for renewed missional engagement here.
I hear a call in my heart like the dream that Paul had in the port city of Troas (similar to Tampa) of a Macedonian man, calling to him from across the sea, saying “come and help us.” I cannot help but wonder if some of our community who currently live in Tampa might consider relocating to the other side of the bay for the sake of the kingdom. I am convicted that we especially need to plant more communities on the south side, to come alongside the brave few who are living among the poor for the glory of Jesus and the coming of the kingdom. I may say more about this at Crucible in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get us all thinking now.
Have you been feeling restless? Feeling like, maybe, you should move, help to plant or grow something new? But have you not felt like you should leave the Underground community here in Tampa Bay? Have you been feeling like it was time for a new challenge in a new place, but at the same time felt like this broader Underground community is your home? Then maybe this is a call for you to consider. Just like Mark, Jesus is moving freely between the shores and calling his followers to get in the boat and go to “the other side” to find him at work there in new and thrilling ways.