Community members in Jacksonville FL, USA, strive daily to be radical disciples of Christ.
– By Joe Difato
In 2006, I was invited to give a talk to a few young professionals in Jacksonville, Florida – some married, some single. I spoke on conversion and new life. When the talk was over I asked if they had any interest in a whole course on spiritual conversion. They did. Six weeks later the Jacksonville Prayer Meeting was born.
Now, 9 years later, the prayer meeting has evolved into a young but still immature community of about 70 adults and 20 children, some primary school age, some teenagers. The average age of the adults is around 35. We are pleased to be an affiliate member community of the Sword of the Spirit.
We live in various parts of Jacksonville, a suburban city of some 840,000 people. Most of us are within a half-hour’s drive of one another. In our life together, we have a prayer meeting each week, and meet in small groups twice a month.
We have six community-wide Saturday evening Lord’s Day celebrations a year, and we invite guests. These events have turned out to be a great way to introduce people to our life, welcoming Sunday in with prayer and a relaxed, festive meal. All told, we’re usually 100 people. We hold the events at a recreation center and begin at 2pm with swimming, volley ball, ping pong, basketball, football, talking and walking. Then at 6pm the actual Lord’s Day opening begins with 30 minutes of prayer, followed by a short personal sharing about how someone has experienced the Lord, and then dinner. We end at about 9pm. We also organize six community-wide outreaches to the poor per year.
We are an ecumenical community which at present includes Catholics, Baptists, and those from non-denominational churches. Two people work full time for the community.
The covenant (solemn agreement) we have made to the Lord and one another has three primary areas of emphasis, as we seek to be radical disciples of Christ: 1.) To come into the presence of the Lord each day, 2.) To live a life of honor, and 3.) To change our environment for the better. This is how we practice being “a community of disciples on mission,” the official description of the whole Sword of the Spirit.
Recently we changed our name to “The Spirit of Christ Community.” The name reflects our two-fold emphasis: one, that our community would treasure being baptized in the Holy Spirit as God’s gift to our generation; and, two, that the gifts of the Spirit – primarily prophecy, healing, and evangelistic revelation gifts (sometimes known as “words of knowledge”) – would have a prominent place in the life of our community.
Our goal is to be an Acts 2:42 community (“and they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers”) – with corporate prayer, signs and wonders, personal holiness and right relationships, a heart for the poor, and desire to evangelize. To help us meet this goal, we have just recently established the “eight hour a week” plan. Each covenant member has drawn up a plan – with help from others – that has at least 30 minutes of personal prayer each day (roughly 4 of the 8 hours). The other 4 hours are spent building the community in one way or another. The plan helps keep everyone praying and closely involved in mission.
We are humbled by the way the Lord is working here.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Joe Difato has been involved in the communities movement for over forty years and is founder of the Christian publishing house, The Word Among Us. He and his wife Felicia live in Jacksonville.