This past week at our Ceasefire Collective Conversation, we decided to introduce a new note into the music of the Ceasefire Collective: Micro Groups. A micro group at its best is a group of 3 people who know each other deeply, strengthen each other's faith, share each others' burdens/struggles/celebrations, and genuinely share life together.
But why form Micro Groups as part of the Ceasefire Collective? Why start groups for the purpose of intimacy and relationship within the group whose mission is to foster wholeness, justice, and peace in the city of Oakland? Isn't that about us and not our neighbors? Isn't that selfish?
It could be. It absolutely could be.
If two or three months down the road, we start saying to ourselves, "Well, I'm getting a lot out of going to this micro group and building relationships with these two people, but I don't really get a lot out of the justice work we do together," and we stop doing the work of the Ceasefire Collective, then we will follow a very well worn path of American Christianity. That path starts at the trailhead called "Church-exists-to-meet-my-needs" and ends at the summit of Consumerism, where even God seems to exist to make my life easier. I've consumed my spiritual and relational goods and services...and I'm good.
But if we remember what the church is for, if we remember that the church (and everything we do as a part of it) exists for the sake of the world, then micro groups could be an enormous asset to the work we do as a community. The poet of Ecclesiastes helps us see the value of these kinds of groups when he says:
"Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
....9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
The poet is tapping into something deep about our human nature: We are created in and for relationship. Without deep relationships we left vulnerable in an unforgiving world, easily crushed and kept from pursuing the work God is calling us to. But a cord of three strands: that's not easily broken. One strand can fray, even snap, but the others will hold the line long enough for the third to get repaired. Humans are like that.
On Saturday, we clarified that we value sustainability--having the abilities, assets, and resources to do the work we set out to do. We count the cost. I believe that if we join micro groups from that place, from a desire to have a deeper well of spiritual, relational, and emotional resources for the work of justice God has called us to do, then we will be the kind of people who can stay engaged in this intense work for the long haul.
Far from being selfish, this could be the self-care that enables us to care more deeply and lastingly for this beautiful city we love. Instead of being a single cord, fraying and trying to hold it together, we could be a durable rope that others can climb into greater degrees of freedom.