John and Katie Reed grew up in traditional churches and appreciated the roots of their faith. But over time, they wanted something different.
They had become tired of what Reed called the “church machine,” a few hours spent on a Sunday with awesome worship and a funny pastor, before everybody goes home. They needed something more.
They found that in Myriad Community, a place where people intentionally come together to participate in conversations, explore the life of Jesus Christ and live life together.
“I just wanted to go somewhere where I could ask questions and they could say, ‘I have no idea what the answer is…,’” Mrs. Reed, 35, of Frankston, said. “I love that authenticity.”
The Reeds are among the dozens of people who have found a home in the community that meets every Sunday for worship, teaching, conversation and a meal.
Launched in March, Myriad is a dream come true for founders Patrick and Meagan Lissner. It’s the reality of a vision that has been in their hearts for almost 20 years.
Though Lissner has worked in the ministry for about 15 years, primarily as a worship pastor, he and his wife have always dreamed of a church where people who don’t fit in elsewhere find a home.
The way it finally came about was a bit unexpected. Lissner had been on staff at Tyler’s First Baptist Church for four years when he was told last November that his position would become part time come January because of some changes in the church’s operation - namely when its two campuses decided to become separate churches.
With a family of five, part-time work wasn’t an option, so Lissner began looking for full-time work. But he also realized the change in his employment might be the perfect time to launch a ministry.
He went to First Baptist’s leadership with his heart and vision and they understood and affirmed his call.
With that, Lissner left his position at the church, got a job at Sky Ranch as director of marketing in January, and in March, he and his wife planted the church. The name comes in part from their vision for what it will be.
“I’ve always had this hope for a myriad of people coming from different backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds, just doing story together,” Lissner said.
The community meets for about two hours every Sunday. Initially they met on Ferguson Street in First Baptist Church’s old youth building.
However, they recently moved to 408 W. Locust St., which used to house the Christian Women’s Job Corps.
Lissner said the Sunday meetings feel reminiscent of a contemporary church, with folksy acoustic style worship music and a teaching time.
However, the teaching time differs significantly from a typical sermon. Instead of preaching, it might be more accurate to say Lissner leads a discussion in which everybody is encouraged to participate.
Each Sunday meeting starts with about 25 minutes of music and moves straight into the conversation/teaching time.
A recent topic of discussion was about being present and what that means. The group considered the New Testament passage about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and they talked about why Jesus took the time to cry and why it’s important for people to enter their pain. They are always looking at who Jesus Christ is and was and what that means for their lives, Lissner said.
“We want to get out of the theoretical church mentality,” Lissner said. “We want to get hands on. That’s why we do the conversational style. Everyone contributes. That’s how we learn.”
Lissner said he’s very relaxed about the teaching time in the sense that he doesn’t have to talk for a certain amount of time.
If people are engaged in a particular aspect of the discussion, that’s what they continue talking about, he said.
While the adults are discussing, the children are in a separate room involved in their own activities and teaching time.
Lissner, who grew up attending church, describes himself as conservative in his theology, but progressive in his methodology.
Thus far that method has appealed to many East Texans. They typically have about 40 attendees on Sundays, he said.
The Lissners are very intentional about accepting people as they are so much so that the church’s slogan is “Be Curious. Be Accepted. Be in Community.”
Lissner said some people who attend don’t believe in Jesus, but are curious. Others have been burned by the church in the past or feel they don’t fit in at other places. And that is exactly who the Lissners are looking for.
“We are unapologetically in love with Jesus,” he said, but that love drives them to love all people, including those who aren’t so sure about Him.
Allison McKinney, 38, of Tyler, said the sense of openness and community is very real.
“It’s easy to walk into the room,” said Mrs. McKinney, who attends with her husband and three children. “You can listen. You can be heard. You can ask questions without feeling like you’re the only one in the room that has that question. It’s just very comfortable.”
For the Reeds, this acceptance and authenticity is exactly what they were looking for.
Mrs. Reed said that when she first visited the church, a family member had told her to not bring up drinking and to avoid cussing. She said within 15 minutes of sitting down to eat the meal the community shared that day, she was talking about margaritas with someone and said a curse word and no one bristled.
“I thought, ‘Man, there is a big need for this place,’” she said.
Though she does feel the freedom to be herself, she said the community has challenged her and conversations have made her think about her own life and heart and the changes she might need to make.
Mrs. Reed said she needed a place where she could be encouraged, refreshed and challenged, but also a place where if she said something off color or somehow showed she wasn’t “clean” or perfect, she wasn’t going to be judged. And that’s what she has found with Myriad Community.
“It’s been so good just to be real,” she said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Myriad Community
WHEN: 11 a.m. Sundays starting Sunday, Sept. 17
WHERE: 408 W. Locust St., Tyler
INFO: https://www.myriad.community or Myriad Community on Facebook