Following Jesus on His Mission and Working with Jay Harris

Dear Church,

I want to let you in on how I am seeing our church and where I feel like The Holy Spirit is leading us.

Two years ago a small group of us were meeting in Amy and I's living room dreaming about what God might do through a group of people captivated by the gospel of Jesus. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we didn't think we would be a church of around 200 people in two years! To be here without compromising on our commitment to gospel-driven discipleship, diversity, justice and community is nothing but grace upon grace.

Our church is now knocking at the door of what church leaders call “the 200 person barrier”. It is a significant milestone in a church’s maturation and growth that requires some significant shifts in order to better care for the Body and continue to reach more people with the gospel.  

Tim Keller describes part of this season in this way:

“It is a sociological fact that a full-time minister cannot personally shepherd more than about 150-200 people.  At some point any human being loses the ability to personally visit, stay-in-touch, and be reasonably available to all the people…eventually a second "ministry staff" person must be hired.  This is commonly another ordained pastor…The tension that often occurs in a church this size is that the church is big enough so the pastor begins to feel burned out but is not big enough to financially support a second minister.” 

(Read the full article here)

One of the significant shifts that has to take place, to grow deeper and wider, among others, is hiring a second pastor to lead and care for the people of The Image. I feel this need everyday. Our house leaders feel the need, Aaron and Patty, who work closely with me, definitely see the need. I’m sure most of you can see and feel it as well. 

There are three questions I am asking:
Has God called us to reach more people with the gospel?
2. Has God called someone to be a pastor, to come on board and fight the good fight as a staff member of The Image?
3. Has God provided the money to hire that person?

I believe the answer to these questions is most definitely, yes and He will. 

When it comes to the mission, you already know we can’t stop-won’t stop, because Jesus hasn’t stopped saving people in our city.

Now about another pastor… Over two years ago God used Jay Harris to call me to plant The Image Church. After driving through the urban core praying about planting a church, I went home and told Amy “I think I have clarity of calling and we need to pray about staying in Jacksonville instead of moving to Miami.” Since that day I don’t think a week has gone by that Jay and I haven’t dreamed and worked through the vision for The Image Church. 

When I tell the story of Image, I tell it from the perspective of Jay and I planting this church together. In God’s timing and plan we have gained a lot of respect for each other, become really close friends and complement each other really well. Additionally we don’t hold anything back from each other and call each other out all the time. In other words we are peers and push each other. 

Jay has had one of the most effective ministries I have ever seen in an urban context. Through his brand and store, Stght & Nrrw, he has reached countless young men and women with the gospel. His reputation among downtown Jacksonville is second to none and his design and branding are on another level. The experience he brings to our church when it comes to bringing the gospel to the streets is more than we could ever ask for. 

Jay feels called to become a Pastor/Elder of The Image. He has had an initial assessment from our board and is officially entering our elder process and will go through a final assessment and training to fulfill that calling. 

So, after lots of time, prayer and counsel, Jay, myself and our board of directors believe that now is the time to hire Jay and give him the resources to serve our church full time and be better equipped as a pastor through training and working in our church. 

Personally, I’m thrilled to get to work with Jay on a day-to-day basis. As your pastor I’m thrilled for you to get to be pointed to Jesus by this man and all that will come as a result of his leadership. 

Jay will be taking on leadership responsibilities for our small groups, preaching throughout the year and strategically planning with our leadership team.

I hope you are as excited as I am!

I believe God has provided the leader we need to continue to grow in maturity, now the question is, can we afford him? 

Jay is going to take a modest salary and I’m asking you to consider your giving to our church. We want to be able to pay Jay fairly, we believe God’s word when he says “a laborer deserves his wages”. Right now we can’t afford to pay him what he deserves, but Jay is willing to serve on staff regardless. 

I believe that as a church we have the resources to hire Jay and increasingly pay him fairly, and fulfill our other budget needs. Right now we need to increase our giving by at least $3,000 a month before 2015.  

Over the next 15 months our giving needs to increase by $6,000 a month to sustain hiring Jay because most of the outside funding we currently receive from other churches ends after 2015. 

We are looking at two big opportunities to see God move. The first is to grow into a church that is mature enough to have two full time staff leading and pastoring. The other opportunity is to become a self sustaining church, and move from being a church plant to an established church with it’s own leadership and funding. 

This “200 barrier” is real. It requires us to all come together and give into the vision God has laid before us: to become a gospel-driven, diverse church that sees a lot of people from across a variety of backgrounds saved by Jesus. We want to see a ton of people deeply rooted in the gospel to deeply love our city; to see a movement of disciples of Jesus making more disciples of Jesus. 

If we don’t come together and get through this season, we will all feel the tension of being the size we are without the resources we need to thrive and see the mission go forward through our church. 

So here is what I am asking for:

  • Recall the gospel. Isn’t Jesus amazing?
  • Pray and ask God to search your heart and clarify your calling to be a part of this church on this mission. If you are supposed to be here, then BE HERE, all in.
  • Give sacrificially to the mission because Jesus is amazing. 
  • Keep giving on a regular basis so we can budget and plan well. Setup recurring giving if you need to and evaluate and pray through that when giving comes up each week so it’s not just on “auto pilot”, but it’s worship for you.
  • Look at the ways you are serving. Are you helping us get through this barrier by doing your part of the mission? If you feel stretched, thank you. If you don’t, come help. 

We aren’t a “normal church”, most of you feel that. The economic diversity in our church means we literally can’t afford to be ambivalent about our individual giving, we want to meet the needs in our church and be able to plant other churches one day, that requires “all hands on deck”. 

As Luke tells us about the early church, may it be true of us: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:32–33, ESV)

We have come too far and seen too much of God’s grace to not give our lives to this work. Jay and I and our families are all the way in the deep end, I know lots of you are as well and more of you will join us for Jesus’ glory!

In It With You,
Pastor Matt