The Image church was founded by Pastor Matt Jensen approximately three and a half years ago. While wrestling with where to plant a church, Matt walked into my clothing store Strght&Nrrw and shared his vision for a racially diverse church in the untouched parts of our city. In our first conversation he literally said, “I am here to plant a church and I believe you are the other piece to the puzzle." We took a ride through the neglected areas of our city and I felt planting a church there was exactly what he should do. I say “he” because I was not on board. Little did I know I was making decisions about a church I would one day lead.
Shortly after the church was up and running with about 30 people, I stopped by alone one Sunday. I heard a message my frustrated heart had been searching for for years. I left the church fully convinced that me and my family were to join, so I headed home to tell my wife. Being that my wife and I had been at the church we became believers at for 13 years at the time, she thought I was talking crazy. That night she awoke from a dream and told me to grab a pen and a pad. She told me that, in her dream, God wanted them to follow Matt. "You're not going to understand or agree with everything but trust me, you're going to see many people come to Christ." This was significant because my wife can never recall her dreams. Needless to say, she was convinced.
At this time I was operating an online streetwear clothing brand named Strght&Nrrw, and also had a boutique in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. The brand and storefront was a means to reach a younger demographic with the gospel and implant myself into their culture. We held Bible studies weekly in the store and quickly became known for our concerts, that would shut down the street, our outreach to the less fortunate, and our culture of loving the unloved. The store became a club house for the streets and believers alike, especially Pastor Matt and The Image Church staff. Even today, I can look around The Image Church and point out people who we met in the store, started attending Bible study there, then went on to be baptized and join the church.
Content with my work at the store, I turned down several offers to work for Image but always wrestled with the question. I was already functioning in the church as a leader and even preaching on occasion. As my lease came to an end for the boutique, I had decided to close the store and set my eyes on focusing on the online side of Strght&Nrrw. The store closed October 1, 2014 and I started working at The Image Church on November 1, 2014. How did I have such a change of heart in less than a month? I have no idea. What I do know is that God is sovereign and it's with fear and trembling that I rejoice in the fact I was able to hear Him and obey.
I often describe planting a church as being the hardest endeavor I have taken on in my life. It's an intense work that can easily drive you to your wits end. Add in racially, economically , socially diverse parishioners and leadership, and you have a heavy work on your hands. Today's statistics for diverse churches in America sit somewhere around 2.5%. Although our work at Image is hard, it's been a blessing to be called into it by God. Our ministry has looked like a lot of hard conversations and sermons, people repenting for their racism; the kind they see and the kind they don’t see, and learning to love the way that God shows us through his son Jesus; sacrificially esteeming others higher than ourselves.
Just prior to mid 2016 and only a couple months after my official ordination ceremony, Image Church founder Matt Jensen announced that he would be stepping away from the ministry. This left an opening for a lead pastor. Being that we operated as co-pastors I was the first choice. Despite that, I still struggled with the decision. My wife Alanna and I prayed and sought counsel. The decision to stay was made obvious as I scanned a church service and took stock of all the testimonies and many life changes that had happened during my time at Image. As far as I am concerned, there's no other place I would rather be and no other work I want to give my life to.
- Pastor Jay