Home Field Advantage
The land of the free and the home of the brave… the USA! A true melting pot of culture and heritage, ideas, religions, and pastimes. It is no wonder that more than one million people immigrate to this country each year. There is so much to offer, appreciate, and explore. This week, we will be exploring a place that you may be familiar with and it is practically in your back yard! Just a short drive to our east… Jacksonville, Florida! The state’s largest city is filled with it’s own mix of people and culture, the arts, entertainment, sports, and beaches. And just like the other stops that we have encountered on our tour, Jacksonville is a mission field. As Americans, we can often times be self-consumed or make idols of the many great things this country has to offer, and that can sometimes lead to leaving Jesus out of our daily lives. However, the good news is that there is GOOD NEWS and we get the opportunity to share that truth with everyone across the globe and even in our own area!
God is at work in Jacksonville! The Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of North Florida is sharing the Gospel with college students in Jacksonville. The students involved in this ministry are a true example of what it looks to be a part of a community, focusing on discipleship making, connecting to a local church, and then going out in their city, living out their mission!
Morgan Stark is a collegiate missionary with JAX BCM. She graduated from UNF, and is currently working on her Masters of Arts in Church Ministries from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Click here to watch a short video about JAX BCM, and keep reading below to learn more about how God is working in Jacksonville.
Morgan shared a story with us about how God used the BCM’s Director, Ben, to share the Gospel with a young man in their community. Ben was connected with an atheist recently and it was clear that the Holy Spirit was already working on the young man’s heart. After Ben shared the Gospel with him, this young man surrendered his life to Christ and will be baptized soon!
God is working in the JAX BCM. This collegiate ministry has only been established for 2 years and it’s incredible to see how these students are choosing to be a part of a ministry and community that allows them to be discipled by their peers and then to live on mission in their own city, but also in other areas of the country. In April, they went to Pittsburg for a mission trip to partner with NAMB (North American Mission Board) church plants. As a a result of that trip, one of the JAX BCM students is now a part of NAMB’s GenSend program and is working in this church plant for 6 weeks. Incredible!
(Pittsburg Mission Trip)
The Gospel is always the driving force behind JAX BCM and all that they do in their ministries. These students, and this ministry didn’t allow COVID to slow them down, rather, they shifted and pivoted to be sure that the Good News was shared! They did a great deal of virtual outreach and still connected with students through social media and other mediums to ensure that their progress was not slowed or hindered. No matter the circumstances, God is still working and still moving in our lives! What a blessing!
Even during “normal” times, there will always be challenges and barriers to any ministry. Doing ministry on a college campus means a quick turnaround of students. Often times, many students already have two years under their belt when they step onto UNF’s campus. This is because students have their associate’s degree from a community college or have some additional credits from high school. For this reason, JAX BCM try to get their students involved and connected as quickly as possible and capitalize on the time that they do have with them.
(JAX BCM Spring Retreat)
Another barrier is generally speaking, students at the collegiate level are very open minded. While this sounds like a great quality, and it can be, it can also lead to clouded judgement or a worldly way of thinking. God calls us to be in the world, but not of the world. How do we know this? From Scripture: John 15:19, Romans 12:2, John 18:36, 1 John 2:15, Colossians 3:2… just to name a few.
However, the beauty of collegiate ministry is since students are so open-minded, they are also open to learning about the Gospel. So while there are situations or influences that we see as barriers, God uses it as an opportunity and works through the lives of flawed people to bring glory to Himself! None of us are perfect, and we will never be. But we serve a God that is perfect and through all of our own faults and flaws, it is ONLY by the grace of God and the shedding of His own son’s blood that we can be saved!!
Did you know that Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States according to land mass!? Pretty cool! Our friend Morgan says it has a small town feel and it’s not uncommon to run across friends and family in the grocery stores, shops, parks, etc. Perhaps you feel the same about Tallahassee or your hometown. Morgan was born and raised in Jacksonville and is constantly running into people she knows. Through her lifetime, she has seen changes to the city, as many cities and even small towns across America have witnessed. Part of this change is a shift in culture, and how we view the world. It is easy to fall into what the world sees as important or as acceptable. What he have to remember, is this is not our home. For the believer, we are foreigners on this land and our home will one day be in Heaven. What matters is what God says and we can know that through the reading of His Word.
There are also plenty of things to do in Jacksonville! If you’re a foodie, fan of the arts, sports fanatic, beach-goer, or nature-lover, Jacksonville has it all for you!
Music and Arts:
Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is the largest orchestra in the state of Florida. Popular Broadway shows are presented at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in certain parts of the year. You can also catch a ballet performance and 200 other types of performances.
There are so many museums to visits and art festivals to attend throughout the year. Some of the top muralists in the world visit Jacksonville to display their art and creativity on the walls and canvases in the downtown area.
Jacksonville offers college, minor league and professional sports.
TPC Sawgrass is the home of the Players Championship. The world’s best golfers come to Jacksonville to play in this tournament, held annually in March. Fans come from all over to catch a glimpse of their favorite players and simply enjoy the beauty of the course.
Catch an NFL game at TIAA Bank Field and watch some hockey with the Jacksonville Icemen. Or if fishing and water sports are more your vibe, Jacksonville has more shoreline than any other Florida destination. Rent a jet ski, wakeboard, kayak, or even a sailboat for the day! The possibilities are endless and the views from the water are spectacular.
Pray for Jacksonville
1. Pray for the students involved in JAX BCM.
2. Pray for the students on on the University of North Florida Campus, that they will be receptive to the hearing of the gospel.
3. Pray for the Jacksonville area, that the people will understand that the beautiful land that surrounds them is only a result our Creator. Pray that they will surrender their lives to Christ and live for Him.