142 years ago, our network of churches was named the St. Marys River Association. As the mission field changed so did the name. Over time, it became helpful to move from St. Marys River Association to a new name, Jacksonville Association. Then in 2012 to more clearly communicate our desire to take the gospel, to the city through the churches we started doing ministry as EngageJAX.
Every change in our name has reflected a strategic response to changes in our mission field. Today, as we begin to live out being First Coast Churches, I want us to remember why we believe this change will advance the mission of this important network of churches.
Hibernia, Middleburg, Palatka, MacClenny and Folkston, Georgia are not Jacksonville. And yet, there are active churches who support our ministry financially, who are involved in our leadership teams and who participate in our ministry activities in all these cities. We believe First Coast Churches is a name that more accurately reflects our actual geographic footprint. It will strengthen our connection and communication with churches outside of Duval County.
One of our core values is diversity. When most of us think of diversity, we are thinking about the number and kinds of people groups we serve. And that is a good thing! In addition to that diversity, we need to add regional diversity. We have rural, suburban, urban and beach communities. We believe First Coast Churches is a large enough tent to preserve who we are and expand to the total picture of diversity throughout our network.
Clay County (one of the counties served by our network of churches) is projected to be the fastest growing county in Florida for the next several years. With roads, business development, schools and neighborhoods literally acting as a magnet for a projected 66,000 new neighbors in the next 20 years. We believe First Coast Churches is a better communication tool where our mission field overlaps another association’s mission field. It allows us to be the catalyst for important conversations where collaborative work is needed in a broader area.
The Jacksonville metro area is already known as the First Coast. We believe there is wisdom in using an already known and valued geographic identity that matches the scope of influence that God is allowing us to have through our churches.