A Look into Next 90 Days and the Next Year

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After the Campus Catalyst discussion, the evening closed with a time of prayer for our church’s future and our staff, and those present then shared Communion together. Pastor Eric tweeted that the evening “was one of the most anointed times of prayer and Communion I have ever experienced. I love our church.”

During the Nov. 27 Campus Catalyst Town Hall, once again Pastor Eric Thomas opened the meeting with this passage of Scripture:

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:23-24)

Although the changes to our campus due to the VDOT highway construction project are presenting challenges, we believe all of these changes have been orchestrated by God. This is what God has given us, and we need to take the perspective of the verse above and “be glad in it.”

ONE-YEAR GOAL

First, Pastor Eric discussed the one-year goal for 2017, which is part of “First Norfolk Advance,” our ten-year ministry strategy. Between January and December 2017, we will launch a campus in our multi-site strategy. This campus will be linked with our current location in terms of budget, polity, staff, and technology.

One of the main reasons for launching a new campus soon is because of the current parking restrictions due to the highway construction. We have lost 361 parking spaces, and the parking we currently have limits our church growth and the advance we believe God wants us to pursue. Once a church reaches 80 percent of their parking capacity, their growth is hindered. Although yes, we have borrowed parking lots, we can only borrow parking for a season — it is not a long-term solution that allows for church growth. We believe a new campus is the best approach we can take to solve this issue.

Statistics and research from other churches show us that on average, the year a church starts another campus, they experience 28 percent growth in that multi-site, and 20 percent growth in the second year. Because of this anticipated growth, we need to make sure we have the right pieces in place to be able to move forward with that strategy, which leads us to our objectives for the next three months.

90-DAY OBJECTIVES

Our 90-day objectives for Jan.1-March 31, 2017 are as follows:

  1. Develop Leaders: Create a leadership development process. First group by Feb. 28. Second group by April 9.

Phillip Herring, our associate pastor of education, is developing a leadership training process for First Baptist Norfolk. We want everyone to be a part of this process, but we will take our staff through it first, and they will finish the training by Feb. 28. The second group will be volunteer church members that God has called to be a part of the new campus so that we can have a leadership core prepared to serve at our satellite location.

  1. Select Campus Location: Call the church to join in a prayer journey for God to open door of opportunity for a campus location.

We do not yet have a location for our satellite campus — we are dependent on what God opens up for us. However, we are considering Virginia Beach or Chesapeake, since this is where the majority of our members reside, and our new location will accommodate growth. We are looking for a location we can lease for a period of time and develop a full ministry there. Future satellites may be in locations where we do not have a presence of many current church members.

On Jan. 8, we will begin a prayer journey together as a church for this new advance. First, pray that God would open the door for the right location for our satellite campus. Second, pray that God would call out individuals and families to be a part of that location.

  1. Develop Communication Plan: Develop a compelling communication plan to tell the story of First Norfolk Advance to the church and community.

We need to communicate these big changes within the framework of our body of believers: how we’re doing, what we’re doing, etc. This blog is going to be important source for updates going forward. An unexpected outcome of the highway construction is that now that the trees are cut down, our church is very visible from the interstate. What a window of opportunity to be seen by many at this crossroads of our Hampton Roads community!

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With the trees cut down, our church is now highly visible as you drive by on the interstate. (Photo by Brent Wilson)
  1. Select Leadership/Core Team: Beginning Jan. 8, call the church to pray that God would call out individuals and families to go on mission to a new campus. Have initial leadership and core team in place by Feb. 5.

We ask that you pray and ask God if you should become a part of our new campus. We will be multiplying our leadership in order to facilitate this new location, but we are not multiplying our staff. This embodies Ephesians 4:12, which speaks of equipping the saints for the work of ministry — this means our church members. However, we will not be “recruiting” anyone for the new location. We are trusting God to orchestrate who goes and who stays at each location.

On Jan. 8 — or even before — please join us in praying for our First Norfolk Advance.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock over 300 years ago knew nothing of the affluent times which you and I enjoy today in this great country of ours. During that first long winter at Plymouth Colony, seven times as many graves were made for the dead as home for the living. The ship which was to bring food and relief brought 35 more mouths to feed, but not an ounce of provisions. Touching indeed is the picture of William Brewster, rising from a scanty Plymouth dinner, consisting of a plate of clams and a glass of cold water, to thank God “for the abundance of the sea and the treasures hid in the sand.”

The Pilgrims didn’t have much, but they possessed a great gratitude to God. They had a custom of putting 5 kernels of corn upon each empty plate before a dinner of “thanksgiving” was served. Each member of the family would pick up a kernel and tell what they were thankful for. It was to remind them that the first Pilgrims were in such dire straits that their allowance was only 5 kernels of corn per person each day.

Psalm 107 offers blessing to the Lord God because of the wondrous love that God has displayed to him and to others.  The motivation for blessing God comes from a heart that is filled with the benefits of God’s loving activity in our lives. As we approach Thanksgiving Day, let’s remember the goodness of God and His faithful love at work in our lives through Jesus.

1. Give thanks to God, for He is working in our lives out of love.

The psalmist portrays God’s steadfast and faithful love that brings goodness flowing from Him to us.  His mercy, that love that reaches out to us, never falters and never fails.  It is forever flowing from His throne to His people.  He loves us absolutely, and therefore He reaches out to us by His love to shower His goodness onto us.  That’s the theme of this psalm.  See how our God brings goodness into our lives through His love.

2. Give thanks to God, for He has rescued us through Jesus.

The psalmist speaks to the “redeemed of the Lord” (107:2-3). The term “redeemed” points to the act of the kinsman rescuing his relative from slavery.  It is the picture of God standing in the path of His people taking responsibility for their future joy.  As our Kinsman Redeemer, Christ takes our place on the auction block of sin to give us a future and hope.

3. Give thanks to God, for He satisfies us completely.

The psalmist paints the picture of nomads in the desert who were in danger because of low water and food stores (107:4-9).  In their need they cried out to the Lord for deliverance, and “He delivered them out of their distresses” (107:6).  He not only gave them food and water, but He directed their steps so that they might find a home (107:7).

Jesus takes us from the land of emptiness and satisfies our soul with His love and goodness.  We who have been rescued from the empty land of life in sin have a song of thanksgiving to sing!

4. Give thanks to God, for He has forgiven us.

The picture is one of being placed in a pit, squatting in “misery and iron.”  The people rebelled against God and found themselves in prison (107:10-16).  In the midst of their shackled lives, they find that they cannot help themselves and that there is no one else who can help them.  But when they cried out to the Lord, He heard them and delivered them from the shackled life of rebellion’s consequences. The psalmist describes those who turn their backs to the Lord God, captured in the affliction of their sin (107:17-22). They find themselves heaped in a mess of misery.  They can’t eat because they have such unrest.  Finally, they plead with Christ for help, and He heals them by His Word.

Sitting in the miry mud of a deep well without any light or hope, Christ enters the darkness as the light of the world and lifts us from our pit into the light of life. Today, we give thanks to God for His forgiving love. In the midst of our sin, He offers us forgiveness.  In our sin, we are brought low.  In our sin, we waste away physically and spiritually.  Yet, when we cry out to God for help, He delivers the healing we need through His forgiving love.

5. Give thanks to God, for He gives us security.

The mariner knows full well the devastation that a storm can bring.  In 107:23-32, the chaotic fear of the storm quiets in the presence of God. The psalmist declares that the storm that raged against the seafarers is like the storm that rages against God’s people.  The most skilled seaman is unable to calm the storm that rages against him, and he needs help for rescue.

Jesus is the One who calms the storm that rages around us and within us. He guides us to the refuge of His love and heavenly home.  We give thanks to God for by His rescuing love, He secures us in His grip!

6. Give thanks to God, for He provides for us.

God takes nature in hand to lead our hearts toward Him (107:35-38). God helps those who are unable to help themselves.  God will turn the world upside down to make His love help His people. We give thanks to God, for He has provided for us!

As we gather together with family and friends this season, let’s take time to celebrate God’s great and faithful love to us. With all that he has done, we have reason for gratitude!

Urgency for God (Psalm 63:1)

David declared that his search for the Lord was not haphazard. It was not some flippant response to the needs of the moment. It was not merely a prayer of immediacy, but it was a life-and-death search born out of urgency. He had to find the Lord God or he would surely die.

“My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”

The urgency of our prayers needs to match the urgency of a person drowning. Gasping and struggling for air, the drowning person fights for the next breath, giving his last ounce of strength for air. We must have that same kind of urgency for God.

So often, we content ourselves with our prayers of immediacy. “Lord, help me with this problem. Lord, forgive me of this sin. Lord, take away this situation.” We need those cries to our Loving Father when we’re in need, but the urgency that fuels our prayer should flow from a heart that yearns for God. We should stretch out our heart and soul for the Lord because we’ll surely die if we don’t take hold of Him. We are like the man in the wilderness without food or water, and Jesus is the Bread that gives life and the River that satisfies our soul. If we don’t find Him, then we’ll die.

 

Navigating the Wilderness (Psalm 63:1)

David was a king without a country. He had been exiled from Jerusalem by Absalom, his son, and now he was sitting alone in the wilderness of Judah isolated and alone.  He was sitting upon the steppes of the desert. He was in the midst of Wilderness Moments. In the crisis of the time, David picked up the quill and parchment and began to compose a song from the depths of his heart.  The very act of his writing was a pathway to finding joy, for he sought the Lord even as the ink touched the paper.  In the first two verses of this psalm, David described how he would find true joy when he was in a place he didn’t want to be.  He described in specific detail how he would pursue true joy in his wilderness moments.

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1, NKJV)

When you find yourself in the place that you don’t want to be, you must begin your journey toward joy by turning immediately to God. As David declared his personal relationship with God, we must remind ourselves early in the day that God is our God. This opening phrase highlights the entire song’s theme.  No matter what one faces, to be possessed by Elohim is to be possessed by power and strength.  To have relationship with God is to have ownership to the power and strength of God.

Our journey to joy must begin early. It can’t wait for the sun to set!  We must hurriedly make a path to the Lord Jesus and call upon Him for help.  In the wilderness moments, we must not wait for the heat of the day to hit us before we call upon God.  We must begin early, while the sun is still rising, so that we might begin our day with the right foundation.

 

The Challenging and Exciting Future Vision for Our Church

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The areas in red will be unavailable for parking due to the VDOT highway construction.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, Pastor Eric Thomas led another Campus Catalyst Town Hall meeting to present the 10-year vision, three-year initiatives, one-year goal, and 90-day objectives for First Baptist Norfolk to the church family.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has taken possession of a large portion of the church’s property to begin construction on their highway project. Approximately 40 percent of the church’s 350 paved parked spaces will no longer be available. Additional parking is available at the Cross Roads Center, the HRT Tide Lot, and Fortis College at Interstate Commerce Center, but as Pastor Eric said, you cannot grow a church on borrowed parking in the long haul.

This VDOT highway project has challenged us in how we as a church thrive rather than merely survive over the next decade. Pastor Eric read this verse to open the Town Hall Meeting:

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:23-24)

VDOT has presented a challenge to us, Pastor Eric said, but we believe God has sovereignly orchestrated these events so that we could pursue the mission He’s given and the glory He deserves.

The Vision Team was comprised of the following twelve people: Kevin Beardsley, Geoff Hemphill, Phillip Herring, Michael Little, Michael Molzahn, Jenny O’Neal, Carrie Owen, Wayne Parrish, Ryan Rickman, Van Rose, Patty Senter, and Lance Walters. As they began to meet eight months ago, they came together with a “blank slate” to prayerfully seek where God was leading the church. God grew this team together to embrace the vision He had given them.

Ten-Year Vision

“Over the next decade, First Norfolk will raise up hundreds of leaders who will take thousands of people on a courageous adventure of hope. Fueled by power of the Holy Spirit and His Word, we will develop a team transformed by Jesus to radiate His rescuing light into the world. We see our members, like a fleet of lightships in dark and turbulent seas, illuminating the way to peace. We see people captured in the menacing waves of misery finding refuge in the hope that Jesus alone offers through the life-giving love and kindness we shine toward them. We see neighborhoods throughout the seven cities of Hampton Roads transformed by the light of hope we share. We see 1,500 life groups with 15,000 missionary followers of Jesus pulling people from the ocean of hopeless loneliness. We see lighthouse stations with platoons of people starting ten campuses in Hampton Roads and planting twenty new churches around the world, shining the light of truth and hope for those buffeted by the storm.

The two greatest elements we believe we are called to are to pursue God’s presence to fulfill His mission in Hampton Roads and around the world, and be developers of disciples. Currently, our church has 120 LIFEgroups and nominally between four and five thousand members, so this is a “very extravagant” vision, Pastor Eric said. However, members of the Vision Team shared with the church how the Holy Spirit came over their group and clearly directed their path.

We need this vision, shared Michael Little — we have a world to reach, and we have a God to please and serve.

This vision calls us to certain steps, which are laid out in the three-year initiatives, one-year goal, and 90-day objectives:

Three-Year Initiatives

  • Empowered Living: We will passionately pursue God and become overwhelmed by His presence so that we live like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Multiplication: We will launch our second campus with clearly defined, reproducible markers for the next eight campuses. We will plant three new churches globally.
  • Increased Leadership Capacity: We will increase our leadership capacity for future multiplication with 10 percent increase across ministry areas and 20 percent increase in multiplication leadership core.
  • Generosity: We will consistently develop and live a culture of generosity, celebrating the beauty of the gospel through giving. We will increase givers by 20 percent and giving by 25 percent.

One-Year Goal

First Norfolk Advance: Between January and December 2017, we will launch a campus in our multi-site strategy.

90-Day Objectives

  • Develop Leaders
  • Select Campus Location
  • Develop Communication Plan
  • Select Leadership/Core Team

Although we do not have all the details or answers yet, we believe we need this vision in light of the highway being built right next to our church. Pastor Eric noted that when the fire took our previous building in downtown Norfolk, the church family was filled with faith and trusted the Spirit of God in the move to our current location. It was tragic, but it moved us to better days.

Pastor Eric said he believes what God is doing is along those same veins — God is using the VDOT construction project to propel us to even better days

This is the beginning of our journey together as a church. There will be more opportunities to ask questions and have them answered in the coming days, and we will continue to have Campus Catalyst meetings to communicate important information.

Please be in prayer for our church and this vision God has given us to better pursue His presence and make disciples in Hampton Roads and around the world. Pray that our hearts would be united as we face this challenging and exciting future together.

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

 

Ten Year Vision

Over the next decade, First Norfolk will raise up hundreds of leaders who will take thousands of people on a courageous adventure of hope. Fueled by power of the Holy Spirit and His Word, we will develop a team transformed by Jesus to radiate His rescuing light into the world.

We see our members, like a fleet of lightships in dark and turbulent seas, illuminating the way to peace.

We see people captured in the menacing waves of misery finding refuge in the hope that Jesus alone offers through the life-giving love and kindness we shine toward them.

We see neighborhoods throughout the seven cities of Hampton Roads transformed by the light of hope we share.

We see 1,500 life groups with 15,000 missionary followers of Jesus pulling people from the ocean of hopeless loneliness.

We see lighthouse stations with platoons of people starting 10 campuses in Hampton Roads and planting 20 new churches around the world, shining the light of truth and hope for those buffeted by the storm.