Progress of Our 90-Day Objectives

Pastor Eric Thomas opened the March 12 Campus Catalyst Town Hall Meeting with prayer and a recap of our church’s current situation. Of course, the VDOT highway construction is presenting some obstacles to our church (construction zones close to our building, loss of parking, increased traffic on highways, etc.). However, we believe that because we are people of faith, these changes are not accidental or a twist of fate, but rather something God has orchestrated for the good of this church family and the good of the mission God has given us as the church. So then, we rejoice in this part of the journey God has given us.

In light of these changes, our Vision Team created “First Norfolk Advance,” our ten-year ministry strategy. This includes our one-year goal and 90-day objectives, which Pastor Eric discussed during the evening’s meeting. Although church leadership does not have all of the answers right now, they are working on next steps and will share news as they are able.

First, Pastor Eric addressed the difference between a church plant and a campus since there has been some confusion on the matter. Part of our ten-year vision is: “starting ten campuses in Hampton Roads and planting twenty new churches around the world.” These are two distinctly different things. A church plant is an autonomous, independent church. We partner with church planters as they pursue their vision for that community, such as our current church planter partnerships in places like Montreal and South Dakota.

A satellite campus is where First Norfolk will start a full church service and “mission center” in the neighborhoods of the seven cities of Hampton Roads. Our goal is 10 satellite campuses that are tied to First Baptist Norfolk in the next 10 years that cover much of the seven cities. These satellite campuses are an extension of and will be tied to First Baptist Norfolk.

Our first satellite campus will be a bit different than the ones to come. Right now, because of the VDOT highway construction, it is a challenge to reach new people at our current 312 Kempsville Road location. Visitors may be put off by the limited parking or seeing large construction equipment all around our building. Pastor Eric stressed that we must remember our mission as a church is always to reach new people. Because of the longevity of the construction process, the Vision Team and staff believe it is important to start a new campus in 2017, which will help us reach new people with a greater ease.

For the past several months, leadership has been pursuing a location for the new campus. Pastor Eric said they are very close to being able to share the new campus location they are discussing. He also said in his research, he found the exciting statistic that on average, 28% growth in reaching people happens during the first year of a satellite, and about 20% growth in the second year. That would be “astronomical” for a church of our size.

Second, Pastor Eric discussed the 90-day objectives (Jan. 1-March 31). We have made great progress on some of these, while others still have steps to go. Here is the status of each objective:

  1. Develop Leaders

This objective was to not only develop leaders for a new satellite campus, but within our church. Phillip Herring, associate pastor of education, and team developed a “leadership process” training that just finished its pilot program that included 32 people. After some evaluation and fine-tuning, they will begin to train others in the church through this leadership development pipeline.

  1. Select Campus Location

Negotiations are in the works for our satellite location. The team is being intentional to seek what doors God is opening. The original goal was to launch the new campus the week after Easter, however, God is moving on His own timeline. Pray that God opens the door to the right opportunity so that we as a church can fulfill the mission He has given us — to see more people in Hampton Roads come to faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. Develop Communication Plan

Steve Harper, minister of media and communication, and a team are working on this. Currently this blog is a main way to communicate updates, but there will be more avenues of communication in the future.

  1. Select Leadership/Core Team

Initially, because our timeline was to launch the new campus the week after Easter, we had the objective of identifying the leadership core team by Feb. 5. However, since the launch has been delayed, the core team has not yet been identified. Pastor Eric said some people have already told him they feel called to be on mission at the new location. We need to continue praying that more people would feel called to go and serve in the new campus. The 21 Days of Prayer initiative was a good beginning, but we need to enter into another season of prayer over the new campus and its leadership core team.

These first 90 days are coming to an end on March 31, and our staff is developing objectives for the next 90 days. We will let you know of those new objectives through our blog and other Campus Catalyst meetings.

After answering questions from the crowd (the answers to many of these can be found in our Campus Catalyst FAQ in this blog post), Pastor Eric closed the meeting by asking for prayer on these specific requests:

  1. Pray for God’s glory to shine through us to the seven cities.
  2. Pray that hundreds of people far from God would be saved during this journey.
  3. Pray for the Campus location.
  4. Pray for VDOT negotiations.

Another prayer for us

A father was talking to his 5 year old daughter and her friend. They were talking about birthdays. The friend’s birthday was on March 30 and the father’s was on March 27. He said, “Our birthdays are only 3 days apart.” She said, “Yeah, but you grew a lot faster than I did.”

This morning, following the apostle Paul, I pray that we might grow.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Ephesians 1:15–19, ESV)

1. I pray that we might grow to know God more each day.

Paul prayed for his friends in Ephesus. He asked the Father of glory to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Now what does that mean? It is a prayer for followers of Christ to experience the fullest measure of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in their lives. He prayed that the Spirit would unveil before them the will of God and the ways of God so that they might know God more and more each day.

I pray that we might know God more and more each day. That we would be saturated by His Spirit so completely that we would know God’s will and ways. That we would surrender our hearts to Him so that His purpose and plan might cover us and consume us. That our heart might beat in concert with the Father of glory.

2. I pray that we might grow to know God’s work in our lives.

Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus might have their eyes opened to God’s work in their lives.  He uses three phrases to describe this work: the hope of His calling, the glorious riches of His inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of His power.

The Rope of Hope. On any expedition, the rope is what connects us to that which is stable and secure. Hope is our rope! Hope is the certainty of our present reality as the chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, and sealed children of God. Hope is the ultimate unity and confident expectation of our future blessings as His people. It is the present and the future wrapped up in the blessings of God’s grace and mercy.

I pray that God would open our eyes to our hope for today and in eternity. God has called us to Himself in salvation. He is working in the details of our day because He has committed to us the glorious riches of heaven. God’s hand is working in the details of our day, not letting us go but holding on to us through thick and thin, good and bad, joy and sorrow, victory and failure.

The Family Photo. I love to take pictures of my family. A family photo reminds us of our lineage, encouraging us to press on. Paul prayed that their eyes might be opened to see their infinite value to God. As His people, He has given us an inheritance through Jesus Christ and the seal of His Spirit, but that is not what Paul has in mind here. Paul asks that God’s Spirit would open their eyes to see the “riches of the glory of His inheritance.” This is a description of God’s people who are His inheritance.

I pray that God would open our eyes to know how precious we are to God. We are His inheritance. His heritage. His treasure. We are the living, breathing, walking, talking trophies of His grace alive in the world reflecting His glory. God calls us His treasured possession.

The Reservoir of Power. We are in need of power in the face of the testing and trying storms that rage against us. We are in need of power for we are weak and feeble. We need power, and God provides this power for those who are His.

Paul prayed that believers might know the magnificent greatness of God’s power. The terms that Paul used point to something beyond our ability to contain, control, or concoct. He prayed that the believers in Ephesus would know the power that is beyond the ordinary directed by God toward believers.

I pray that we might know the exceeding greatness of that power and strength. It is fully displayed through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. That same power and strength is positioned for all who are Christ’s. We need not fear the storm, for God has conquered the greatest storm. We need not fear the enemy, for God has crushed the enemy. We need not fear the darkness, for God has pierced the darkness through the glorious light of the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Growth. I pray that we might grow to know God more each day. I pray that we might grow to know God’s work of hope, love, and power in our lives each day.

My prayer for us

Communion with God is oxygen for our souls. Prayer becomes the surround sound of fellowship with God who nourishes us with His presence. Prayer is not merely ritualistic words to speak in a particular time or place. Prayer is communion with God who changes our lives.

“Our lives must be as holy as our prayers. Our prayers are to prove their reality by the fruit they bear in the holiness of our life. True devotion in prayer will assuredly be rewarded, by God’s grace, with the power to live a life of true devotion to Him and His service.” ~ Andrew Murray

Paul and Timothy heard of the faith and “love in the Spirit” of the believers in the church at Colossae, and they thanked God for the progress of the gospel and the changed lives in the region. Beginning with verse 9, Paul and Timothy expand their prayer and pray for specific blessings for the believers in the church.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:9–12, ESV)

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossae helps us know how to pray for each other. I am praying daily for my family, friends, and our church.

1. I pray that we would be saturated with the knowledge of God’s will.

When I fill a glass with water, the glass may be overflowing with water but the glass isn’t affected. The picture of this text is different. To “be filled” is like sinking a sponge into a basin of water so that every pore of the sponge is saturated with water and the sponge grows to its greatest length and width and breadth.

The knowledge of God that we need is not some intellectual, informational growth. That’s not what Paul meant. The knowledge we need is relational; a knowledge founded in a proper attitude toward God (Prov 1:7) which leads to right behavior (Phil 1:9-10). We need God to fill us with Himself so that we grow in relationship with Him.

I am praying that God would soak our lives in Himself so that every pore of our saturated souls grows to its greatest depths and heights as followers of Jesus. When we are immersed in relationship with God, our hearts beat in time with His. Our minds move along the track of His desire. We gain wisdom (living life according to what God wants) and understanding (the application of what God wants to the details of our day).

2. I pray that God’s pleasure would be our highest priority.

It has been said, “The trouble with good advice is that it usually interferes with your plans.” We may see God’s path, but we have difficulty taking it. Paul’s prayer highlights the battle that rages within every believer. It is a war of pleasure. Whose pleasure is our greatest priority: my pleasure or God’s pleasure?

Paul prayed “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.” We know that we are pleasing God when we are fruitful in our work for Him and growing daily in our fellowship with Him. Pleasing God is an experience with God that does the good work that He has given us to do.

3. I pray that God would strengthen us by His power.

In the process of pursuing God’s pleasure, we need the strength of God’s grace to endure with joy. God in His grace empowers us with all might measured by the reservoir of His power.

“When by grace God’s power and compassion invade your life the result is that you have everything that you need.” ~ Paul David Tripp

This strength isn’t merely for our pleasure, but to bring pleasure to God with our lives. God gives us patience and longsuffering to complete the mission that He has given us with joy-fueled purpose.

4. I pray that God would grant us gratitude for His work of love.

Something amazing happens in us when we gain a greater gratitude for what God has done for us through Jesus. God has given us an inheritance, delivered us from the power of darkness, moved us into citizenship of His kingdom, and rescued us from our sins. When our minds are consumed with thoughts of God’s love for us, our hearts swell with songs of satisfaction in service to our King.

I pray that God would overwhelm us with His presence. God desires to make us fruitful for His pleasure. I pray that we grow in Him so that we live each day in true devotion to Him and His service.

Responding to Christmas

How do we respond to the Christmas story? That’s the question we must answer today. Our response determines the joy that we experience. Now, look at the response of the shepherds. In the midst of their solitude and silence they sang the song of peace and pleasure. But they did not stop with the Christmas Carol.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15, ESV)

When God speaks, we must act. The shepherds broke out in a run to find the Savior who would give them forever the complete and full life showered by God’s favor. Like the shepherds, the promise of God’s movement in our lives must propel us to get to Jesus!

But do you believe what God says? That is a key question in experiencing the joy that God promises. The shepherds believed (Luke 2:16-17). They found Jesus just as the angels had reported, and they believed that this was the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord! Do you believe that Jesus is the One about whom the angels sang?

If we believe, then we must share the joy with others. The shepherds did not keep the joy of Jesus to themselves (Luke 2:17-19). When we are transformed by faith in Jesus, then we must share the joy with others. We must let others know what God has accomplished in Bethlehem. If we believe, then we must praise the Lord God! The shepherds gave honor to God for His mighty work of grace (Luke 2:20).  What a fitting response for us this season!

Receive the Christmas promise today! Celebrate with the angels!  Jesus Christ, the Peace Giver, has come. Weak and wounded, depressed and downtrodden, rebellious and rejected, despised and dismissed, hopeless and helpless, fearful and frightened…  you come! Come with the shepherds who raced to the place of Christ’s birth. Bow before Him and discover the life we’ve always longed to have. Bow before Him and receive the gift that He alone gives. Bow before Him and share the joy of life found in Him with others. Bow before Him and give praise and honor to God!

The Whisper of Christmas (Part 2)

We hear the whisper of Christmas in God’s promise to Abraham. As God shaped the life of Abraham, He made a promise that through Abraham all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gen 12:3).

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3, ESV)

This blessing of God’s promise came through faith (Gen 15:6), and the power of this blessing flowed through the “Seed” of Abraham (Gal 3:15-16). The coming of Christ at Christmas marks the glorious work of God’s grace which He promised to Abraham.

Today, we celebrate the glorious promise of God fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. We are no longer foreigners to the family of heaven. Through faith in Jesus, God gives us home with Himself. The shadows of our shame in sin scatter in the light of Christmas.

The Christmas story is a celebration of the great reversal. The chill of winter thawed and the veil of death’s darkness shattered. A day of victory exploded on the scene that would change lives and hearts forever. God’s love, His power, His peace, and His purpose invaded our world in an unprecedented way.

Hope has found a home in a manger. Life has been born with the crying of the Christ-child surrounded by singing angels, shining stars, and smiling worshipers. The veil that hovered over humanity has been torn. God has unleashed His plan to bless any and all who would receive this Gift.