First Baptist Church of Norfolk was bursting at the seams, holding three Sunday morning services and having parking issues, when the Virginia Department of Transportation came calling. By means of eminent domain, the Commonwealth would be taking possession of the portion of First Norfolk’s property adjacent to Interstate 264, which is the northern boundary of the property. The land was needed to expand the exit ramp off of I-264. This seizure meant the loss of over 40% of the church’s parking spaces and a large building the church used for storage. The new exit ramp would come within 56 feet of the back of the sanctuary.
Dr. Eric Thomas, who recently celebrated 15 years as senior pastor of First Norfolk and who currently serves as president of the SBC of Virginia, led the church to adopt a fresh vision for the future in light of the new reality.
As the leaders of First Norfolk prayed and sought the face of the Lord, a 10-year plan, containing a missional vision for the future of the church, began to unfold. It became clear that God was leading First Norfolk to expand its ministry beyond the walls of the current facility.
“God’s vision for our church runs deeper than just these numbers,” Thomas says. “When it is all said and done, God’s vision for our church is more profound than numbers on a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. It is ultimately about reaching people for Christ!”