New Life Virginia Beach
Since it began in 1981, New Life has not only seen tremendous growth but has undergone significant changes. From a budding church plant to a multiple-congregation church, to a well-connected family of churches complete with missionaries and apostolic oversight, the New Life story covers a lot of territory. The Early Years describes New Life’s beginning as a 31-member church plant, its transition into the cell model approach to ministry, and the ensuing growth.
The Early Years
Greenbrier Congregational Christian Church was founded on January 29, 1981 by a group of 31 people. The founding group issued a pastoral invitation to Rev. Wally Gabel. The first public worship service in their new building was held on January 9, 1983. 201 people attended. In 1990, the church name was changed to Greenbrier Christian Fellowship, and a formal vision statement was developed and adopted. Early in 1992, Wally Gabel announced his retirement. A search committee was formed, and Bobby Hill was called and voted in as the new pastor late in the year. Pastor Hill assumed the senior pastor position in January of 1993. In November 1993, the church launched its current small group ministry with eight home groups. A year later, the church held its first annual missions conference. It was also in 1995 that the plan for multiple worship sites was initiated. Because of that growth strategy, the name of the church was changed again in October to New Life Christian Fellowship. By this time the average attendance was over 600 people meeting at what would later be called New Life of Greenbrier.
Growth, Expansion, and Missions
The satellite model was adopted in response to severe overcrowding in the Greenbrier building along with the scriptural promise in 2 Kings 4:1-7, where God provided oil to fill as many containers as were available. The multiple-congregation model was seen as the direction God was leading in order to combine the strength and resources of a large church with the more intimate relationships of a smaller church. The unity of vision, mission, leadership, and money would enable the congregations to combine resources to make a more significant impact in areas such as missions, community outreach, and leadership training, than any of the congregations could make on its own. The first satellite congregation, New Life of Great Bridge, was launched on February 12, 1996 at Great Bridge High School.
Initiating the New Life of Providence congregation, Pastor Dan Backens facilitated a plan to establish a trans-ethnic congregation focusing on a new and diverse demographic area in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Pastor Eric Watt came on board to become lead pastor at Greenbrier. Also in 1999, Pastor Bobby launched Vanguard Ministries International (www.vanguardministries.org), an apostolic network created to assist churches, ministers, and Christian leaders in fulfilling their God-given destinies. By that time, the New Life missionary family had grown to include seven families and three singles full-time on the field, with others preparing to go.
In 2000 New Life seized the opportunity to expand once again into an area with great promise, establishing New Life at Western Branch. As Pastor Bobby led the planning, he invited Brent Lucy to become lead pastor of this new congregation. Pastor Rick Ives led in the development of the Saturday night services at Greenbrier, which came to be known as Saturday Nite Life! (SNL!)
Revision, Maturity, and Focus for the Future
In 2001 New Life recombined the Lynnhaven and Great Neck sites (planted earlier) into New Life of Virginia Beach under the new leadership of Pastor Sam Scaggs. As the number of congregations grew, it became necessary to revisit what had been the advantages of the satellite model. Specialized ministries in areas such as children, youth, singles, and worship functioned with central directors in those ministry areas who were responsible for the training and oversight of volunteer leaders in each of the congregations. It became apparent that their effectiveness could not be maintained indefinitely as the number of congregations increased, and a transformation took place to make all congregations more site-sufficient, thus reducing the need for many central staff positions.
A revised organizational model emerged, which recognized four congregations as “hub” sites: Greenbrier, Great Bridge, Virginia Beach, and Providence (and eventually Western Branch). The title for the primary pastor in those locations was changed to senior pastor. In July 2001 Bobby Hill transitioned from the New Life staff to lead Vanguard Ministries on a full-time basis. Joseph Umidi assumed the role of senior director, with a strong emphasis on developing New Life’s senior leadership. With the emergence and development of Vanguard Ministries as a powerful apostolic networking association, it became the vehicle for apostolic oversight for New Life.
As we entered 2003, the Great Bridge and Virginia Beach congregations were positioned to be the first New Life expansions to break ground for their own buildings, with others making plans for permanent facilities. The cross-cultural mission’s emphasis continues to grow, with twenty-three full-time families, singles, and ministries comprising the 2003 New Life missionary force.
In July 2003, the Senior Leadership Team and Executive Eldership of NLCF recommended a new organizational plan which the congregations approved that effectively transformed New Life from one church with many congregations to a well-connected family of churches. Other changes occurred as well with New Life of Greenbrier starting a whole new network of churches and the adoption of a local Spanish speaking congregation now called “Nueva Vida” (New Life) and a church plant in New York.
A new season of church planting began for New Life of Virginia Beach when a new opportunity opened up to us in Harrisonburg, VA during the summer of 2005. In September of 2005 New Life of the Shenandoah Valley (based in Harrisonburg) was launched and officially opened in September 2006 under the leadership of Pastor Kevin Strite making it our eighth New Life Congregation. In April 2007, Todd & Kristin Schuchmann completed the transition to North Port, Florida to plant the ninth New Life Congregation.
In January 2007 Pastor Sam Scaggs announced that he would be making a transition within the New Life Leadership by accepting a position as Director of New Life Ministries Church Multiplication Center and International Director for Lifeforming Leadership Coaching. Pastor Todd Rawlings was invited to serve as the new Senior Pastor beginning August, 2007.
New Life of Virginia Beach is now one of eight Churches and a committed member church of both the New Life Family of Churches. We intend to continue planting churches in Hampton Roads, in the surrounding regions, and, by God’s grace, around the world!