Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Nansemond River Baptist Church Story


Celebrating 50 years of mission and discipleship

by Rob Lauer

Pastor Ryan Brice

Pastor Ryan Brice

When Barry Hobbs first attended Nansemond River Baptist Church, it was a new congregation in north Suffolk. He admits, with a laugh, that what first drew him to the church was not strictly a matter of piety: “The girl I was dating lived near the church, and she went there with her family.” But in 1971, when Barry committed his life to Christ, Nansemond River became his spiritual home.

“The preaching there was so different from what I had heard in any other churches I had attended,” he recalls. “My spiritual life took on a whole new dimension once I came to know the Lord.”

The girl who Barry was dating—Debbie—later became his wife. College and business opportunities took the Hobbs elsewhere for a number of years, but when the couple decided to return Suffolk in 1982, they moved just a short distance from Nansemond River Baptist, once again making it their church home.

This June, the church celebrates it’s 50th anniversary. “That is so exciting!” Barry says with a smile. Now serving as a Lay Elder, he adds, “In the world today, there are so many things that threaten to divide people, but here at Nansemond River, there is a real sense of unity among us.”

That sense of unity was one of the things that attracted Linda Sherfey to Nansemond River Baptist ten years ago. “If people are interested in hearing preaching that comes straight from the Bible, if they want a church that’s supportive of mission work, and a church where you can really get to know people through Sunday school and small groups—then come visit us,” she says. “It’s also a great place for young families.”

The leadership of Nansemond River Baptist Church. <br>From left: Lay Elder Don Coley, Lay Elder Steve Smith, Lay Elder Barry Hobbs, <br>Pastor for Worship and Administration Brian Lee, Lead Pastor Ryan Brice,  <br>Family Pastor Michael Vaughan, Lay Elder Chris Vorwald and Lay Elder Dalton Carraway.<br>Photos by Beth Hamilton Photography

The leadership of Nansemond River Baptist Church.
From left: Lay Elder Don Coley, Lay Elder Steve Smith, Lay Elder Barry Hobbs,
Pastor for Worship and Administration Brian Lee, Lead Pastor Ryan Brice,
Family Pastor Michael Vaughan, Lay Elder Chris Vorwald and Lay Elder Dalton Carraway.
Photos by Beth Hamilton Photography

“Here at Nansemond River, our mission can be summed up this way: we strive to make disciples who make disciples,” Lead Pastor Ryan Brice explains. “Our vision is just as simple: we exist to glorify God and exalt Jesus by reaching up through worship and prayer, reaching in through discipleship and fellowship, and reaching out through evangelism and ministry.”

Ryan believes that the congregation’s approach to  Bible study sets it apart from many other churches.

“We study the Bible in a very systematic way,” he continues. “In our Sunday schools and small groups, we cycle through the entire Bible every three years. Everyone—adults, teens and children—are studying the same chapters of the Bible each week. So, on the drive to church, the entire family can discuss what they’re going to be studying that morning, even though they’re in different classes. When my wife, Cristy, and I sit down with our boys for Sunday dinner, we discuss as a family what we learned in Sunday school. This approach to Bible study helps to keep us all unified—as families and as a congregation.”

This same systematic approach to the Bible extends to Ryan’s sermons on Sunday mornings. Preaching directly from scripture, he explores a book of the Bible from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. “Right now, I’m preaching the Gospel of Luke,” he says. “We will dedicate two and half years to studying the entire book.”

Working with national and international partnerships, Nansemond River performs missionary outreach in Africa, along the Appalachian Trail and among migrant workers on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

“Even as we speak, we have a mission team over in West Africa,” Ryan shares. “We feed hikers at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail and give them small Gospels to carry with them. Sometimes our mission workers will later travel north to the end of the trail and meet those same hikers as they’re wrapping up their trek. At the same time, we have a family doing mission work with migrant workers on the Eastern Shore.” 

“Nansemond River Baptist
is not a closed-off,
tight-knit group of people...
We want people to come here
and feel that they’re loved.”

—Pastor Ryan Brice

For the past year and a half, Nansemond River has been planting a new church—Redemption Heights Church—on the west side of Philadelphia.

In addition to this mission outreach elsewhere, Nansemond River Baptist Church is doing all it can to reach individuals and families locally.

“One of the things that makes doing church in Hampton Roads so unique is the high number of military families living here,” Ryan remarks. “People are constantly moving in and out of the area. That high turnover gives us the opportunity to minister to military members and to care for their families when they are deployed. It’s also made us good at seeing a person’s talents very quickly and putting them to work in the community.”

That work includes sponsoring Good News Clubs in two local elementary schools and partnering with the Bair Foundation to tutor foster children.

Ryan feels that the church’s Mom to Mom Ministry is one of its most exciting programs: “We provide child care, so it’s a great way for ladies in their 20s and 30s with small children to relax and connect with one another. Older women minister to younger women by sharing what they’ve learned over the course of their lives as mothers and wives.”

Responding to the explosive growth in North Suffolk, the church is sponsoring new events for the general public. “Because we have a large athletic field next to our worship center, we host events there for the entire community,” Ryan points out. “One of those events is the Suffolk Ultimate—a Frisbee event for adults.  We’ve had up to 70 adults who are not members of our church sign up to play.”

“Nansemond River Baptist is not a closed-off, tight-knit group of people who want to stay to themselves,” Ryan affirms. “While we are who we are—a Bible-believing church that’s faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ—we’re open and welcoming. We want people to come here and feel that they’re loved.”

“In our culture today, people are searching for something,” Barry adds. “They want to know God. They think they have to go to a certain place or do certain things—rituals of some sort—but it’s really simple to know God. It’s just takes a step of faith.”

Nansmond River Baptist Church

2896 Bridge Road
Suffolk, VA 23435