Tabernacle Baptist Church began in the spring of 1967 when five families asked Pastor Rod Bell to come and consider starting a church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The first service in Kempsville High School yielded 32 in attendance, and people were saved in both services that Sunday. On May 21, 1967, the Bells moved to Virginia Beach to start an old-fashioned, fundamental, independent, Baptist church.
Through the years, God has blessed and allowed the church and its ministries to have a worldwide impact for the faith. This ministry has been and continues to be a place where people put faith in a prayer-answering God!
The highlights are many, but a few worth noting involve the growing ministry, the called men, and biblical missions.
The ministries grew almost immediately with attendances reaching an average of 700 in 1971. The first auditorium was dedicated on May 19, 1968, with Evangelist Oliver B. Greene speaking. Two more wings were constructed in 1969 and 1970 respectively followed by a 1500 seat auditorium in March 1972. All the buildings housed the active programs which included a bus ministry (1967), Sunday school ministry (1967), missions program (1968), Tabernacle Baptist Academy (1969), Tabernacle Baptist Institute (1970), Tabernacle Baptist Publications, Child Development Center, Pre-teen and Teen ministries, and a host of other areas. Church-wide visitation, a nursing home ministry, Sunday and Wednesday children’s programs, a Christian bookstore, and a counseling division all became parts of God’s work here. Among many special services, the revival which occurred in November of 1992 stands out because scores of people were saved. What a blessing to see God grow this ministry!
The men God has used and has called from this place have been many. They are pastors, missionaries, Christian day school educators, faithful church members, and great Christians. With the many active duty military families arriving in the Hampton Roads area, Tabernacle has a unique opportunity to teach and influence them for godliness. Many times, these men retire in the area and serve in TCBM. Also, the Tabernacle Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary has graduated over 360 individuals who serve the Lord around the world.
Great men of God have preached from this pulpit and many have learned a philosophy of preaching here. Over 60 churches around the world have been started by the direct influence of this ministry. God has wonderfully blessed this ministry with good men to lead it over the years. The influence and vision of Dr. Rod Bell, Sr. for over 36 ½ years of ministry here continues now under the leadership of Pastor James W. Baker.
Tabernacle has always demonstrated a great burden for home and foreign missions. This history includes the sending and calling of many missionaries to the field. Many national men, after studying at the college and seminary, have gone back to their homelands to plant churches. Tabernacle Baptist Mission Agency was started to be of assistance to both nationals and American-born missionaries. Since the first Missions Conference in January 1968 to the present moment, missions has been and continues to be the heartbeat of Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Some suggest that Tabernacle is a mighty oak of Fundamentalism. Others have described this ministry as a “Flagship of Fundamentalism.” Today we recognize the strength of Tabernacle is the great God that its good people serve. Our godly purpose is helping others to grow and serve! We give God all the glory for what He has done and will do. This ministry is as strong as an oak and does sail through storms as a flagship for the Savior; but, most of all, this ministry desires obedience to Christ and conformity to His image as our ultimate goal. We anticipate with great excitement what God will continue to do!