The Twin Ports of Superior and Duluth are a scenic port community at the Head of Lake Superior that is recognized as a major port of call for ships from around the world and a vacation destination for visitors from all over the country. Built on turn of the century businesses of shipping, mining, and lumber, the twin ports community has a metro population of over 150,000 and a broadening economic base with growing educational, medical, recreational, and manufacturing opportunities. Despite all the potential in the community, for the past several decades it has become recognized as a spiritually dark place with churches that have struggled. In fact, the Evangelical Free Church, as of 1996, had one very small, aging congregation in Duluth and the next closest churches were both 15 to 20 miles outside of Duluth. For the EFCA this community was a strategic opportunity for church planting.
In September of 1996 North Bay called its first pastor and the Bible study, which met at a local retirement home, was growing in vision and purpose. After much prayer and planning, public services were launched as an extension of the Forest Lakes District in September of 1997. By then our congregation had grown so much that they no longer fit in the retirement home so our services, along with nursery care and children's ministry, were held at one of the local middle schools. North Bay used contemporary worship, drama, and solid teaching to bring a message of hope to the Twin Ports.
During the late fall of 1997 Pastor Jeff Sorvik was beginning work on a plan called "Duluth and Beyond" with the North Central District of the EFCA. The Duluth and Beyond plan included a pioneer church plant in Duluth and a vision to establish a base from which a number of church plants in Northeastern Minnesota could be started. During a time of pastoral transition, it was evident that the vision of Duluth and Beyond and North Bay Community Church were closely allied. After a period of several months of prayer, discussion, and study, the North Central District and the Forest Lakes District agreed that merging Duluth and Beyond and North Bay into a joint, cooperative effort was an exciting opportunity.
North Bay discovered that the language of music and athletics were keys to the unchurched community. And so, the library (which sits adjacent to a large Kitchen) was converted into North Bay Cafe where the church would host small acoustic coffee house concerts and the gym was used to host volleyball, floor hockey, basket ball and a variety of other athletic events designed to bring unchurched people to a place where they can find real relationships and real hope.