By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MILLINGTON — The recently concluded Summit at First Baptist Church, Millington, was a homecoming for Ray Newcomb who served as pastor of the Memphis area congregation from 1976 until his retirement in 2009.
He preached the annual convention sermon and a humorous episode during his message has gone viral. During a key point in the sermon, Newcomb grabbed the pulpit and it came apart. His response: “Lordy, I didn’t know I was going to tear up the pulpit.”
Since the video was posted on the Tennessee Baptist Convention Facebook page on Nov. 24 it has been shared more than 200 times and reached more than 32,000 people.
As always, New-comb, now 76, took the mishap in stride and continued his sermon on a topic that has been his heartbeat for his entire ministry – winning souls for Jesus Christ.
While pastor in Millington he led the church to be among the leaders in the state in number of baptisms, a trend that has continued under current pastor David Leavell.
After his retirement, Newcomb moved to Counce and began serving churches in Tenn-essee, Alabama, and Mississippi as interim pastor.
In those churches, he continued his focus on winning the lost.
His most recent interim pastorate, however, was far different from the others and from First Baptist, Millington. Newcomb went back to his roots and served as interim pastor of Tishomingo Chapel Baptist Church in Corinth, Miss., a congregation he first served in 1959-60. At the time it was considered a half-time pastorate because he also served another church during the same time, rotating weeks.
When he returned to Tishomingo Chapel earlier this year the church was averaging around 20 in Sunday School and 40 in worship, a far cry from numbers he had been accustomed to in his larger churches.
By the time his tenure ended at the end of November, those numbers had climbed to 40 and nearly 70, respectively. The church even hit a high of 120 in one worship service, he said.
At first Newcomb said he did not understand why the Lord led him back to a smaller church but he soon realized that God was using it as a teaching experience for him.
“God showed me that baptisms can happen in a small church,” Newcomb affirmed.
Prior to his arrival, Tishomingo Chapel had one person saved and baptized in three years, and that occurred at a nearby church’s Judgment House, Newcomb recalled.
In his seven months as interim of the small Corinth congregation, the church baptized 10 people including an 86-year-old man, and added four more members by letter, he added.
“The church is so excited. They are talking about what God is doing,” Newcomb said.
Newcomb used the same church growth model he has always used — the book of Acts.
He also used the same methodology that worked at Millington and in all of his interim pastorates, including Tishomingo Chapel. And it’s the same advice he gives to every young pastor who asks.
“Love God, love preaching the Word and Jesus, and love people,” Newcomb said.
“When you love God and preach Jesus, He will take care of the rest,” he assured.
Newcomb tends to bristle if someone refers to him as “old-fashioned.” “I’m not old-fashioned. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” he said.
Newcomb continues to be available for interim and pulpit supply as well as speaking at evangelism conferences or Sunday School rallies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-487-6339.