NEWINGTON — General Augustine Prevost, commander of 4,000 British regulars in the Revolutionary War, established his headquarters near Newington in 1779. Today Newington, population 267, is a small town tucked away in southeastern Screven County.
However, in the midst of this sleepy little town, Newington Baptist Church has come alive with children and youth. In fact, Newington Baptist could become exhibit “A” in Georgia Baptists’ quest to make U2019 a howling success.
Aaron Webb, a pastor and teacher of theology for almost 35 years, is pastor of the Newington church. He and his wife, Denise, moved from Indiana to Georgia four years ago to take care of a daughter-in-law who was battling cancer. Shortly after moving to Georgia, Webb met some of the people from Newington Baptist Church.
The church had suffered a split and was being served by bi-vocational pastors. The congregation had been reduced to an attendance of only 20-25 people on Sunday and the fellowship among the remaining members was tenuous at best.
Webb stated, “The people came to church on Sunday, but had little contact with one another during the week. Finances were low and there was little motivation to engage in any particular ministry. Discouragement prevailed.”
Webb started filling the pulpit as a supply preacher. The people loved him and urged him to help them revitalize the church. Webb moved from supply preacher to interim pastor to bi-vocation pastor to full-time pastor. Under his leadership, the church is flourishing.
Steps to revitalization
The Newington pastor cites several reasons for the church’s growth. He explained, “First I preach expositional sermons from the Word. It is not what I think, but what the Scriptures say that is important.
“Second, I am here for the long haul. This church and town needed to see that a pastor would stay. That is starting to bear fruit.”
“Third, I have the sine qua non (indispensible) pastor’s wife. Denise loves these people and they soak it up. She teaches a women’s Bible study. She will do anything in her power for them and they know it. She makes me look good.
“Fourth, our marriage is strong and the folks see it. That makes our presence and teaching both real and true.
“Fifth, we have added some things that are making a difference including a Sunday evening Bible study at our house (they had nothing on Sunday evening before we came), VBS in the summer (there had been no VBS in over 20 years), we have revamped our Wednesday night program so that it fit the number of leaders we had (they appreciated the shepherd’s oversight and Wednesdays became a significant ministry again) and Denise and I have Bible studies for the women and men.
“Sixth, I have taught them how to share their faith effectively. The Lord is blessing by giving us a harvest of lives that have been invested with the Gospel.”
One of the men the Newington pastor has depended upon to help rally the children and youth is Johnny Gross. Webb said, “Johnny used to do it all. He drove the bus/van. He paid for many of the activities, but he bore the burden of the kids mostly alone for way too long. He was heavily invested in a variety of ministries to the kids, but he didn’t have enough help.”
Webb exclaimed, “According to Parr and Crites (in their book Why They Stay) the place of the pastor in the lives of young students is critical to their spiritual growth and keeping them in the church. Denise and I want to be here for our students and for all the ministries of the church and we are beginning to see fruit from our labor.”
To see the Lord’s impact
“Sunday School is growing for Johnny’s kids,” Webb added. “As the students began to find a welcoming spirit and saw that the pastor was actively engaged and there was a balance of teaching and fun, they started responding to the Gospel and were more willing to come on Sunday mornings.
“We had 125 on Easter Sunday and one of the factors that made it special was the student baptisms. Our folks also did a great job of inviting others to join us for Bible study and worship. We had a picnic style lunch and the people stayed and enjoyed themselves. It was a day of great celebration.”
Last Wednesday Newington Baptist had 64 students present (one-fourth of the town’s population) for the activities provided for them. Webb explained, “On any given Wednesday night at least 80 percent of the students are from broken homes, single parent homes, out-of-wedlock homes, or living with a guardian. I want to see the Lord impact that big time.”
Beginning in the fall, Webb plans to add the 9th grade to their Wednesday night activities and implement a new outreach for 18-25-year-old singles. The church already has four college students who are consistent in their involvement in the life of the church and Webb thinks that ministry can be expanded. Johnny Goss’s son, a leader in Georgia Southern University’s Baptist Campus Ministry, has been instrumental in launching the ministry to singles.
“We have home Bible studies on Sunday nights so the people can see a home with a spiritual environment. I am also praying that God will raise up vocational ministers out of Newington Baptist. I look forward to our first ordination. I want to see our entire church engaged in ministry and not having to depend on just a few families do the heavy lifting.
“I want to see our people more involved in Middle Baptist Association. My activity in the MBA is making a difference and more are responding. Denise and I have been investing in our people on a small group level and now we hope to see them walk on their own and grow.”
Aaron Webb, a native of North Carolina, was saved through the influence of his parents and home church, Mountain View Baptist Church in Hendersonville, NC. He stated, “Because of the theological struggles in many of the Southern Baptist schools in the 1960s I received my education at Tennessee Temple College in Chattanooga, Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.) in Winona Lake, IN, and Trinity Theological Seminary (D. Min.) in Newburgh, IN.
Aaron met Denise Raymond at Tennessee Temple and they were married after their sophomore year. This year they will celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary. They have been blessed with three children and eight grandchildren.
Webb commented, “God has given me a wide range of experiences in churches from large congregations (with over a thousand in attendance on special days) to small ones like Newington Baptist.”
The native North Carolinian, a true-blue UNC basketball fan, has also taught for Moody Bible Institute and over eight years served intermittently as an adjunct professor when visiting Word of Life Bible Institute in Toalmas, Hungary.
“Twice I have started churches and both are still going,” Webb stated. “Missions is a big burden on my heart. Serving the King is a joyful privilege no matter where or what size [the congregation].