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Bro. Ray Newcomb, a Tribute

This afternoon I got the word from my dad. Bro. Ray had entered into his heavenly rest, had gone to be with the Jesus to whom he had introduced so many. My dad had had the privilege of sitting with him during part of his stay in the hospital, and my dad was glad to do it because of how much Bro. Ray has meant to our family.

I am very grateful to have been a recipient of Ray Newcomb’s ministry. As I’ve visited various churches around West Tennessee over the last 30 years, I have been proud to say that I came from First Baptist Church in Millington and was one of Bro. Ray’s boys. As I consider what I received from Bro. Ray, I am particularly grateful for several things.

First, I received a bedrock certainty in the absolute truthfulness of God’s word. My family showed up at FBC Millington believing this truth and then Bro. Ray hammered this point home. When I went on to college I realized what a gift it is to have been nurtured in confident reliance on the Word of God as I encountered others who lacked such confidence. Bro. Ray told us the Bible was inerrant, showed us how it proved true and then preached and lived like it was true.

Second, I learned the absolute necessity of evangelism. Bro. Ray faithfully stressed that all people are lost and under the judgement of God apart from Jesus and that it is our responsibility to share the gospel with them. Thus, I grew up knowing clearly that we are sinful and that God is willing to save. These are basic truths that too many people today do not realize. In this sort of ministry we teenagers were taught how to share the gospel and were given regular opportunities to do so. I am so grateful for being taken as a group to various subdivisons and being dropped off at one end of the street in order to go door to door at each house endeavoring to share the gospel. There is no better way to learn. At that time I had no idea there were countless people in churches who had never been taught to share the gospel and had never taken the opportunity to do so. I am grateful to have been brought up in a setting where we were taught and sent out.

I am grateful to have heard the saving message of the gospel on a regular basis. Years later I met a friend who grew up in another church nearby. He shared how although he grew up in the church and attended regularly he had never heard the gospel until he went to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting at his high school one day. Thankfully, he did hear the gospel, and he was converted. I remember how shocked I was to hear his story, and how grateful I was that the gospel had been the center of the preaching I had heard.

Third, Bro. Ray preached through the Bible. After I went to college and then on to seminary I was in countless settings where other preachers would say to me or to a group I was in, “I bet you’ve never heard a sermon on ____.” Every time- every time- I had to spoil the point by saying, “Yes, I actually have.” Once while I was serving at a church during college the visiting preacher for our revival said he was going to preach on the unpardonable sin. Then he looked at me and a fellow college student and said, “I bet you’ve never heard anyone preach on that before have you!” I felt bad for him to have to say, “Yes, sir, I have and I remember the sermon well.” Others would say, “When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell?” Quite recently. Bro. Ray hit all these points. It really was later as I listened to others that I realized what a rare introduction to the Bible I had received by sitting under his preaching three times a week.

Lastly, Bro. Ray loved people. That, of course, is why he spent so much time on Navy Road talking to whomever he could in order to share the gospel with them. It is also why he called my mom, my dad, or my grandmother at various times to check on them. It is why he took the time to come have dinner with us the last time my parents, brother and our families all gathered at Pickwick and why he lingered around the table to talk to and share wisdom with two of us who’d surrendered to ministry under him. I remember him telling us about a turning point in his ministry early on in dealing with criticism. Rather than taking offense when people came to tell him what they were dissatisfied with, he began taking out a pad of paper and asking them in all genuineness to tell him everything they felt he was doing wrong. He would not interrupt or defend himself. Once they were finished he would say, “Thank you for sharing these with me. I will work on them. Will you pray with me now and pray for me to improve in these areas.” He said this made all the difference, and I can imagine it did.

No man and no ministry is perfect. Bro. Ray would be the first to say that. But I am deeply grateful I had the privilege of growing up under the ministry of Ray Newcomb. I count myself among the many who were richly blessed by God through him.

6 Comments

  1. Chuck Maxwell says:

    Ditto Ray. My earliest visible and audible memory of Bro. Ray is of him quoting Hebrews 4:12 before every sermon, and then disappearing to his knees behind the pulpit to pray for God to speak through The Word and the message he himself was about to preach. I left for college shortly after he came to FBC. And while I think he was surprised God could use a guy like me with long hair and rockin music ;-), he was always encouraging and available. I too, am part of his “fruit that remains.”

  2. Pamela Drewry says:

    Bro. Ray was the first pastor I remember. The church was North Corinth Baptist Church. I remember he came to llunch one day at the home of my Pop’s parents. I was about nine or so, but I know he held my attention.
    He baptized me later on.
    The last time I saw him , he officiated at my Pops funeral. It was at least 40 years later, but I was like time collapsed and we had seen each other just days before. He sat at the table with my husband and me as guests of all the lovely folks at Gravel Hill Baptist Church in honor of my mother who attends that church. My husband Michael and I had a really nice visit remembering Pop and other friends and kin. We found out that he had served as pastor at Midnight Charles sister brother-in-law’s church pastor in Union City, TN.
    and He had many gifts, but what I remember most is his compassion and humor. My sadness comes only from knowing we can’t sit and talk, not here anyway.

  3. Roy and Patricia Strube says:

    We met Bro. RAY at Underwood Baptist in Florence, AL when he was serving as an interim pastor. He could preach the Word of God and hold your attention. Great man of God!

  4. Mike Maness says:

    I’m from FBC Selmer, TN. About 9-10 years ago Dr Jerry Tidwell was our interim pastor and had been for about 6 months. He had told us that his time would be coming to an end in about two months. It was at that time he gave me a business card of his with a name and phone number on the back of a retiring pastor that he had already spoken with about helping us out until we found a permanent pastor. It was Dr.Ray Newcomb and his phone number. He said wait about a month before you give him a call. About 3 weeks go by and I get a order to install service for Ray Newcomb in Hills of Pickwick subdivision, at this time it doesn’t ring a bell with me that I have recieved a service order on the man that I have written on the back of Dr Tidwells business card. Another week goes by and it’s getting time for me to call Dr Newcomb and I receive another order to assist Ray Newcomb with his equipment he recieved from us.
    At this time I realize that Dr Newcomb’s number on the card and Ray Newcomb’s contact information are the same. Also at this moment my eyebrows go to the top of my head and chills run all over me. I go straight to Dr Newcomb’s house. He comes to the door and begins to thank me for us installing his service on time but that he needed some assistance with his equipment. I told him that before we take care of that we needed to talk about the business card in my hand. I received one of those hugs that so many of you have recieved and he said let’s sit down and talk. I may have been on that order a little long that day but I just couldn’t leave. It was that day that Bro Ray began to make a huge impact on my life and the life of our church as he did many others. He will be greatly missed by so many but has left us all a example to live by. Thank you father for bringing Ray Newcomb into our lives!!

  5. Belinda Mitchell says:

    So thankful to have know this man and had the honor to bee counseled by him, preached to by him, lifted up by him, and chastised by him all thru his anointing of our beloved Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you Brother Ray for accepting the call from our Lord, you were not perfect as you told us many times but you did love our Father and his people. You were a witness of all that God can do if we just heed His call and accept.

  6. Arnold Correll says:

    Bro. Ray was my first pastor as a new Christian years ago when I was new in the navy and going to school at the base in Millington. He baptised me on Easter Sunday in 1976. Later I came back to Millington for duty and returned to First Baptist. The last time I saw him was some years back not too long after the church moved into their new building. I thank God for allowing me to know such a Godly man. Thanks for writing this and reminding me of some of the basics he taught and lived.

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