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Our History

On June 21, 1925, amidst economic crisis and destitution, a small group of Pontiac citizens recognized the need to look to God for help, rather than the government, and they held a meeting to discuss the vision God had set before them : to form a church with the purpose of “soul-winning and service to the community.”  To a young woman in the group, God revealed through a dream the name of the church and its location; it was to be called “New Bethel” and sit on a hill, representing its purpose to be a beacon of light for the city of Pontiac.  For two years, New Bethel held church services in a local school building and baptisms in a local river while the first church building was being constructed.  In May of 1927, the first Sunday service was held in the new church building.

The Lord sent the Rev. J. W. Conyers from Detroit, Michigan to serve as the first pastor of the church.  Under his leadership, the church grew tremendously.    In 1943, a new pastor was installed, Rev. William H. Bell.  Recognizing the membership growth that God would send to New Bethel, Pastor Bell immediately began to plans for building a larger church.  Faced with a small church building with a weakening structure and little funds, the members of New Bethel had to have faith that God would provide the resources they needed for a new church building.  And the Lord rewarded their faith!  Through member support and donations from other churches and philanthropic organizations, they raised the money they needed to build a new church across the street from the first church. This church, our current house of worship, opened its doors in 1952.   

In June of 1957, Pastor Bell resigned from his position, but the Lord sent Rev. Amos G. Johnson from the “red hills of Mississippi” to the church.  His wife, Sis. Marjorie Johnson, received a vision of New Bethel from the Lord before she and Rev. Johnson had ever visited.  After Rev. Johnson visited the church for the first time, they both knew the Lord was leading them there.  Rev. Johnson was installed as the pastor of New Bethel on August 28, 1957.  During his time at New Bethel, Rev. Johnson accomplished tremendous works for the Lord, including building a community gym attached to the church, opening a homeless shelter and food pantry in our former church, and mentoring several dozen young ministers who have grown to become pastors and spiritual leaders nationwide. 

One of the many ministers who Pastor Johnson mentored included our current pastor, Rev. Keyon Payton.  Pastor Johnson named Pastor Payton as his successor upon in retirement in 2006.  Pastor Payton has been an immeasurable blessing to New Bethel.  The vision the Lord gave him – “building up and empowering the total person through the study of God’s word” – is a continuation of the initial desires of that small group of founders from 1925 who knew that the Lord was the only true source of empowerment for the community.  With him as our leader, New Bethel’s future is bound to be as rich and rewarding as its history has been.    

Excerpts taken from The Meeting: The History of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church (2010) by Sis. Maria Baylor.