[headingbanner url= http://www.newbirthcogic.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/history.jpg]
Let us begin by saying that the history of the New Birth Church of God in Christ did not begin on November 26, 1964, the date of our Inaugural Service; It began on a farm in Natchez, Mississippi when at the age of five, Johnie Bennie Wheeler heard the voice of God speak to him, saying, Go Preach, and build me a Church House. At that time, he was too young to know that the voice he was hearing belonged to God, so he told his mother that ‘a man’ told him to preach and build him a church house, as it was called in that day. Immediately, he began to preach; he preached to the cotton stalks in the field and to the chairs that he had set up as his congregation. He even began to preach the funeral services of the dead animals around the farm. He preached to anything that he thought would listen and not interrupt. So you see, God had deeply implanted the seed in his heart for the ministry and the church house he was to build.
After having served faithfully under the leaderships of Elder W. A. Hicks and Elder A.C. McClellan, he stepped out on faith and held the first service of the New Birth Church at 8 West 57th Place, on the 26th day of November, in the year of 1964, With him were his first five members: his wife, Evangelist Ethel Wheeler, Evangelist Geneva Black, to whom God had given the name New Birth while she was visiting in Little Rock, Arkansas, Deacon George Gordon, Missionary Rosetta Silas and Pastor Wheeler’s sister, Ernestine Gordon. This, my friend, was the beginning of a dream coming to pass.
The initial success of the New Birth Church was the result of the dedicated life of our Pastor and Founder, Elder, Johnie Bennie Wheeler. Known affectionately as Daddy Wheeler, he was a man of much prayer and faith and was indeed, a lover of all mankind, young and old alike. It was through the life of this man that God touched the lives of many. Though not highly educated, but possessing Wisdom and an Understanding that only God himself could give, Elder Wheeler became a Vessel, fit and prepared for the work of the Lord. It was into this man’s heart that God placed The Vision.
After having outgrown the rented space at 8 W 57th St., we moved to a new location, 915 W. 69th Street, but only for a short while. It wasn’t very long before the membership’s growth demanded more space. While driving west on 69th Street one day, Pastor Wheeler spotted a storefront building at 1504 W. 69th Street and inquired about its purchase. On Sunday, January 26, 1966, after extensive remodeling, we held our first service in this new location. Experiencing the over-flowing blessings of God and after hearing the voice of the Lord saying to CLAIM THE CORNER, the Church soon negotiated for the adjacent properties at 1500 and 1502, and became the proud owners.
In six years, God blessed New Birth to buy and completely pay for the properties from 1500 through 1508 West 69th Street. Yet, the Church was still in a storefront. Because Elder Wheeler wanted a church house, attempts were made to buy an existing edifice at other locations. But they were all unsuccessful. God kept stressing the Corner. It was in April of 1974 that our Pastor and our Head Deacon Brother J.H. Feazell, realized that this was the corner, this was the street, and this was the Community in which the Lord wanted His Church to be built. A building fund drive was then initiated, with the theme taken from the book of Nehemiah 4:6, So build we the wall, for the people had a mind to work.
Part of the existing buildings was demolished; construction began; and a beautiful new edifice was erected and dedicated to God on November 27, 1977. Having used up most of our funds, we assumed a mortgage of $50,000 to complete and furnish the inside of the structure. The membership immediately went to work again to retire our only mortgage. With plans inspired by God and with the people all being of one mind, we celebrated the MORTGAGE BURNING SERVICE on Sunday, December 14, 1980, just 3 years after its assumption. Soon thereafter, we remodeled our dining room and kitchen areas and purchased three additional lots at 1510 – 1516 West 69th Street. These lots were paid and prepared for additional parking for the congregation.
In 1990, after another successful drive, New Birth constructed a completely new Office Complex which was built onto the rear of the church, and dedicated to the Lord’s service by our State Prelate, Bishop Louis Henry Ford. This Complex includes a beautifully furnished Pastor’s Office and Study with an attached garage; a Financial Secretary’s Office, a Business Office, which includes several high-tech business machines, a Conference Memorial Room, and additional storage rooms.
On October 23, 1991, God called our Pastor, Friend, and our Daddy Wheeler home, to his life’s reward. Elder Wheeler left the church a rich legacy, an inheritance of Love, Faith, and Stability. He planted within our hearts to love one another and to stick together. He knew that when we came together, God’s Will would be accomplished.
God is faithful to His Word and did not leave New Birth Church without a witness. Upon the death of our founder, Elder Johnie Wheeler, Bishop Louis Henry Ford appointed Elder Willard Payton pastor of the New Birth Church of God in Christ in 1991. Born in Chicago, IL to the late Missionary Mary Louise Payton, Elder Willard Payton was blessed by the Godly influence of the late Elder and Mother Johnie B. Wheeler, where a sanctified home was the source of the sound foundation upon which his life was established.
Pastor Payton, a man of great faith and wisdom, continued to lead the New Birth Church family by precept and example. A focus on the total man was placed in the heart of our Pastor which lead to the establishment of the New Birth Community Care Center (NBCCC) in 1992. This not-for-profit, 501C3 Community Development Corporation was established with the mission to motivate and engage in the development and the revitalization of the general Englewood Community, where New Birth Church of God In Christ is located.
It was Elder Wheeler’s dream to one day build a place where the seniors of our community could live and enjoy to the fullest, the latter years of their lives. He saw the elderly being pushed aside ignored and neglected and he knew that God was not pleased and wanted him to focus on making a difference. So we began the plan for, began to think, to talk, and to believe the Vision. One day there would be a Nursing Home or a Senior Building in this neighborhood. This was the vision that God had placed in his heart, and he spent his latter years building the foundation on which this building would be based. As chairman of the NBCCC, our Pastor, Willard Payton, assembled and lead a cross-functional team consisting of church, community, and business leaders to develop a plan to implement that vision. This team worked diligently, and in February 2003, a $13 million dollar 89-unit affordable Senior Housing named Wheeler House was opened and enjoys continued success today.
In the year which we celebrate God’s Divine Favor (2014) of our Ministry, the Lord led our Jurisdictional Prelate, Bishop Ocie Booker, to recommend Pastor Payton to the Presiding Bishop to be elevated to the office of Auxiliary Bishop in the Church of God In Christ. Bishop Charles Edward Blake and the General Board prayerfully considered, reviewed and unanimously approved the recommendation and on November 9, 2014, our Pastor was consecrated to the office of Auxiliary Bishop.
The foundational theme for the New Birth Church is GOD IS A GOOD GOD, and we are witnesses of His Goodness from our beginning even to this present day as we SHARE CHRIST, SERVE OTHERS AND SHOW GOD.