Robert Lehn grew up the son of a pastor, so the ministry always tugged at his heart. As a teenager, he believed God was calling him into the ministry and he took theological studies in college.
“I felt the Lord was leading me to go into full-time ministry,” said Lehn, who studied at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis. After graduate school, Lehn served as assistant pastor to his father at a church in Wisconsin. He and his wife, the former Kay Walters of Augusta, prayed about what God would have them do.
The Lehns were led to return to the Augusta-Aiken area and it soon became evident that that was where they were to plant a church.
“I took a church-planting class in graduate school, but I never thought I would use it,” Lehn said with a chuckle.
Westside Baptist Church held its first service at Augusta Christian Schools on July 10, 1983, with about 40 people in attendance. Two years later, the church purchased land on Flowing Wells Road and the following year an auditorium was built on the property.
Today, the 350-member church includes an activity center and an education building.
“The work at Westside, every day, is to do what they can for the Lord,” said charter member Rusty Jennings. “I love Pastor Lehn. He’s a man who loves the souls of people and who loves the Lord.”
Over the years, the church has had challenges, Lehn said, but his biggest challenge has been keeping his messages relevant and spurring spiritual growth, not only in his own heart but in the hearts of others.
“I have strived to make messages relevant and God-honoring whereby people continue to grow spiritually,” he said. “I feel like the Lord has established a solid, indigenous, Bible-preaching church here.”
Lehn is humble, giving all the glory to God for making the ministry possible.
“There is an eternal value in reaching the souls of men,” said Lehn, adding that the church supports more than 50 ministries and has active children, youth, college and adult programs. “We are debt-free, but the greatest accomplishment is the spirit-filled people. They have a servant’s heart. They reach out to each other and to the community.”
The church has a food bank and a work-fair program. It is in the process of bringing together plans for a new auditorium and hopes to begin a capital improvement fund soon.
While Westside continues to grow, Lehn said there are innumerable challenges facing churches.
“The biggest challenge facing churches today is staying biblical,” he said. “I think we have a society affecting churches. We need to hold the line of what is biblically right. The world is constantly trying to influence and affect the church.
“We need churches that preach a biblical message while refusing to become like the world to ‘win the world.’At Westside, we try to preach a biblical message that gives people hope.”