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November 22, 2019

New Warrenton Baptist pastor “God’s UPS man”

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
“I get paid to plagiarize. That Bible’s good stuff,” says W. Michael Bradley, Warrenton Baptist Church’s new senior pastor.
W. Michael Bradley
• Age: 60

• Work: Senior pastor, Warrenton Baptist Church, starting Nov. 18

• Experience: Senior pastor, Parkwood Baptist, Annandale, 2007-19; associate pastor, First Baptist, Woodbridge, 2001-07; senior pastor, Sunset Hills Baptist, Alexandria, 1991-2001; minister of evangelism and youth, First Baptist, Alexandria, 1986-91; minister of youth, Mt. Washington (Ky.) United Methodist, 1983-86; minister of education and youth, Calvary Hill Baptist, Fairfax, 1982-83; minister of youth, National Gardens Baptist, Falls Church, 1978-82.

• Education: Master’s degree and doctoral work, divinity, Southern Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; bachelor’s, psychology, George Mason University; Annandale High School, 1977.

• Family: Wife of 37 years, Lois; four children; two grandchildren.

• Hobbies: Biking, kayaking, other outdoor activities and playing guitar.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
The Warrenton Baptist Church’s new senior pastor calls himself “weird” and admits that religion can seem boring to some people.

But, W. Michael “Mike” Bradley settled on his life’s work 43 years ago at a revival in rural Indiana. At 60 and starting at his seventh church, Rev. Bradley has no plan to slow down, however. He relishes the job.

“I’m not an office guy,” he says. “I’m more hands-on . . . . I like one-on-one contact.”

Coming from Parkwood Baptist in Annandale, Rev. Bradley already has spent a lot of time in Warrenton, walking the streets, meeting Mayor Carter Nevill and the staff at Deja Brew, which he frequents.

The trim, former marathon runner seems to move even as he sits in his new office, its bookshelves still empty last week.

“My job is not to bring people to Warrenton Baptist Church,” he says during a 90-minute conversation. “I told you, I’m weird. That’s a decision between you and God (in terms of selecting a place of worship). I don’t care were you go (to church), as long as you go.

“Warrenton Baptist is gonna grow . . . . Jesus is a people magnet. My job as a pastor is not to bring people to church, but to lift up Christ.

“I can’t wait. I’m on the edge of my seat.”

Although not looking for a move from Parkwood, where he had served since April 2007, Rev. Bradley says his excitement grew when he first came out to have dinner with some Warrenton Baptist leaders in August.

The 170-year-old Main Street church continued to search for a successor to Jay Lawson, the beloved pastor who retired in February after 19 years here.

Rev. Bradley liked what he learned the about the 800-member, “mission-minded” church that for decades has worked in rural Haiti as well as its local community. The Warrenton Baptist Tiny Tots preschool underscored its commitment to children. The plan for a community center added to WBC’s appeal.

“I started talking to them and I got really excited.”

By the time he and his wife Lois came back for a second interview, the discussions had grown quite serious.

The church invited him to preach in late October — essentially the final audition. Rev. Bradley got a standing ovation and an overwhelming secret-ballot vote from the congregation, offering him the position.

He conducted his last services Sunday, Nov. 17, at Parkwood and started the next day at Warrenton Baptist, where he will lead his first services as the new pastor this Sunday, Nov. 24.

Rev. Bradley says his sermons typically run 30 minutes.

Weaving the Gospel and modern life together, he stresses the “Four P’s” — presence, preparation, prayer and purpose.

“I’m a simple guy. I like alliteration.”

He variously describes himself as “God’s UPS man . . . like a physician’s assistant . . . . I get paid to plagiarize. That Bible’s good stuff.”

At its essence, he describes the message as “love God; love other people.”

Growing up in Elkhart, Ind., where farming and RV manufacturing dominate, Rev. Bradley knew at an early age that he wanted to go to college and to help people, probably as a counselor. “A good kid,” he grew up in a “strongly-Christian” family.

But at a revival, the 17-year-old suddenly saw his path.

“Something was pulling me,” he says. “There were probably 300 people there . . . . The preacher suddenly said, ‘Someone here tonight is feeling the call to become a full-time minister.’ I knew 100 percent that he was talking to me.

“I’ve never, ever looked back.”

He moved to Northern Virginia, graduated from Annandale High School in 1977 and then from George Mason University before earning a master’s degree in divinity at Southern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. But, right after high school, he started as a youth minister in Falls Church.

He has pastored primarily in large, urban/suburban churches. That makes Warrenton an exciting, challenging change, he says.

Rev. Bradley ranks involving young people in all aspects of the church among his priorities.

“God wants for everyone an abundant life,” he says, describing his role as helping “people realize they are part of God’s purpose.

“I’m a personal pastor. What can I do for you? It’s about relationships.”

He adds: “God’s getting ready to let loose in Warrenton . . . . I’m just happy to be a part of what’s already happening.”

Contact Editor “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

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