The History & Journey of New Life Baptist Ministries
In January of 1985, Dr. Rufus Bradley Sr. was called by Deacon Addis Moore and a small group of believers and asked to consider serving as the pastor for a church they felt the Lord was calling them to organize. Dr. Bradley, truly believing God’s call was on his life to be a pastor, prayerfully considered the proposal and discussed it with his own pastor. A week later, Dr. Bradley met with the ban of believers and a covenant with God was made as was a commitment to be faithful members of the mission. Dr. Rufus and Relinda Bradley accepted the call as servant leaders of New Life. The organizing committee met initially at the homes of Deacon Addis Moore and Deacon Johnny Sewell to begin the formation of the church. The group collected $407 to start the new mission and held their first service under the name, “New Life Baptist Mission.” The church picked up momentum very quickly. One month later, a Baptist church counsel team was recruited to organize the church and New Life Baptist Mission was declared a certified Baptist church under the name New Life Missionary Baptist Church, with a membership of eighty-five people.
The church’s second place of worship was at 325 Lapeer Street in the Old Rescue Mission Building. The building eventually began showing signs of deterioration, making it was unfit for safe public worship. (A leaking roof, and no heat in the Pastor’s office (causing him to do most of his work at home) were some of the most immediate challenges facing the church.) In essence, the building was old and in bad shape; but God allowed New Life to use it until the church saw a need to build its own facility.
Due to rapid growth, the church had to make some quick decisions on how to raise the finances necessary to build a larger place to worship. The building we had chosen and had drawn up cost roughly $200,000, and with our down payment, we still needed $125,000. But the church’s membership had grown to about 150 members, and this rapid growth was evidence that we needed to begin building. Since New Life had only been established for six months, we had a problem getting a bank to loan us the remaining $125,000. God, however, had placed a Pastor on the board of Second National Bank and he spoke up for our young church, and our loan was approved.
Shortly after the building was completed in 1987, the growing congregation marched from our former location at 325 Lapeer Street to our new church at 1401 Janes Street. This was God’s third big move on our behalf in less than two years.
People from all over the community joined us on this five-block march. Law enforcement led us as a local tourist bus followed behind, carrying our elderly members who couldn’t walk very far. We marched and sang songs like: “We’re Marching On,” “Glory, Glory Hallelujah,” and many others
We entered the new building for our first 11:00 a.m. worship service, and the Spirit was moving in a big way. Over five hundred people were packed into our new sanctuary.
Over the years New Life experienced tremendous growth, financially, spiritually, and numerically. Lives were transformed and changed and New Life became a vibrant force in the community. Dr. Bradley developed a ministry which evolved around Christian Education, Preaching and Witnessing. New Life clearly became a church driven to serve Jesus Christ by serving the community and building the body of Christ through programs designed to allow members to exercise their spiritual gifts.
Dr. Bradley, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, felt compelled to move beyond the walls of New Life and transform the area around New Life. In 1999, New Life Baptist Church conducted a community survey seeking to discover needs of the community. The top six needs discovered were: childcare, after school programs, a safe place for seniors, jobs, better housing, and recreation. In 2006, these needs were declared to be our Mission In The City serving as the 501 c-3 community development arm of New Life Baptist Church Ministries. The Vision: “Make life better for the people in Saginaw and Saginaw County.” The Mission: “To restore our community one person, one block at a time.” God blessed Dr. Bradley to lead the congregation to begin strategically acquiring vacant properties and dilapidated drug/abandoned homes to create a sports complex in the heart of the city. In addition to a sports complex, acquired properties were used to (a) create a community garden that service hundreds of residents, (b) one of four homes acquired was used weekly by a physician and nurse to render limited medical assistance. Additionally, a community needs home was developed to render benevolence to those in need in the community. A twelve-step recovery program was organized to meet weekly with individuals dealing with drug, parenting, domestic or other issues.
The sports complex proved to begin a turnaround at New Life, its surrounding neighborhoods, and the city of Saginaw. Summer programs for youth, family reunions, Foster-Care picnics, Law enforcement three on three basketball and volleyball games were and still continue to be held at the sports complex. The quarter-mile track is used daily by residents who desire to stay in shape. Two play areas for youth ages 12 and below have been constructed to allow kids a place to play and have fun.
In 2017, God called Dr. Rufus Bradley Sr., after 32 year of service from labor to reward. Dr. Bradley’s preaching, teaching, spiritual example, leadership, vision and passion for people extends world-wide.
Dr. Bradley authored a book entitled, “From Death to Life: Discovering Life Through Failure And Pain.”
It tells about the challenges he faced as God led him to transform a church, a neighborhood, and a community.
New Life, faced with the loss of its only spiritual leader, sought God’s counsel to find a person able to continue to advance the Kingdom agenda. In May of 2018, Dr. Craig Tatum, who left New Life twenty years earlier to Pastor, accepted the call to pastor New Life. Dr. Tatum was no stranger to New Life; as he served as Youth Church Pastor and Christian Education Director for several years prior to becoming Pastor of First Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1998. Since returning home, the church has continued to experience growth spiritual, financially and numerically, with lives being changed and the city being transformed.