D.Min. graduate guides inner city Dallas congregation to grow in its ministry
Growing up in Pensacola, Florida, Dr. Johnnie Bradley was passionate about playing football, but God had other plans. Eventually He would call Johnnie into ministry. This took him to a growing congregation in suburban Dallas, but God wasn’t finished yet. Johnnie went on to become pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, located in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Since coming to Shiloh, the inner city congregation has grown, but most importantly it has reached out sharing Jesus’ love with individuals facing daunting life challenges.
Let’s talk about your calling into ministry.
I was called to ministry in high school but I ran from my calling to pursue athletics. I thought football was my ticket, but God had other plans.
When I got into high school, the athletic piece just did not work out for me like it worked out for others. So I stepped into my call to preach when I graduated from high school. I was 19 years old. Even after accepting a call to preach, my peers had an issue with that, so what I tried to do because of peer pressure… is “I’ll just go to school and try to play football anyway. I’ll just ignore the call of God on my life.”
I attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I didn’t get a full scholarship, I got a partial, but it just didn’t work out. One day I was in my room. I’ll never forget it, in Bond Hall on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi and the Lord told me to go home and answer the call. And I did so. But when I returned home I got back involved in ministry with the local church, after a couple of years of serving—still single—I met my wife. And she was in Florida visiting her aunt. It was like an extended vacation for her. She had just graduated from college. So she came down to Florida, just like on an extended vacation. I met her and I moved back to her hometown, which is Guthrie, Oklahoma, about 16 miles north of Oklahoma City. We got married and were doing well in Oklahoma City. I was a retail manager for Dillard's department stores. Then her dad introduced me to a preacher in the Dallas Metroplex who planted a church and the church was doing well. He asked me to become his youth pastor.
So I left Florida, went to Oklahoma, and by default ended up in the Dallas Metroplex on staff at a church. (I was) totally confused, not knowing exactly what to do as a youth pastor, but I enrolled in the school. So that’s how I got here. I had no idea that I would be living in the Dallas Metroplex. But I went to Criswell College first, finished the associate’s program, went to Dallas Baptist University, got my bachelor’s and my master’s degree.
How did you discover Anderson University?
I normally attend the E.K. Bailey Expository Preaching conference. It was at that conference that Dr. (Michael) Duduit was facilitating a class. I sat in his class and was impressed with the material he presented in regards to homiletics and preaching. So after that class I sat in another class right after that. I was encouraged… different things I learned in regards to preaching to add to what I had already received by attending Dallas Baptist University and Criswell College. And so that year passed and then the following year Dr. Duduit was back teaching again and I sat in his class again. And that’s when he made mention that Anderson would start Clamp Divinity School. That dream is a reality now. I was somewhat interested, but I did not inquire as much.
The following year, I sat in his class again and he said that Clamp Divinity School was getting ready to launch. They were looking at structuring and designing a program that would bless the lives of preachers and teachers and prepare them for ministry. Of course it would be accessible and affordable.
The Lord led me to go back and talk to him about enrolling, and the rest is history. I graduated in 2016.
What are some of the ways your classes at Clamp Divinity School have benefited you the most?
My classes helped me because they were designed to be practical classes. You could study scholarly material that is presented in a practical manner. Dr. Duduit and I’m sure the rest of the faculty that serve with him… Associate Dean Dr. Barnett and others, Dr. Fuller, Dr. Dante Wright—they were able to design a curriculum that had a scholarly foundation, but they utilized practical methods, which allows the preacher, teacher or parishioner to take it back home with them. And I think that’s something that is really unique as well as being accessible. They not only emphasize academics but they help you work through the process academically and make it more practical for the student.
So you would recommend Clamp Divinity School to anybody who is seeking to grow in their ministry?
Clamp Divinity School is the premier school in the country now, there is no doubt about it. I’m here in Dallas, Texas, and I have traveled almost across the country—halfway at least—to get to South Carolina, on the east coast to attend Anderson University. All of the flights that I have caught, all of the cars that I rented, all of the hotels that I’ve stayed in says that it is well worth it, not only in a sense of the academics and accessibility, but the affordability. If you really want to go to a school that is conservative theologically and the faculty is accessible as well as being affordable, Anderson is the place. The education you receive from Clamp Divinity School, you can take it anywhere in the nation and around the world.
I’ve preached at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I’ve preached in the Southern Baptist Convention, I’ve preached at Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, I’ve preached for the National Baptist Convention. My ministry is multiethnic. I do workshops around the country. I’ve preached for Dallas Baptist Association, Texas Baptist Association, Florida Baptist Association. I’ve traveled the country and abroad teaching and preaching the gospel with a multiethnic emphasis.
I just taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary last Saturday at the Equip Conference 2022, which was probably 1,800 to 2,500 attendees—multiethnic. And I’ve taught preaching, basically using a lot of the resources that I gleaned and gained from Anderson University Clamp Divinity School. It is paramount that the preachers and teachers want a solid education with a scholarly flavor that is practical. Clamp Divinity School is the place to be.
I understand there’s a remarkable story about how the Lord led you to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Also remarkable is how Shiloh reaches out to the surrounding community.
Really, even before I got to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church 16 years ago, it was already a church that did a lot of outreach. There are a lot of homeless in inner city Dallas and the church would provide clothes and food. As a matter of fact, a couple of the deacons in our church would go to the Dallas Life Foundation and pick up homeless men and women, bring them back to the church and allow them to go in the clothes closet, provide them a meal and then have worship service there on a Saturday. This was done once a month.
When I arrived, outreach was already being done. Mind you, I was on staff at a church in the suburbs which had evolved into a megachurch. And so the Lord pulled me up from the megachurch and sent me into the inner city to a church that was already doing a lot of outreach and evangelism. Shiloh didn’t have a consistent group of members, a large group of members. It was about 20 - 25 at the most. So when I arrived, even though the number was not massive, which I was used to, having over 2,000 people show up for church every Sunday, this church was doing ministry on a major level.
When I got there and saw what was occurring, the Lord led me just to reorganize and to restructure the ministry there so that we would not only impact those that were homeless but those who have jobs, those who are in corporate America, because they needed the gospel as well. And so what I did was reorganize our outreach effort and we started drawing a broader audience. We were still going to pick the homeless men and women up from downtown—Dallas Life Foundation—and bring them to church. They would worship with us on Sunday morning. But we started getting lawyers coming to our church. Schoolteachers started coming to our church. Mortgage brokers, people with high profile jobs, people in government.
In reorganizing it, not only did we provide the clothes closet, and not only did we provide food for those who are homeless, but what we started doing as well is making sure those who appear to be doing well, we started helping them with commodities, canned foods, vegetables, fruit and clothes. Our church began to grow, and so our church had become packed every Sunday. We had 185-325 people in a sanctuary that could only hold 200 people. Then the Lord led us to the current location, which is a sanctuary that can seat 800 people.
How did the COVID-19 Pandemic affect your ministry?
I know everybody has some major challenges from COVID, but our church continued to grow during COVID and we were able to provide more food for those who were in need, those who had lost their jobs, those whose finances were depleted, and of course with the assistance that the government gave to source nonprofit organizations with the necessary funds to get food to people that were hurting.
Also, we partner with the North Texas Food Bank. We’ve been able to consistently provide food, water, bread, milk, produce, fruit… It has been an ongoing outreach effort for our church and during COVID-19 being that we didn’t have worship inside, we began to have worship in the parking lot of our church. People were still joining our church. So, through COVID-19 our church continued to grow. We have more people coming to church now than we had before COVID-19.
We have anywhere from 800 to 1,500 people we service in our community through our giveaway. When we have our food giveaway, people come from all parts of the Metroplex. They start lining up, coming to take part in our food giveaway. And the Lord has blessed us with a unique group of volunteers. Deacon James Smith, who is our outreach director. Our former outreach director, deacon John Lemons, and deacon Eric Rush, Kelton Lemons, Julius Jackson, Loys Washington and Kerry Jones. Then our preachers help. We have eight preachers at our church. Then of course our women’s ministries serve as well. Also we have volunteers that come from different churches and even the North Texas Food Bank, so it has been an amazing experience to service the community in our zip code through our food giveaway.
When people come to you for help, are there any particular people coming out?
Initially, it was just Hispanic. But when we put our community food giveaway flags out, now we’ve got Hispanic, Asians, African Americans, Anglos—the giveaway now is totally multiethnic. You’ve got people who are driving up to the giveaways in 30,40,50,000 dollar cars; they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve been laid off for one reason or another. It has been an effort the way it has blessed many ethnicities. It’s been an amazing ministry opportunity, but at the same time while we’re blessing them with food, trying to help them with their physical needs, we share the gospel. We’ve prayed for people. We place tracts in their baskets. We’ve invited them to church.
Not only that, the Lord has blessed us with a nice size facility, we have permitted two other church plants to have worship in our fellowship hall area. They have alternating schedules. They have bought into the ministry effort as well and they have assisted in areas to witness to these different groups of people.
The enemy has tried to get us uptight and create a stir but he haven’t been able to stop what we’ve been able to do. The Bible says “no weapon formed against you shall prosper.” I believe that.
It’s been an amazing experience. God has truly blessed and we are just grateful for the opportunity just to serve on God’s program. We are the hands and the feet of Jesus here on earth.
As president of the Clamp Divinity School Alumni Association, what would you say to someone asking why they should go there?
I would tell them, you want to be thoroughly prepared for ministry, to the point that you’re able to serve in a multiethnic setting, because heaven isn’t going to be any particular people group, it’s going to be multiethnic. You want to be thoroughly prepared to do ministry, not only to the people from your class but to be multiethnic, well-rounded, to be able to stand anywhere. Clamp Divinity School is the school for you.