West Haven’s new minister finds ‘awesome group of people’
The Rev. Mike Bronson, new pastor of Tonganoxie's West Haven Baptist Church, didn't become a Christian until he was 23.
The 45-year-old Bronson recalled his transition.
"In May 1984 on a Wednesday night I knelt down in front of a couch in an old mobile home I rented and asked Christ to be in my heart and life and to be my lord and savior," Bronson said.
With him was his then-future wife, Tara, who already was a born-again Christian.
Bronson said he was a different person after that.
"The change was immediate and evident," Bronson said. "And I guess it took because now I'm a pastor in a church."
And now, a year after the Rev. Rick Lamb, former West Haven pastor, moved to Texas, Bronson is filling his pulpit. Bronson also follows the Rev. Ron Mills, who served as interim pastor after Lamb's departure. The church is at U.S. Highway 24-40 and Washington Street.
Bronson, his wife, Tara, and their children, David, 16, Joseph, 12, and Mary Beth, 10, recently moved to Tonganoxie from Jefferson City, Mo.
Last winter, Bronson considered the possibility of coming to Tonganoxie, at the suggestion of Mills, a friend. In December, the Bronsons decided they probably would not pursue the Tonganoxie pastoral opening.
A month later, their son, David, who suffers from Crohn's disease, was hospitalized two weeks for his illness.
"All thoughts of moving completely left," Bronson said of that critical period of time.
After in-hospital treatments, David's Crohn's disease went into remission.
Life started to settle down again, Bronson said.
"The Lord started speaking to my heart again and all of a sudden my heart was totally different toward coming here," Bronson said.
In Jefferson City, Bronson served as associate pastor of Concord Baptist Church. On Sunday mornings, about 900 attended worship services.
His Tonganoxie congregation is smaller, he said, with about 300 attending Sunday worship. But, he said the church, which has a growing membership, recently added a second Sunday morning worship service.
Bronson said, based on the people he's met, the move to Tonganoxie was a good decision.
"Tonganoxie has a great group of people," Bronson said. "They're an awesome group of people."
Bronson's Tonganoxie ministry marks a change in his career. This is his first full-time ministry.
Bronson's passion for preaching began in mid-life.
At Truman State University he majored in mass communications. After college, from 1984 to 1987, he worked long hours as editor of the Bowling Green Times in Bowling Green, Mo.
"In the newspaper I was working 70 hours a week," Bronson said. "I loved it, but I got burned out."
So, in 1987, he found another line of work -- as an independent insurance agent in Bowling Green.
"It was a good fit," Bronson said. "I ended up buying the agency in 1994."
But another career change was in store.
"God called me to preach in 1996," Bronson said. "... God just started to talk to my heart. I would think about it in the morning, I would think about it when I went to bed. It would be on my mind constantly."
He enrolled at Trinity Theological Seminary, which is based in Newburgh, Ind., but has satellite sites and offers distance-learning courses.
The course-work took six years to complete and during this time he continued to operate the insurance agency. But in 2000, he sold the agency to go into full-time ministry.
This career choice may have seemed unusual for the man who explained, "I never darkened the door of a church until I was 24 -- never."
Bronson said his strength as pastor is that he works hard to preach and teach the word of God.
"And I work very hard at loving the people," Bronson said. "It's a pretty simple formula, love God, love the people."
He said one of the biggest challenges for him is leadership.
"Pastoral leadership is always a difficult field to navigate," Bronson said. "I just keep praying and asking God for wisdom."