Mike Bartlett grew up in the mountains outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania at a Christian Camp experiencing two radically different world: rural Pennsylvania and urban students from New York City. Living at the intersection of urban and rural culture for the first 14 years of his life shaped his values and passions—a love for the diversity and creativity of the city as well as a love for the great outdoors. This was the perfect setting to be exposed to the gospel as it was impacting lives across every conceivable ethnic, economic, and cultural divide. Mike was deeply convicted about his inability to live up to his own standards much less God’s and realized that he need to be rescued. Mike committed his life to Jesus at summer camp and it made a real and lasting impact on his life.
While Mike knew Jesus had saved him, he wasn’t so sure Jesus could satisfy him. In high school and college he desired to be a high-powered lawyer making lots of money. He tried to maintain the balance between keeping himself and God happy. In college someone handed him John Piper’s book Desiring God, which questioned this shallow view of Christianity. Piper argued that God’s glory and our joy our not two competing agendas but one. He said “that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”. While this was an intriguing insight, it was when his career ambitions took a blow God got his attention. Scoring poorly on the LSAT’s kept him from pursuing any top tier law schools. This brought him to his knees asking God what he wanted to do with his life.
With law school plans on hold Mike decided to try a year of seminary. This was an amazing experience, but he was still uncertain about the future. Right as the year was coming to a close; he was offered a teaching assistant job at the seminary and student ministries internship at a local church confirming God’s call on his life. Mike also met his wife Jamie, who was a counseling student at the seminary. He would go on to complete his Master of Divinity at Biblical Seminary while working as a student ministries pastor. Though he enjoyed student ministries; he desired for the whole church to experience the passionate worship, deep community, the freedom and flexibility in reaching people far from God. This passion naturally sparked his interest in church planting, which combines all of these factors. But interest and calling are two very different things, so he prayed and fasted for God’s leading.
God was putting Grand Rapids on both Jamie & Mike’s heart. But they didn’t know how to make the transition from student ministries to church planting. Then God opened the door to a church planting residency at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN working under John Piper whose books were so instrumental in his call to ministry. Bethlehem’s Church Planting Residency was the perfect opportunity to follow God’s call into church planting. Bethlehem provided a hands on view of the inner workings of pastoral ministry in an urban context, as well as great assessment and training for church planting.
During this time Mike was visiting Grand Rapids praying that God would open the doors to a plant in the heart of the city. God brought together an amazing team and a partner church. In July 2010, Mike & Jamie moved to Grand Rapids to spend a year at Crossroads Bible Church in preparation to plant Redemption City Church. Mike & Jamie have three boys Jonathan, Caleb, and Benjamin.