BRENHAM—Pastor Ross Shelton sometimes describes the multiple generations who worship at First Baptist Church in Brenham in terms of “from babies to Bracy.”
So, when senior member Bracy Bledsoe—a retired Texas Baptist pastor with nearly five decades of experience in ministry—celebrated his 100th birthday a few weeks ago, nobody was surprised a capacity crowd attended the reception a First Baptist.
“Bracy helps younger members grow in our trust of God,” Shelton said. “The reason being is that when Bracy speaks of God’s faithfulness, he can speak from decades of experiencing God at work. Knowing this helps us trust God through whatever we may be going through at the time.”
Born to be a preacher
Bledsoe spent 35 consecutive years as the pastor of churches throughout Central Texas and another 13 as a supply preacher or interim pastor.
“I think I came out of the womb knowing I would be a preacher,” he said, recalling times as a small child when he told adults he planned to be a preacher when he grew up.
His twin brother, Tracy, also eventually felt the same sense of God’s calling into ministry, and he spent about 40 years in ministry, including a long-term pastorate at Lamar Baptist Church in Beaumont.
Bracy Bledsoe attended Baylor University, where he met his wife of 55 years, Addie. During his senior year, he left Baylor to enter military service in World War II.
He served with the U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division from 1943 to 1945, primarily in the Philippines. Near Luzon in February 1945, he was on a mission as a connecting scout, delivering messages between units, when he was wounded. Bledsoe receive a Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained in combat.
In the years immediately after World War II, Bledsoe served Friendship Baptist Church in Waco, First Baptist Church in Chilton and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Corsicana.
In 1955, Immanuel Baptist Church in Temple called him to become pastor. When he arrived, the church averaged 380 in Sunday school attendance. When he left eight years later, average attendance had increased to 546. During his time in Temple, he led the church through a building campaign to construct a new sanctuary the congregation continues to use.
Pastorates at First Baptist in Dripping Springs and Ridgetop Baptist in Austin followed. One of his favorite memories from his time as pastor occurred while he served the Austin congregation.
“I remember one Sunday giving the invitation, and we had 16 additions,” he said, noting it was not following a revival or any other out-of-the-ordinary evangelistic outreach event. “It just happened.”
He went on to serve nine years at First Baptist Church in Buda before he retired from the full-time pastorate in 1981. However, he continued preaching at pastorless churches throughout the Austin area until 1994, when he retired to care for his ailing wife, who died in 1998.
Still a prayer warrior
Two years later, when he moved to Brenham to be near his children, Martha Hayden and Tim Bledsoe, he joined First Baptist Church.
For several years, when he was in his 80s, Bledsoe volunteered with the Bread Partners ministry, delivering groceries to families and individuals in need.
Although his pulpit ministry ended 23 years ago and his volunteer service has slowed considerably in more recent years, he continues to minister to his congregation as a prayer warrior. Bledsoe’s daily devotional routine includes time spent looking through the church’s directory, praying for members by name.
Four years ago, First Baptist called Shelton as pastor, and he has no bigger fan than Bledsoe.
“I support my pastor 100 percent,” he said. “He is not only a good pastor, but also a good pulpiteer.”
Mentor and ‘man of vision’
Bledsoe’s son, Tim, noted his father long has served as a mentor to younger pastors, and Shelton sees him in that light.
“Bracy’s experience as a pastor is helpful, because there is nothing that I’ve faced or will face that he hasn’t experienced,” Shelton said. “Bracy has experienced the joys and disappointments of being a pastor and knows what it’s like to walk through these experiences. Therefore, when I seek his advice, I know his answers come from a deep reservoir of pastoral experience.”
Bledsoe not only draws wisdom from the past, but also casts vision for the future, Shelton added.
“What impresses me about Bracy is that he is still a man of vision, faith and hope, even at age 100,” he said.
“Here recently, we’ve gone through a capital campaign. Bracy spoke in one of our videos about the opportunity set before us in our relocation. His support was meaningful to me, but what was most meaningful was his willingness to help us cast a vision for our church during the next season and to challenge us to walk by faith.”