I am a native of San Carlos, California, just south of San Francisco. God introduced himself to me through one of my best friends (Stan Carroll) on the ball field who invited me to church camp. After seven years of camp I went to church and I've been going back ever since. I am a flesh-and-blood example of how each member of the body of Christ can play a pivotal role in reaching out to its community.
I love to share my salvation story with folks over a cup of coffee but I can also summarize it in a few sentences. Dad was an alcoholic who left my mom, brother and I when I was 6. My childhood was more chaotic than calm and would’ve been worse if it wasn’t for my grandparents, the Carroll’s and Redwood Church. I was an angry, undisciplined kid who got suspended every grade 7th -12th and eventually dropped out of high school. Tried to play baseball at two JuCo’s but apparently you had to go to class as a part of the deal. Finally, one night in February I called my old Youth Pastor, Fred Spain. I said the words that described my life. “Fred, my life sucks.” Fred said the words that changed my life. “Joel, until Jesus means everything, He won’t mean anything.” He said some other stuff, I hung up and cried out, “God save me from me.” I was baptized the next day. I’ve never looked back.
My educational resume probably won't knock your socks off. (It doesn't even knock mine off!) I'm a graduate of Abilene Christian University, and I'm currently working on my Master's of Christian Ministry degree at ACU. I'm certainly confident in the pulpit and feel like I have a good grasp on the Word and that the Word has an increasingly greater grasp on me. But I believe without a doubt that God has hard-wired me to be a minister of the gospel in the literal sense of the word. That encompasses public speaking, for sure, but any ministry in which I'm involved must include rolled-up sleeves, face-to-face contact, and plenty of opportunities to cast a vision within both the community of faith and individuals of how the risen Christ can redeem each area of our lives.
Any biographical description of me begins and ends with my wife, Kim; and my children, John, 29; Laura, 24; and Emily, 18. They are without a doubt the most powerful sermons of Christ's love and God's goodness I've ever watched preached. Small in statue, my wife Kim is my biggest fan and has a heart roughly the size of planet Jupiter. She was apparently given a double dose of hospitality and kindness by God for which I am eternally grateful. We are in love! We go on weekly date nights and embarrass our kids often with our public displays of affection. My son John is my “Champ.” He is a dedicated to the Lord, disciplined in so many areas and brilliant with computers. He works for Vendor Resource Management and runs his own computer company in his spare time. My daughter Laura is my “Princess” and is our "center” (as in "center of attention") child. Both bold and beautiful, Laura loves Jesus, hates legalism and has the voice of an angel. She graduated from ACU and now teaches Kindergarten for Peterson Elementary in NISD. Our youngest, Emily, is part comic, part artist, and all cute. Emily is my “Baby Girl” and she too, like her older sister and mother, has a huge heart for the underdog and a ginormous giving spirit. Emily is a senior at Byron and plans to load up in an RV with the family a few days after graduation and head to California to attend Pepperdine University. I am often brought to tears when I think of how richly God has blessed me with such an amazing family.
I see the role of the preacher to be more nutritionist and less surgeon. More of a guide and less of a guru. My preaching style is more of a football coach and less of a college professor. I will usually error on the side of grace and always preach of an upside down kingdom. I am learning to love Jesus more and more each day. I love the church but not more than Christ. I embrace change but love ritual. I am so grateful that God has made me a son and not a slave.
As Lead Pastor, I lead our staff, equip and encourage other leaders, and preach the Gospel so that people will be challenged to serve, and that our body of believers might be built up for God's glory (Ephesians 4:11-16). I love working with our people and meeting new people and consider each day of life a blessing from God. I love to lead Byron Nelson Young Life and I go to Young Life camp. God is moving powerfully in the life of our Bara family, and in our friends in Trophy Club, Westlake, and Roanoke and beyond and I'm just grateful to witness to the miracle!
I look forward to getting to know each of you better. Thank you so much for checking out the site and I hope we can journey together. Brothers and sisters, God is good and his love endures forever. Praise the Lord for he is prodigal with his love!
My Hope For Bara Church
When God called Kim and I to plant a church there wasn’t much clarity about where, when, with who, or how. But we felt clear about these things: It would be a church of humility, community, ministry and generosity. It would be a church that reaches and releases the next generation for the Gospel. It would be a church that lifts up the Name of Jesus so that He, Jesus, would draw all men and women to Himself. And when He did that, we would have no other choice then to give God the glory! My hope for Bara Church is that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power and grace, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. I pray that it would be Christ’s love which compels us to love and causes us to see people differently. I thank God for giving us the ministry of reconciliation and want everything that the people of Bara calls ministry would flow from the belief that God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And that we would never forget that he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. I pray that I would lead, preach, serve and live in such a way that Christ’s love would whisper through me, “Jesus won’t mean anything until he means everything.”
Into The Glass
Venti-upside down-half caff-low fat caramel macchiato. (Iced except Nov – March)
Thanksgiving, hands down.
What I Like To Do For Fun
Ball Park Trips w/ Mitch & Alan
INTERESTS AND FAVORITES
Anywhere with Kim!
What's On Your Playlist
Books (besides the Bible)
Love Does by my friend, Bob Goff (favorite)
Anything by Max, Miller, McNeal, McLaren, or Maxwell
I love leadership books (Wooden, Graham, Collins, Sanders & Covey)
Books about the church
I'm one of those nutballs who read 10 books simultaneously and finish roughly 7 out of 10 books I start.
Saving Private Ryan
Dumb and Dumber
Elitists and separatist religion
People who give up
Bad parents (abusive, neglectful, selfish, critical)
The designated hitter
My favorite number is 13
I've never ridden in a limo
I've never tasted hard liquor
I've preached in a maximum security prison
I've fallen asleep while driving and rolled my car 5 times at 70 mph and walked away without a scratch