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“Live Your Story” Series- Joseph Barkley

March 20, 2011

I don’t know about you but when I encounter someone living out an amazing story, I initially just want to be them. It’s a weird mix of appreciation and laziness.  But at some point my desires start to surface and those passionate examples serve not as an exact template but rather as an encouragement to know my own design. We are all designed differently, to reflect the varied aspects of God’s heart towards man.  I love this series because I get to pursue people who tell all types of stories in all types of ways.  It’s in that pursuit that my own calling gets defined and refined because I gain a better picture of Beauty. Those who acknowledge their design and are willing to forgo comfortability are the true game changers in life.  It’s these people who have the ability to interject hope in the most unlikely of scenarios.  Need a good example?

What comes to mind when you think of Hollywood?  Do you think about the red carpet and celebrity drama? Liberalism?  Or is it the generic “Hollywood Nails” salon that every town has in a tucked away strip mall? Joseph Barkley is challenging minds to start connecting Hollywood with Christian community.  Years ago church plants were unwelcomed in that neighborhood and now they are taking root and flourishing.  Ecclesia Hollywood is one of those growing churches.  Ecclesia is a dynamic community of folks from all walks of life who are dead set on living out authentic Christian faith.

And like most organizations, authenticity starts with the leadership.  Joseph’s love for God, others, and for the city of Los Angeles is contagious. He makes you want to live in and love LA.  Instead of just wanting to be Joseph Barkley, I challenge you to allow his life to be an encouragement to you as you pursue your own design and stories.  Meet Joseph.

Joseph Barkley                        Los Angeles, CA                  Lead Pastor- Ecclesia Hollywood

1.  Name a person, book, and moment that served as a catalyst for the pursuit of your passion?
PERSON: Tough one here. My wife quickly comes to mind simply because she was wired for adventure. Without that, I wouldn’t take half the risks I do. She is my intrepid sojourner. My father, maybe against all reason, was adamant that I chase my passions. As a business man, my pursuit of music made little sense, but he propelled me. When I thought about preaching, he didn’t hesitate to spur me on. I also respect Tim Osborn of Mosaic Church Portland and Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance a great deal. They’ve been friends, mentors and advocates for a long time.  I am learning a lot from many “famous” pastors, but find myself learning most from pastors no one will ever hear of.

BOOK: Easily Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.

MOMENT: The first time I preached at Ecclesia. I was a worship leader, had never spoken, and was filling in a gap in the teaching schedule by talking about John 4 and how that informs our worship. I was caught off guard with how important and crucial the whole morning felt to me. What became immediately imperative was not so much that the Word was preached, but that I preach it.
2.  What risks did you have to take along the way and how did they interact with your fears?
I teeter somewhere between a high sense of financial responsibility and the idolatry of financial security all the time. I worked for a bank for a while. I got a marketing degree. For a long time, I was sold out to the idea that I would be a corporate attorney.  However, from the time I was 20 onward, I’ve been unsettled in any moment that felt “safe”. That’s completely the Spirit. Joseph wants surety, equity and a 401K. God clearly wants me to bank on Him, His calling and His voice. I’ve risked safety, but learned stewardship—that’s been far more productive.

3. What was the biggest and most unexpected pain (a blind side moment) in your journey?  How has it changed you and your process?
Oddly, one of the biggest “pains” experienced in my journey so far was the death of my dream. 10 years ago, I began pursuing a career in music—by any means necessary. I tried being an itinerant worship leader, songwriter for TV, performer and studio vocalist.  Somewhere along the way—actually, during my most successful season—I started feeling hunger pangs for the local church. I played over 250 dates that year, recorded 6 records to date and was eking out a manageable living. At the same time, my wife and I hadn’t worshipped together within the same community for more than 2 weeks in a row. That does something to the soul.  I came off the road, began praying and within a week received a phone call from a church in Hollywood that needed help with music. We tried out the church, fell in love with the family we found there and I jumped in with both feet—serving and being served.  But I still had my dream. I was just getting recharged. I was recalibrating.  One thing soon led to another. Katie and I found ourselves planting a small church with 8 friends we met at this church. I began as the worship leader (obviously) but had to make a living by taking random gigs and holding down 2 other jobs. Still dreaming…3 years into this new adventure of church planting, I knew something had to change. What I thought was going to happen was an elegant exit from my occupational role at the church to jump back into writing and recording.  Then, it happened. I can’t pinpoint the exact time, but I remember the heart attack. For the first time in my adult life, a career in music held no appeal for me. In all sincerity, I’d lost the fire for it. I still loved music—loved creating it, playing it, being surrounded by it—but the dream had no pulse.  Initially, this sent me into quiet limbo. I was in the wilderness. I knew I wasn’t supposed to return to leading worship at our church, but I also knew that God was in no way calling me to a full-time career in music. It was sad, bewildering, infuriating and depressing.  At that moment, our current lead pastor, one of my best friends, knew God was calling him to make a change and he stepped down from his role. 3 months pass, the church is hanging on tightly to one another and the elders were in a pastoral search process.  Somewhere in the middle of it, Katie and I simultaneously get a crazy notion: I’m supposed to do this. I’m supposed to be the Lead Pastor of a church in Hollywood. For so many reasons, this makes no sense. It’s delusional.  But, out of obedience to what we believed only God could be convincing us to do, we threw our name in the hat and, as providence would have it, I was commissioned as the new Lead Pastor in the Fall of 2009. In the vacuum left by one passion, God planted another.  Now, I have a new dream and, by God’s grace, I’m loving every fanciful moment of it.

4. What has been the most joyful part of your journey that needs to be celebrated?
The first time I led someone at Ecclesia in a prayer of surrender to Jesus. The runner-up was when I baptized him.  I have several people and ideas on my daily prayer list, but I never neglect praying for revival and conversion. The newest season of Christ’s Church is a good one: We’re redeeming our cities in practical ways, moving from talk to action more, and trying to have the largest possible embrace for diversity. While I embrace this visceral evolution of the Church, I’m careful to never lose sight of the fact that we are called always to discipleship—I want people to meet Jesus at Ecclesia and grow to be more like Jesus at Ecclesia. If this isn’t my primary concern, all of the altruism in the world would amount to disobedience. I beg the Holy Spirit daily to do this in Hollywood through us.
5.  What is a question that you don’t get asked but wish you would?
I wish more people would ask where I see Hollywood in the future. One of our staff posited this question to me today: “Why are we on a world famous boulevard in a world-famous city with worldwide influence where most people live in aggressive opposition to the Gospel?” I think God has called us to be blushingly honest and give all we are to a city we will never abandon. If I draw a straight line into the future starting from a people who do that, I envision a new city without homelessness, sex trafficking and a perception that broken people can make beautiful things because of Jesus.
**Get to know the community of Ecclesia or visit Joseph’s blog.  Church plants in Hollywood are growing and if you want to get to know other communities of faith doing great work in the area, check out Reality LA, Hollywood Church, or One Thing.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob J permalink
    March 21, 2011 2:16 pm

    “What became immediately imperative was not so much that the Word was preached, but that I preach it.”

    This statement doesn’t sit well with me.

    • March 24, 2011 6:44 pm

      First time I’m reading this online. I normally wouldn’t jump in the fray, but I agree with Rob wholeheartedly (and I’m Joseph!). That line is poorly stated and misleading.

      The question was what moment moved me into my passion. I’m passionate about preaching God’s Word.
      What I simply meant to say was this: Before that morning, the thought of preaching had never crossed my mind—ever. That morning, it was injected in me.
      I want the heart to be clear, so feel free to respond. Thanks, Rob!

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