BY MICHILLE WILLIAMS, BLOGGER & GRACE ATTENDER
I’ve never really held a conversation with Barry Rodriguez, but I’ve been around Grace Church long enough to have picked up quite a bit about him. When the church board announced that Barry had been selected as the candidate for the senior pastor position, I was immediately thrilled. To borrow some language I heard at the recent Town Hall meetings with Barry, “his ceiling is high.” He’s demonstrated such tremendous growth in my time at Grace since 2010, and I’m excited to be part of it and grow with him as this trajectory continues. If you’re a little less familiar with Barry, here are a few things I’ve learned about him along the way from his book, social media, his sermons, and the Between Sundays Podcast.
10 Fast Facts About Barry Rodriguez
1) He and his wife, Olivia, are vegetarian
If you listen to the Between Sundays podcast, you know that Olivia is an avid animal advocate—and this is their inspiration for the vegan lifestyle. I personally give them mad props for how this lifestyle also benefits God’s creation. I’ve aspired for years to reduce my consumption of animal-based foods to lessen my carbon footprint on the environment, and I’ve even done some dabbling in vegan. If you’re accustomed to the typical American diet, it may take an extra dose of the Holy Spirit to get started with vegan! This is an impressive adjustment for Barry, who says he was an incredibly picky eater for years in his youth.
2) He was in on the ground floor of Rooted
Barry served as an intern for Nairobi Chapel under Pastor Muriithi, who delivered a phenomenal sermon at Grace Church in August 2018. During that time, the program we now know as Rooted was developed, and Barry participated in and helped to lead the first class. In his book, Barry shared a prophetic prayer that Pastor Simon prayed over him at the graduation ceremony: “Barry, the other day God gave me a vision for you. I saw you as a bowl of fruit. Many people were coming around and eating their fill. Everyone was laughing and filled with joy. I believe God is going to use you to bring life and joy to many people. He has big things in store for you.” Amen.
3) He lived homeless in NYC for four days
While writing about the New York City Relief ministry during his time with World Next Door, Barry walked the streets of New York as a homeless person for four days. What struck me most about this story in his book was how he described what it felt like to be deliberately ignored. It made a lasting impression on me, and it’s prompted me to improve my posture towards people in general, homeless or not. I appreciate that Barry sees the value in breaking stereotypes and helping people see from a new perspective.
4) He has a troupe of brain monkeys
I laughed out loud the first time I heard Barry say this in a sermon, mainly because I can relate! Quieting the voices in our heads that try to distract us from our purpose can be challenging. But I’d never heard those voices referred to as a troupe of brain monkeys. I love a good sense of humor and especially expressive language!
5) He often takes solo retreats
Self-renewal is an important aspect in the life of someone who’s about to embark on the journey of becoming the senior pastor of a church as large as Grace. Barry talks often on the podcast about his retreats, and I’m pretty sure I heard him tell a story about locking himself out of his cabin in swim trunks this past year. You gotta listen to this podcast. I’d hate for you to miss out on all the fun!
6) He and Olivia foster rabbits
Not only do they serve as a temporary foster home for rabbits, but they’ve also taken in a special, lucky rabbit named Humphrey. Apparently, Humphrey took a little while to warm up to Dave, and listening to Dave talk about his interactions with his “grandbunny” on the pod is 100% hysterical. If you’re at the gym on the elliptical machine next to a woman who randomly bursts out into laughter, it’s most likely me listening to Between Sundays.
7) He’s a craftsman
I’ve been blown away by the multi-faceted talents of Barry! He is an artisan of quality leather goods like journal covers and satchels. Most recently, he’s become interested in woodworking—starting with projects for the special bunny in his life. So far, I know that Humphrey has enjoyed the fruits of Barry’s labors in the form of a hay Christmas tree and a hideaway house.
8) He’s an excellent photographer and writer
Barry’s photojournalism work with World Next Door was focused on bringing stories of hope in the midst of the world’s brokenness to the people of suburban Indianapolis to inspire their engagement with social justice. His stories and photos are considerably moving. Throughout the portion of his career that I’ve witnessed, I think he does a fantastic job of lighting a fire in people to be world-changers in the name of Jesus. And he does so in ways that do not impose shame or guilt—he plants the seeds and steps out of the way for the Holy Spirit to tend the garden.
9) He’s a self-proclaimed former video game addict
I remember the first time I heard him talk about this in a sermon, and he conveys it very candidly in his book, Into The World Next Door. It’s made him highly relatable to me, and I find it profoundly humbling that he’s so open and honest about his own brokenness. This leads me to trust him and his intentions for the people of Grace Church.
10) He’s full of grit
Barry has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to persist in the face of lengthy, difficult trials. If you’ve been around for a while, you may have heard him mention a time or two the 14-year period that he remained single despite a desire to find a life partner. Right now, a five-year stretch of working, wondering and waiting for a job that has never been guaranteed to him is about to come to the reveal. I’ve known people who have jumped off the bus in less than half that amount of time. This perseverance embodies the dedication and commitment I appreciate in a person I look to for spiritual development.
I encourage you to get a little more familiar with Barry, and there are a wealth of resources to help you do so. Check out the Between Sundays podcast, listen to a few of his past sermons or pick up a copy of his book at the Grace Church bookstore.
Check out Barry's YouTube Channel here.