David Bardowell’s Welcome Jesus being sung in the Russian language was the last thing an American passenger expected to hear on the Russian train from Kiev to Lviv. But that’s exactly what it was. When the American approached the guitar-playing singer, the young Russian stopped and exclaimed, “You know David Bardowell?! He’s my favorite singer!!” And he’s not alone. Bardowell’s music is being played from here to Australia to Europe to Brazil and is being broadcast across CSN’s network of 150 Christian radio stations, and seasonally over KSBJ’s worldwide radio wires.
Quite a change for the once exclusively-secular musician who used to play keyboard and sing backup for such world renown artists as Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Richard Carpenter, and Jan & Dean. This is a change that not only affected Bardowell’s life, but many others as well. “God called me to be a worship leader and everything else revolves around that.”
Serving as Associate Music Pastor for Saddleback Church for 3-1/2 years, Bardowell watched them grow from about 6,000 people attending each week to over 12,000. In 1996, God called Bardowell to serve as Head Music Pastor for Fellowship of The Woodlands in The Woodlands, Texas. The church was 2-1/2 years old at the time. In three years attendance grew to over 4,000 people every weekend. Whether he’s writing songs, recording or helping churches build music ministries, Bardowell’s mission is to “lead people into the presence of God and to help them grow
Born in Jamaica and stateside by the time he was five, David Bardowell’s first paying gig was when his music teacher strapped an accordion to his six-year-old back, took him to the mall, plopped a coffee can at his feet and said, “Play.” After a very profitable two hours, Bardowell left that mall with his pockets full and his eyes focused on the future.
In Junior High, he met drummer John Stamos–then twelve, now fully-grown and gracing your television set every night on Full House. The two of them plus Bardowell’s little brother, Philip, formed a band. They played for school assemblies, relative’s parties, proms and–their favorite–all-girl Catholic schools.
During his senior year of high school, Bardowell’s best friend lost his life in an unexpected accident. Overflowing with emotion, Bardowell wrote his first song. And as traumatic event after traumatic event occurred (his girlfriends kept breaking up with him), he turned more and more to his music, recognizing a talent in himself for composing.
Graduation came and went and the band sort of fell by the wayside. A few years later, with a newly earned Bachelor of Music Degree from Cal State, Bardowell met Richard Carpenter of The Carpenters and David received an invitation to play keyboards and sing backup for Carpenter’s tour to Japan. The next several years were filled with life in the fast lane as he played with prominent artists such as Jan & Dean, Mike Love and The Beach Boys. And with that life came performances on stage, appearances on TV, hob-nobbing with stars, special treatment, limos, alcohol, drugs and a very lonely, unfulfilled and unhappy David Bardowell. “It didn’t matter what stage I was on or where I was in the world, there was always a sense of emptiness in my heart,” Bardowell said.
In 1991, that emptiness was filled when Bardowell asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of his life, following several consecutive signs that left him with no doubt in his mind or heart.
It started one morning when, more depressed than usual, Bardowell found himself riding his bike to the beach. While he stared blankly at the ocean and the endless sky, he cried out, “God, I don’t know if you’re real. I just don’t know, but if you are, you gotta show me.”
A few months later, while stepping into the shower one morning, Bardowell heard the phone ring. He grabbed a towel and answered the phone.
“Hi. Is Bob there?”
“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”
“Jesus loves you, man.”
Bardowell slowly replaced the receiver, but didn’t return to the shower right away, allowing those words to wash over him instead. And for the first time in his life, an inkling of understanding stirred within.
The next day, he was in the mall and saw a man sitting on a bench. Bardowell passed by, making eye contact with him. “Jesus loves you,” the man said. Bardowell continued by, then stopped and looked back. The man was gone.
The following week, he found himself in a huge, crowded parking lot and there “in the midst of it all” was a bright pink Volkswagen Bug with “Jesus Loves You” painted all over it. Bardowell came to an abrupt halt, filling with an indefinable emotion. “Jesus, I don’t understand it all, but if you love me, I just need you,” he murmured.
From that moment on, his life changed.
That next Sunday the church he and Deborah tried had a sign hanging above the door. “There Are No Strangers Here, Only Friends We Haven’t Met.” Maybe, just maybe, he could get into this church. Opening up the bulletin, he noticed an announcement for Praise Team try-outs and went to those auditions.
He had hair down to his waist and an earring brushing his shoulder. The other candidates had short haircuts and neck ties. They opened up their arms to him. “You’re our token LA-looking guy,” they’d say. David played a song he had written, Make Me Your Voice, and the people were blessed.
Later, the church asked him to sing for their service. He played at a club that Saturday night until 2:00 a.m., chomping at the bit to get into church at 6:00 a.m. After the service, a member of the congregation pulled David aside. “Your song really touched my heart.”
And thus was the beginning of David’s ministry as the Lord took him from leading a church’s College Music Ministry on a volunteer basis to a full time staff position as Associate Music Pastor for one of the largest churches in America, Saddleback Church; to Pastor of Music at Fellowship of the Woodlands, just north of Houston, TX; to Pastor of Music at Shoreline Community Church, just outside of Monterey, CA; to Worship Pastor at Mission Hills Church in Mission Viejo, CA..
“God is working in a powerful way all over the world and He is using music to penetrate the hearts of lost people and lead them to Him.”
Most recently God has called David and his family to plant a new church in the Mission Viejo area. The ministry is called “The Gate”.
The Gate is a Christian Community Center and Gathering Place for everyone. The Gate is always open to anyone who needs to be touched and refreshed by God’s grace and love.
Whether he is writing songs, recording CD’s, or building God’s Church, Bardowell’s mission is to lead people into the presence of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and help them grow to be all they can be in Christ.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:3).