Free to Speak the Word

Free to Speak the Word

By Sarah Whitman/Tampa Bay Faith

Discipleship Pastor Michael Carroll didn’t start out among the 99. 

The moment he decided to follow Jesus was after hearing the Gospel in a jail cell. 

Carroll found freedom in a place meant to strip a man of exactly that. 

“I was homeless and addicted to drugs,” he said. “By all statistics my life should have been over, but God intervened.” 

Today Carroll hosts the popular Discipleship Podcast and runs the School of Leadership at City Life Church in Tampa. 

I spoke to him about going from life on the streets to taking the Word to the streets.

Can you tell me more about your background?

I didn’t grow up in church. I was raised by a single mom who wasn’t ready to be a mom. I experienced a lot of traumatic stuff from a young age and ended up walking down a road full of really bad decisions and I just didn’t see hope. I honestly didn’t think hope was ever a reality for me. When I was saved, God radically changed my whole life. Everything changed. It’s beautiful even at this moment thinking about it.  I went to the Phoenix Dream Center and ended up on staff there planting youth outreaches and working with residents. I met my wife, Chloe, there and on our journey together we ended up in Tampa following the call of God, and that lead us to citylife. It’s been an amazing, difficult, challenging and beautiful journey together. But at the end of the day, my life experience has just birthed a passion to help people discover the same hope that I never thought I could ever know. The Gospel is such a beautiful announcement to give someone who has no hope or expectation for breakthrough. It’s beautiful. I still remember the moment I felt hope, it changed my life and perspective forever. And I want people to not just hear that, but really live it out. 

Why did you want to start a podcast?

It’s been a long process in the making but the best way to answer that is because God told me to. I was resisting it for a few years. But I have a passion to create. It started off as me doing teachings Bible study style. Then, it was picked up by a couple platforms and a radio station. This past year I’ve been experimenting and developing it to be a platform for people to connect more effectively with scripture as well as with each other in community. I’ve most recently been doing a series called “Conversations” talking with different leaders about topics like social injustice, leadership and other important topics that can help us develop a more complete understanding of discipleship and mission. I think it’s really helpful to show people that conversations are healthy, and really want to help people become informed and encourage them to carry on these conversations in their homes, workplaces, friendships etc. It’s been exciting to see the podcast growing and it’s always encouraging when people reach out to thank me and express how helpful the episodes have been for them. It’s just a huge passion of mine to see people grow in their purpose.

You posted a video on social media about the California decision to ban singing in churches. You said, ‘The world doesn’t have to be perfect for Christianity to thrive.’ I love that. 

Yeah, I shared my thoughts because it had been stirring in me for some time.  I’m going to worship no matter where I’m at. Nothing will ever stop me from worshiping. Period. It’s that simple for me. And my reason for expressing that was to encourage the church to let their roots grow deep in Christ and to be bold. We can’t let the failure of our government leaders shake us from advancing in our mission as the Church. Regardless of what they decide, we have a lot of work to do and we can’t get distracted and lost in the discouragement of agendas that don’t support our faith. We have to move beyond that. We have the authority of all Heaven and Earth. The Church is bigger than that.  

What are your thoughts on the impact of the last few months on the Christian church? 

So, I have several thoughts on that. I don’t think the Church has been negatively impacted in a way we should be extremely concerned about. I think the Western Church has been asleep in many ways and all of what has been happening has shine a light and expose some of this complacency. 

The Church, particularly the Western Church, has been alerted to the fact that we’ve been living in a box, and it’s been safe, but not necessarily where God wants us to be. He wants us out influencing and impacting the world for His Kingdom. We’ve created these pockets of people that gather together but we’re seeing a cultural shift where the next generation wants to go in a new direction. They want to be a part of something. Church isn’t something to do. It’s not something to be a part of so your life can get better. The Church is a living, breathing, divinely empowered family of people who have been supernaturally transformed into Son’s and Daughters of God. Jesus launched a revolution at the Cross, not a country club. God is tearing some things down so His life-giving light can shine through His Church once more and bring redemption and hope to this world. It’s my opinion that we may have been complacent with some issues, and there are a lot of issues being exposed that the Church should have already been focused on. 

This was the reason why I recently challenged some of my listeners to not get distracted at this moment. There is a lot of noise going on. There is a lot of anxiety about who is going into office, and what laws are going to be passed. Trust me, I get it. Those things are important and I don’t want to pretend to be blind to how important those decisions are. But none of those decisions can strip us of the authority, power and grace we received from Jesus when He birthed the Church and sent them out into the world to proclaim His Good News. I look across the world and I see Churches who suffer the worst kind of persecution imaginable. They aren’t arguing about laws. They aren’t complaining about politics. They are declaring a Holy and passionate loyalty and love to Jesus, and it is sparking revival all throughout the Middle East. If the person we don’t want in office gets elected, is it going to shake our faith? If a certain law doesn’t happen that will protect us are we going to stop believing God is faithful? He is faithful. And none of this should shake our faith. We have to rise above the noise and make sure we are putting our roots down into the only foundation that will stand in the end. Jesus. 

Crossover Church hosted a prayer walk down Fowler Ave. Were you able to attend? 

I was! Pastor Tommy is a very good friend of mine and I was proud to be able to walk with them that day. It was so beautiful. 

Given your history, what do you think when you see violence being used to make a point?

I think anytime God does something good, the enemy tries to distort it. I do believe God has brought awareness to these things we’ve been blind to. But I think we need to be careful about throwing ourselves all in on either side. We need to listen to the voice of God and be more discerning. In Luke 5, Jesus was healing in a crowd, the news spread, and huge crowds were rushing to come hear Him. Jesus withdrew to pray. Even in the excitement, He didn’t get caught up. He knew he needed to withdraw and hear the voice of the Father. 

I don’t think we are ever going to solve anything with violence. That’s not going to move the Kingdom forward. That’s the reason Peter had to lay his sword down. 

I understand there is an element of a reaction towards oppression and injustice. We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss certain reactions as being invalid. A lot of what people are protesting are legit issues that I share my own concerns with. So, I want to be clear, we do need to make solid effort to understand and become informed of why many people are crying out for justice. Christians are justice people. That’s our identity. And we have been tasked with the role of promoting justice. 

However, I do feel this tension in the air and it honestly does concern me. If we’re not careful, the enemy will slip in and we will become more divided than we were before. However we move forward it has to be together, we just can’t move forward divided. 

Do you and your wife have children?

Not yet. We keep hearing that question at church. It’s a hot topic. We do want to have children and when they come, I’m going to be one excited Dad. For now, we have plenty of nieces and nephews to learn from.  

You spoke about your mom. Were you able to reconcile with her?

Yes. Our relationship has been restored. It’s not perfect but we are good. God’s grace has been over our lives, and I’m very grateful for that. There was actually a really cool moment in 2014 when I was baptizing some of my students, my mom showed up and wanted to be baptized. I ended up being the one to baptize her, and it was a special moment. 

For more from Michael Carroll, visit and follow on instagram mcarrollnow.