At 15, Dr. Tom Barnette led his very first soul to Christ — his father.
In 8th grade he announced his newfound faith and was mocked with Marine Corps efficiency as his father tried to reduce his beliefs to rubble. He would say things like, “Tom, we need to get you a big tent and a bunch of one-armed deacons, so when you preach they can’t steal from the offering bucket.”
Alcohol and cigarettes had drastically affected his father’s health, and by 9th grade Barnette visited him in the hospital. Instead of an atmosphere of prayer and hope, it was a countdown to hell. Those who knew his father best were convinced he would or could never change, even if he survived. “If death ever had an optimistic crowd, it was my family,” says Barnette.
The state of his father’s eternal soul may not have interested relatives, but it certainly grieved Barnette. Satan had control of his father throughout all those years of alcohol and anger, but his life was taken back that night in the hospital. “My father had been asking for me by name, and I went into the ICU room alone as a one-year-old Christian. No longer ferocious and angry, Dad was now shriveled, weak, and dying,” says Barnette. Words cannot adequately describe the feelings and events that followed as he shared the eternal consequences of his father’s choices. Propelled by a supernatural boldness from the Holy Spirit, Barnette held out both hands and said, “I only have one simple question. In this hand I have heaven and in this hand I have hell. Where do you wish to go when you die?” His father chose heaven.
“The devil lost!” says Barnette. “Dad lived two more years, often spent in the hospital, and never touched another drop of booze.” He attended regular Bible studies with men from the Gideon Bible Society in the Veterans Hospital, and before passing away said, “I wish I had known Jesus all my life.”
Barnette was called to ministry early and “argued all the way,” but became ordained in 1980 by Dr. John Bisagno of First Baptist. Since then, he has had the privilege of sharing the Gospel and leading thousands of people to Christ. “As a counselor, each time I can help an alcoholic recover or a family heal or a teenager get off drugs, I reclaim a small part of my dad’s life,” he says.
He counts among his greatest blessings a supportive wife, Dana, and his children Tommie Alice, Jonathan Claton, and LeeAnn Marie. After preaching 28 years he founded the Family Life Success Ministry. Most recently he is President of the Barnham Graduate School and Seminary, which meets at the Faith West campus at 2525 Porter Road in Katy (wwwbarnhamgss.org).
Barnette is also a trainer for grant writer professionals and author of the anthology Ethics Professional, Rule of 52, Christ Centered Reality Therapy, Single Advance Workbook, Unanticipated Chicken, and Ethical Mediation.