What do you get when you take two recovered alcoholics and throw them in a room together with a microphone?
Mornings with Jeff and Rebecca, the morning-drive team on 90.9 KCBI in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Jeff and I look at each other all the time and shake our heads. Neither of us can believe that we get to minister six days a week (five live and one tracked) on the air in the DFW area. For so many reasons, our morning show almost didn’t happen.
I celebrate twenty years in radio next October, but I tried to hang up my headphones seven years ago. I started my career in country music, working at 99.5 The Wolf and then spending a decade with The Dorsey Gang on 96.3 KSCS. A Christian all my life, I left the morning show in 2011 to pursue ministry, stay at home with my kids, and stop getting up at three-fifteen in the morning. Christian radio never crossed my mind. I wanted to study and teach the Bible; radio no long held any appeal to me—or so I thought.
When long-time KCBI Program Director Sharon Geiger called offering me a part-time position just a few months after I’d left KSCS, I didn’t know what to do. We had cut our household income in half, so the money sounded nice, but God had called me away from radio, right? Taking a part-time position showed a lack of faith, right?
I toured the station, and to my surprise, everyone referred to KCBI as “the ministry.” I had never thought of radio as ministry, but that day my paradigms shifted. I joined the staff on a part-time basis in June of 2011.
Matt Austin started as general manager in 2013 and set about building a morning show. He asked me if I wanted the job on an interim basis until he hired a program director. Not at all planning to do it long term, I accepted.
A few months later, Joel Burke took the helm as PD and offered me the full-time position of co-hosting morning-drive.
I didn’t want it. I wanted to go to seminary. I wanted to write and teach Bible studies. I did not want to get up at three-fifteen anymore.
But God changed my heart.
Joel gave me the weekend to pray about it, and by Monday morning, I couldn’t wait to get to work. The production director ran the board, and for the first time in my life, I did a morning show (almost) all by myself.
It took eight long months to find Jeff.
In 2013 my family and I lived in Fort Meyers, Florida, where I served as the general manager and morning show host on WAY FM. I enjoyed my job and my staff, but had a small sense of restlessness concerning my future. I knew that, at some point, I had to make a choice between management and radio on the front lines. Management offered stability, but an on-air shift allowed me to minister in a powerful way. When Matt called, I wanted to hear more. I liked his vision, so I made plans to visit Dallas.
After two days of interviews, I called my wife and said, “Larissa, don’t worry. This job holds no appeal for me.” Over the next thirty days, though, God worked on me, and I ended up accepting the position. Rebecca and I spent about twenty minutes on the phone—never met each other face-to-face—and started Mornings with Jeff and Rebecca in the summer of ’13.
Jeff challenged me to open up about my struggles on the air, and at first, it made me uncomfortable. I brought so much baggage to Christian radio—alcoholism, severe clinical anxiety, a past eating disorder—and while I had written and spoken about it freely on my blog and to groups, I didn’t want to subject myself to the judgment of our listeners. Jeff wanted me to go there.
When people suffer from addiction, depression, or anxiety, they feel alone and isolated. I can empathize because I also wrestle these demons. Ministry happens when we realize others struggle, too.
I want to let our listeners know that Christ delivers victory, but offers grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those who can’t seem to get it right. Rebecca had experienced a measure of healing, but also needed to know that God still loved her when she failed.
In retrospect, my hesitation to share my struggles came from a misunderstanding of God’s grace. I carried a tremendous amount of shame that caused me to look at the Lord like an angry judge instead of a loving father. The way Jeff talked about grace bothered me, even offended me. I didn’t realize that a right theology of grace would actually set me free—free to forgive myself and free to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with our listeners. I knew that if God could forgive and use me, he could forgive and use anyone.
I had a “Grace Awakening” about ten years ago. I spent much of my life believing that Jesus’ blood and sweat got me into God’s good graces, but I had to work my tail off to stay there. That changed when someone gave me a copy of Tullian Tchividjian’s Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything. The chains of performance fell off, and I now live under a banner that reads, “It is finished!”
I want people to know that God will never kick them to the curb. We didn’t earn our salvation, so we can’t lose it, either. Good works didn’t get us in and they won’t keep us in. When I realized that, I underwent a life transformation that continues to this day. To watch this awakening happen in Rebecca’s life fills me with the greatest joy.
We have a dream to reach the seven-million listeners in the Dallas/Fort area with the good news of God’s radical, transforming, all-consuming grace and love, and we continue to see fruit. Mornings with Jeff and Rebecca ranks second in DFW Christian morning shows and we average over four-hundred-thirty-thousand listeners a week. I also travel and speak at conferences and retreats, and people constantly bring up our willingness to share our struggles when I meet them. Something Jeff taught me long ago proves true over and over: people may admire you for your success, but they connect with you through your brokenness.
More rules won’t win anyone to Christ. Neither will a well-crafted argument. Jesus offers the free gift of salvation to anyone willing to set their burdens down and come to him. And Rebecca and I say this all the time: God uses broken, beat-up, sinners like us because broken, beat-up sinners are all he has to choose from. Let them see the real you—cracks and all. They’ll love you all the more and they might even taste grace.
Rebecca Carrell is, in order of importance, a joyful Jesus follower, wife to Mike, mother to Caitlyn and Nick, morning show co-host in Dallas/Fort Worth on 90.9 KCBI, conference speaker, and author of Holy Jellybeans: Finding God through Everyday Things, and Holy Hiking Boots: When God Makes the Ordinary Extraordinary.
She moved to Dallas in 1998 and began her broadcasting career in country music. In 2011 she moved to Christian radio station KCBI, and in 2016 founded HeartStrong Faith, an interdenominational women’s ministry built on Ephesians 1:17, with the sole purpose of knowing the Triune God better through study, worship, and service. Rebecca is also working toward her Master of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.