How to be a Christian in Business
Step 2: Realize Who Put You There
This is step two in a series on taking Jesus to work.
I was asked to present to Peachtree United Methodist Church on the topic of becoming known as a Christian. This forced me to think about what happened to me after I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.
You'll see how each step was guided by my good friend and mentor, Bill Leonard. Bill, with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, put me in situations where I shared my faith. Most of the time, it was by just being there, but sometimes I needed to speak boldly.
Step 2: Realize whose you are and who put you there.
“I invite you and Kathy to join Sandy and me in attending the FCCI Conference,” said Bill Leonard.
The year was 1996. In July 1995, while driving to Hilton Head to join my family, I surrendered my life to Christ. I asked him to forgive me, take my sin and my guilt, and lead me as my Lord and Savior.
When Bill saw the change in my life, he knew I was ready. That’s why he invited me to the FCCI Conference.
“What is FCCI?” I asked.
“It stands for Fellowship of Companies for Christ International,” he answered.
“Who attends this conference?” I asked.
“Business owners and leaders from around the world whose desire is to be on purpose for Jesus Christ in the workplace. We call ourselves marketplace ministers,” he said.
So Kathy and I flew to The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jamaica.
The conference was in Half Moon Bay, and it was gorgeous.
The hotel staff picked us up at the airport and escorted us through check-in and right to our room. We had a beautiful view of the gardens with the Atlantic ocean in the background. I was thinking, “I’m going to like this.”
We unpacked and dressed for the cocktail reception. As I reached for the handle to open the door, Kathy stepped in front of me and said, “Before we leave the room, I need to know something.”
“OK. What is it?” I asked.
“What is it you do? People ask me this all the time, and I don’t know how to answer them,” she said.
“Tell them I’m a Christian venture capitalist,” I blurted out.
I was struggling with this question for a long time. I became an angel investor in 1993. When people asked me what I did for a living, I would say, “I invest in entrepreneurs who want to start an information technology services company.” People got that. It was easy.
Then I became a Christian. That’s when my struggles began.
We all know we are who we hang with. Well, I was hanging out with Bill Leonard, Emma Morris, Regi Campbell, Curt Cain, and Rusty Gordon. All of these people were committed Christ followers who knew the Bible really well.
I knew nothing but was anxious to learn. There was something about them which was different. The best way for me to describe it is, “They were business people operating on a higher mission.”
They weren’t just about the work they did and how they made money. They were on mission for Jesus Christ. Because of this, they found fulfillment in business which I was missing. And I very much wanted what they had.
I had joined my first startup 18 years earlier.
When I was fortunate enough to meet Richard Brock, my startup life began. Eventually we became partners in the business he started. He was five years older and a lifetime smarter in business. In fact, until I started working with Richard at 22, I couldn’t even define business.
But Richard changed everything for me. When his lips were moving, I was learning. I listened to everything he said and watched everything he did. He was a great teacher. He loved being an entrepreneur and businessman. I loved him, and, because he made it look like so much fun, I fell in love with business.
But over the years, business became more and more about the money. We eventually sold our business and got a big hit. Back then we called it life-changing money. I went on to work in president roles for several corporations. I held positions of authority, and the money was good. I continued to learn and develop as a businessman under great mentors and leaders.
As I approached the second half of my thirties, something changed. I realized business wasn’t as much fun as it used to be.
There was a smallness that began to creep in on me.
The purpose became more and more about the money. And when it became about the money, I started not liking who I was becoming or the relationships I was creating. In short, business was unfulfilling. And since this was where I was spending all my time, I was unfulfilled. Here is a link to the rest of my story.
These Christian business people made business meaningful again. My goal at the conference was to figure out what they had figured out. Bill and all the rest of the gang I was hanging out with had something I wanted. And now, at the FCCI Conference, I was surrounded by people who had discovered the secret to fulfillment in business. I wanted to know. I wanted what they had.
I was there looking for this higher order of fulfillment in business. But I got lost in the details. I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking “What” and “How” questions.
What do you do at work as a Christian in business?
How do you talk about your faith in business?
What do you do with your profits?
How do you treat employees?
What do you put on your webpage about your faith?
How do you describe your business so people know you are a Christian?
The question I should have asked was “Why.”
This is the question. And here is what I discovered at that conference. Here is how I answered it.
God gave me the spirit of a leader. He put me in business and gave me the skills and personality for business. He surrounded me with the exact right people to teach, guide, and mentor me in business. He showed me opportunities. All this happened before I even knew Jesus.
Then I surrendered my life to Christ.
That’s when I received my new mission, his mission. I am a man of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and a witness for Him. He led me to Atlanta early-stage technology companies. I did not choose this market. It was given to me by God. He equipped me with the experiences and relationships of a lifetime. I am uniquely His man in this market, serving it with his methods and sharing his message.
And that’s when the fulfillment in business happened. The “What and How” questions kept coming, but they were now easily answered.
This series was originally a talk. To listen click here.
Charlie Paparelli is president of High Tech Ministries, angel investor and blogger. Twice each week email subscribers to his blog receive his thoughts on being a successful entrepreneur and Christian leader.