Carel Bekker's Story

Charlie Paparelli

I got a call from Carel right after New Year's last year. As president of the Kennesaw Business Association he invited me to speak. This invite brought us closer as we were serving our community together. It also was the catalyst for a new talk and blog series, "The Keys to Radical Life Change." I'll be forever grateful to Carel.

Carel is a serial entrepreneur and currently founder of Afonza, an Amazon web services company. He is also a table host leader of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast since 2012. He is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, a community leader, and a friend.

Take a couple of minutes to hear his story. Then head over to his LinkedIn page, you'll discover his transparency in the lessons he's learned. Very insightful!

Charlie Paparelli
President
High Tech Ministries

About the video

If you would like help in crafting your story, contact Todd Miechiels. His ministry, the 315project.com, helps people like you and me develop our story and then capture it on video.

He will take you on a spiritual journey which will bring you closer to Christ. It is a great experience and the next step in growing your ministry. Go to 315project.com and watch the 2-minute video. Then contact Todd to find out more.

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.
 

How to be a Christian in Business

Feb 2019 Blog.jpg

How to be a Christian in Business

Step 2: Realize Who Put You There

Charlie Paparelli

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.

  1. What do you do at work as a Christian in business?

  2. How do you talk about your faith in business?

  3. What do you do with your profits?

  4. How do you treat employees?

  5. What do you put on your webpage about your faith?

  6. How do you describe your business so people know you are a Christian?


The question I should have asked was “Why.”

  • Why do you believe integrating your faith into your business is so important?


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.

Mike Morris's Story

Mike Morris’s Story

Mike is one of my most favorite people, a close friend and a member of the High Tech Ministries Board of Directors.. He is smart, funny, practical and transparent. You can’t help becoming friends with Mike within a few minutes of meeting him. This is true in his ministry and his work.
 
Watch this video and then attend Mike's Bible study. He makes the Bible come to life. God’s Word will speak to your intellect. It will travel to your heart. And it will eventually show itself in your feet. You will walk more closely with the Lord, guaranteed! 

Charlie 
 
Charlie Paparelli
President
High Tech Ministries

About the video

If you would like help in crafting your story, contact Todd Miechiels. His ministry, the 315project.com, helps people like you and me develop our story and then capture it on video. 

He will take you on a spiritual journey which will bring you closer to Christ. It is a great experience and the next step in growing your ministry. Go to 315project.comand watch the 2-minute video. Then contact Todd to find out more.

How to be a Christian in Business

Jan 2019 Blog.jpg

How to be a Christian in Business

Part 1
Charlie Paparelli

This is a multi-part 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 1: Let everyone know you are Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Shortly after surrendering my life to Jesus Christ, I ran into Bill Leonard at a Southeast Software Association meeting. The meeting had just concluded, and I found myself walking out of the Doubletree Hotel with Bill and his associate at the time.

"I want to thank you. God used you to change my life," I told him.

"How's that?" he asked.

"After the last High Tech Prayer Breakfast, I told you I needed your help. You were kind enough to meet with me," I answered. "You told me about the Leadership Ministries men's Friday Bible study. It was there I learned about Christ's love for me through the men who attended. I also was introduced to the Bible, which has been an amazing gift to me."

"That's great," he said.

"But there is more," I said as I gathered my courage to tell him what I really wanted to say. "I recently surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and Savior."

Without a moment's hesitation, Bill said, "You need to be a table host for the next High Tech Prayer Breakfast."

"I can't do that. People know me."

"And they sure as heck don't know me as a guy who invites people to a prayer breakfast. Anywhere else, but not a prayer breakfast," I answered.

"If you surrendered your life to Jesus, you need to do this. You must stand and be counted as one of his new disciples. This is what Jesus wants us to do. And the easiest and best way to do it in our tech community is to become a table host for the next breakfast."

We continued this heated discussion all they way to the parking deck. As I remember it, Bill and his associate were relentless in achieving their goal of me becoming a table host. After five more minutes of them insisting and me objecting, I said, "Sign me up."

Within a few months, it was time.

I began inviting people to the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. Up until this time, I was quietly attending the Bible study Bill introduced me to and quietly beginning to go to church.

In these environments, I was Charlie the celebrated new Christian who was hungry to learn more about the God who sacrificed his only Son for me. In business and with friends, I was Charlie the businessman and friend...good guy but never mentioning Jesus.

Now I had to invite people in Atlanta technology to the Prayer Breakfast.Whom should I invite? Who would benefit from hearing the stories told at the breakfast? The answer was easy. Everyone I knew. Since I never hung out with Christians, I had a big market to draw from.

I decided to jump in with both feet. I would invite my closest friends first. I might as well tell them about my new found life instead of letting them discover my new faith over time. I came to the conclusion I would be more authentic by doing it this way.

I was elated. Everybody I invited accepted!

I guess they had to see what was going on. "Charlie Paparelli invited me to attend a prayer breakfast. This has to be good."

When the breakfast started, I put my forearms on my thighs with my head down. 

I was afraid to look my guests in the eye. I knew they were going to hear stories from these tech business people about how Jesus had changed their lives forever.

After hearing this, they would probably guess the same thing had happened to me. And they would be right. This was my way of letting them know, "I am now a Christian."

When the breakfast was over, each of them came to me, shook my hand, and thanked me. They thought the event was inspiring, well-done, and informative.

One of my closer friends waited and approached after everyone else departed.

He said, "I had no idea you were a Christian."

This one comment and his sincerity in making this statement was the beginning of a multi-year conversation. My faith journey would come up over coffee, at dinners, and while playing golf. He wanted to know more and more about my faith. I found out later why he was so curious.

At this friend's 60th birthday party, he made some personal observations about each of his closest friends. When he came to me, he said, "Charlie is the only man I ever knew who actually changed." I will never forget what he said and where I was when he said it. He noticed I was born again.

Because of Bill and the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, I became known as the Christian angel investor. It was public information. God used this for his glory as you'll see in the next article.

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.
 


Marcus Graham's Story

Charlie Paparelli

Matt Stevens asked, "If anyone here is interested in becoming one of the first sponsors of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, talk to me after this meeting." The meeting ended, and I was talking to Matt and here comes this man I never met.

"Hi, I'm Marcus Graham of GM Voices. I want to be a sponsor. How much is it?"

That was over ten years ago.

Marcus is a board member, sponsor of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, friend and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. I knew bits and pieces of his story, but this video captured me.

I could not stop watching.

Take a few minutes to hear Marcus relate how he became the spiritual leader of his household because of the prayers and witness of his mom.

About the video

If you would like help in crafting your story, contact Todd Miechiels. His ministry, the 315project.com, helps people like you and me develop our story and then capture it on video.

He will take you on a spiritual journey which will bring you closer to Christ. It is a great experience and the next step in growing your ministry. Go to 315project.com and watch the 2-minute video. Then contact Todd to find out more.

The Power in Making a Fearless Moral Inventory

Nov 2018 Image.jpg

The Power in Making a
Fearless Moral Inventory

Charlie Paparelli

Originally this post was published on Charlie Paparelli’s blog as part of an ongoing series called “Reimagine Your Life.” To read the rest of the series, go to paparelli.com.

I don’t want to write this. I don’t. Would you?

I was suddenly active in recovery. Every day I went to an AA meeting. I made sure I never missed a day. Even if I had to attend a technology networking event in the evening, I’d find a 10 pm AA meeting somewhere.

I feared I would drink again.

I knew if I drank again, I would lose what was most important in my life—Kathy, the kids, and any chance of professional respect and advancement. In addition, I would lose me. I came to believe alcohol would own me and have its way with me. I wouldn’t let it happen. So I went to meetings.

These meetings were a mix of great and awful. Every day of the week meant a new location.

  • Monday was the basement meeting room in the Methodist church.

  • Tuesday was the Episcopal church.

  • Wednesday was some remote elementary school cafeteria.

  • Thursday was the 8111 Club, a location owned by AA members.

  • Friday night was the Catholic church community room.

  • Saturday morning was the Triangle Club, another AA member-owned location.

  • Sunday was the hardest day. That was the day I used to drink to quell the anxious anticipation of the week to come. Sunday was now the church basement in East Cobb.

Once a week I would attend the Friday 7 am men’s Bible study at the seafood restaurant. I looked forward to it. There was a lightness to these meetings. They were upbeat. They would talk about Jesus. They spoke of forgiveness, the love of God, grace, and new beginnings. They spoke on so many topics. Right living. God’s plan for my life. Hope. Power. Submission. Freedom from sin and addiction. Relationships like friendship, marriage, family, children, community, church. An intimate relationship with God, my creator. It was all healthy, very healthy.

The AA meetings were darker.

Men and women would talk about their behavior. How alcohol added complexity to their lives. They would say things like, “You know you are an alcoholic when you fight rush hour traffic all the way home only to find there is no beer in the refrigerator, so you get into your car and head back out into the rush hour traffic to find beer.” I would hear this, and I would nod my head thinking, Yes. That’s me.

They would share how they mistreated their wife. Or a wife would talk about how she fought with her husband. How he always did the same thing that pissed her off. They shared stories of losing jobs, divorce, destroying other loving relationships. How they frustrated or mistreated their kids. These people, my new friends in these AA meetings, were sharing their most intimate thoughts and experiences. They called it their “stinkin thinkin.” The more they talked, the more I realized I was not alone.

Eventually, I felt safe.

This was a place where I could talk about what I did and what I was thinking. How I didn’t know how to put right what I had made wrong. I could talk about the guilt and resentments which came from hurting others, and, just as importantly, the resentments resulting from being hurt. The dysfunction in my life started to come into focus.

Then it was my turn.

Step #4 in AA: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

I knew the right things to do and say, but I too often failed. I learned in the meetings and Bible study that this is part of the human condition. Often I felt compelled to do or say something because I thought it needed to be done or said, but it didn’t.

Too often my pride and selfishness crushed love and kindness.

Taking moral inventory dug up a lot of what I didn’t want to think about. It was all inside and resulted in guilt I carried and resentments I secretly nurtured.

But the list had to be made. I had to get it down. Stop grinding on it. Thinking about the list was part of what led to the drinking, which led to new items on the list. The promise was simple. Write it down once and for all, and then give it away. Be free of it. The higher power would take it from me.

Let’s see what happens, I thought.

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.

How I Reconciled with God

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How I Reconciled with God

Charlie Paparelli

Originally this post was published on Charlie Paparelli’s blog as part of an ongoing series called “Reimagine Your Life.” To read the rest of the series, go to paparelli.com and subscribe.

“Why are you holding on to your guilt and resentments?” asked Adolf Coors IVfeatured speaker at the High Tech Prayer Breakfast.

I walked away from God when I was eighteen years old. I did it because religion made me feel guilty all the time. I believed religion and God were one and the same. The people who led the religion had the rules, regulations, and rituals. I learned them. I practiced them. Finally, I rejected them. I was free. On my own and doing what I believed was right and wrong. Setting my own course and practicing my own behaviors.

But there was a problem.

I couldn’t even meet my own standards of right behavior. Too often, I couldn’t make the right moral choices. This resulted in blaming myself. I couldn’t blame God. He was nowhere to be found in my life. I couldn’t blame religion because I wrote it off as foolishness. I was the only one left to blame.

I hurt people’s feelings. I did things in secret I never wanted to think about, much less talk about. As these situations occurred, I didn’t know what to do with the guilt.

The more guilt I accumulated, the more anxiousness swelled up. It took more and more of my energy to hold these feelings at bay. It was like they were spring loaded, and each year the spring became stronger and stronger. It took increasing effort to suppress it.

I found relief in work and alcohol.

I would bury myself in my work. Focused on doing a positive activity, I would forget about the guilt that consumed me. Take a drink, and these feelings were more easily forgotten. I was better able to cope. But I couldn’t drink and work. One method of coping worked against the other. Good thing drinking was such a big part of the work cultures.

The culture of the companies I was a part of was simple. Work hard. Play hard. So that’s what I did. The result was I became a functioning alcoholic. I also learned that if I could think it sober, I could do it or say it while loaded. This caused more wrong choices which resulted in more guilt and reinforcement of resentments. Which resulted in the need to drink. And the negative cycle continued.

I realized I became a man I didn’t like.

One evening, I saw what I was doing and where it would take me. I wasn’t the man I had envisioned being early in life. I became a man I wouldn’t want to befriend. But I was me, and there was no denying it. I knew I had to get off this path, and that’s why I decided to attend my first AA meeting.

In those rooms listening to those stories, I learned there was hope. There was a different path. Choose to stop drinking one day at a time. Commit to the AA program. I heard them say, “It works if you work it.” I believed it. What choice did I have? So I worked it.

My head began to clear after several months in AA.

That’s when I came face to face with the question, “Who is your higher power?” That’s when God came back into the picture in a more personal way for me. I wasn’t drinking after all this time. Was it because I gave my drinking problem to God? This was the third step in the program. It had to be this decision. I wasn’t able to stop drinking on my own, but now, with God in control, I wasn’t drinking.

Answering this question opened the doors of my life to people I knew who knew God. This led me to the High Tech Prayer Breakfast and other similar events. There I heard successful men speak of their demons of guilt and resentments and how they overcame them. They showed me there was a path to knowing God, and God had made it available to me.

I met these men in the more intimate setting of Bible studies.

In these meetings, I saw who these men were and how they thought and saw life. They shared the decisions they made. I realized I was not unique. They suffered just as I was suffering, but they were different from me now. They had a joy I didn’t have. Life was good. They had a higher purpose. They weren’t stuck in a negative cycle.

After several months of these AA meetings and Bible studies, I was driving to Hilton Head to meet up with Kathy and the kids. It was July of 1993. I was on I-16, which is the most desolate road in all of Georgia. No cars, no exits, and nothing to see but pine trees and white lines.

I popped in the cassette tape Robert Campbell had given me. It contained the speech Adolf Coors IV gave at the businessmen’s breakfast I’d attended the previous year. I heard his story all over again. He ended with an invitation, “Jesus Christ came down from heaven to die for your sins. He loves you that much. He wants you to be in a relationship with Him. Will you accept His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation?”

This was not the first time I’d heard this invitation. In fact, I was asked this question from time to time from various people throughout my adult life. I would say something like, “Leave me alone,” or if I was in a gentler mood, “It is good for you, but I don’t believe that.”

This time was different.

Adolf Coors IV asked, “Why are you holding on to your guilt and resentments? Why are you going on like this without God? Is it working for you?”

Why was I insisting on staying in control of my life?

Look where it had gotten me. I was a man I didn’t want to be. I was stuck, guilty, angry, anxious, and depressed. I gave my alcohol addiction to God, and he took it away. Would he take these feelings away and make me into the man I always wanted to be?

As I think back, I was afraid to commit my life to Jesus Christ. If this didn’t work, what would I do? As long as I did what I was now doing, there was hope that an answer would present itself. I would be magically cured of all these feelings and stinkin’ thinkin.’ But Coors was telling me this was the answer. It was right in front of me.

So right there in the car, traveling well above the speed limit, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Coors, speaking on the cassette tape, led me in the prayer. “Lord Jesus, I know you love me. I believe you came from heaven to reconcile me to you forever by dying on the cross for my sins. I surrender my life to you. Please take away my sins and remove my guilt. I know I’ll be with you from this day to eternity. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”

Something happened in that moment.

It was like my dad showed up when I was lost as a child in a crowd. I was safe. It was OK. I knew life would be good again. The sins of the past were lifted from me. The guilt was gone. I was saved. Jesus Christ was now in charge.

I knew the first place I needed to go was to church. I once saw one in Hilton Head. It had a garden with a reflecting pool. I wanted to pray. I wanted to thank God and process what had just happened. So that’s what I did.

Then I went on to see Kathy and the kids. I said nothing to them about what had just happened.

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.

From Frozen to Faithful

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From Frozen to Faithful

How God Used the Breakfast to Wake Me Up

Mike Morris

Mike Morris is the co-founder and CEO of Broadgreen Solutions, he leads a Grace@Work Bible study and is a High Tech Ministries board member. 

I am not alone!

That’s the thought I’ll always remember. The thought swept over me the first moment I walked into the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. Here was this huge ballroom filled with fellow executives at a prayer-based function. Simply amazing!

Matt Stevens told me about the High Tech Prayer Breakfast quite a few years prior to my attending. He had become a table host, and also had been going to a Bible study associated with the prayer breakfast. The bible study sounded interesting, but I just couldn’t seem to get out bed early enough to get to the study.

Frozen Chosen to Study Regular

One time at church I heard someone refer to a category of Christians as “The Frozen Chosen.” That description fit me well at the time.  I believed in Jesus. I accepted him as my Lord and Savior. But you would have had trouble finding proof of that at work. I kept my head down as a Christian.

At that year’s Prayer Breakfast, the local speaker was Charlie Paparelli.  He also happened to be the leader of that bible study Matt had been inviting me to.  I listened to Charlie and was impressed by his authenticity.  I remember thinking, “I can learn from that guy.”

A few weeks later I started attending Charlie’s bible study. I became a regular and it challenged me in my walk as a Christian. That led to me leading a similar bible study, and also becoming a table host for the prayer breakfast. 

God’s Launching Pad in My Life

I love having these ministries in my life. The High Tech Prayer Breakfast gave me a launching pad for my own workplace ministry.  These ministries have given me amazing opportunities to come along side people as they grow in their faith.

I’m reminded of something I once heard a pastor say: As the carpenter builds the house, the house builds the carpenter.  As I got more involved with ministering to others through the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, my relationship with God has also grown deeper.

When I think about inviting people to the prayer breakfast now, I see it as a chance for them to start the adventure of a lifetime.  

My ministries are really what made Christ real throughout my life, and it all started with the High Tech Prayer Breakfast.