How a Profound Question Changed My Perspective

Nov 2017 Image.jpg

The Question I Now Ask

How Do Make Life About God (Not Me)?

I am sitting in church listening to a sermon from R.T. Kendall. He is the former Senior Pastor of Westminster Chapel in central London. He retired in 2002 after 25 years.

He asked the question, “What happened to the Gospel?”

He went on, “If you were not a Christian and were listening to the sermons of the preachers today, you would think the Gospel is about prosperity, health, and wealth. This preaching is no longer about God; it is about us. We don't serve God. He serves us.”

What Do I Get?

Then Kendall said, “The question we are asking ourselves when it comes to God is, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

This got me thinking about other questions I ask myself from time to time.

  1. Why go to church on Sunday?
  2. Why go through the trouble of getting the kids ready?
  3. Why should I attend a Grace@Work Bible study group?
  4. Why should I be a table host at the High Tech Prayer Breakfast?
  5. Why should I share my faith with my friend?


I can see now how churches have turned into marketing organizations. They speak to me first. They work hard to reach me where I am. And their message has settled into my subconscious.

I know, because when I am asked to do something for God, I find myself struggling. I’m asking myself, “Is this my market? Is the work consistent with my calling? Does this match my spiritual gifts? Am I qualified?” In effect, I’m asking, “What's in it for me?”

Do I Need Jesus?

Kendall was speaking on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and the Reformation (October 31, 2017). He said, “The question being asked by society back then was, ‘Am I saved?’ The question being asked today is, ‘Do I need to be saved?’”

Wow! I think he’s right. That is the question people are asking? It was the question I was asking before I became desperate enough to know I needed saving. 

Our Society’s Extra Step

There is an extra step our society seems to have inserted in the process. First I need to be convinced I am a sinner separated by God. And only after being convinced of that will I entertain the question, “Am I saved?”

He was right. The question has changed. It is now about me, a man who is in control of my destiny. “Why do I need to be saved? What’s in it for me? I seem to be doing fine.” 

So what does the church preach to attract those of us who are asking the question, “Do I need to be saved?” Preach a better life now. “With God, you can be richer, more successful, and healthier than you ever thought possible. That’s what's in it for you.”

Lose Your Life

Yet Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, you will pick up your cross and follow me. If you try to save your life, you will lose it. However, if you lose your life for me and the Gospel, you will be saved. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his very soul.”

Having thought about this for a while, the question I am now asking myself is, “How do I make my life all about God and not me?” 

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.

 

A SIMPLE INVITATION THAT CAN CHANGE A DESTINY

I sat at my first High Tech Prayer Breakfast. It was a Friday morning, October 1, 1993. I was invited by a friend, Robert Campbell. He was a Senior VP with Stockholder Systems and later it’s CEO. I knew Robert for over 14 years. We grew up in the tech startup business together.

I Was Very Nervous

I don’t remember who else was at the table. I was very nervous, for a couple of reasons. There were over three hundred people at the Doubletree Hotel Ballroom, and I felt like I didn’t know any of them. For the last ten years, I was head down operating businesses in Atlanta and elsewhere. I knew no one in town.

The program started shortly after I arrived which eased my discomfort. The keynote speaker was Wes Cantrell, CEO of Lanier World-Wide a division of Harris Corporation. 

I don’t remember anything Wes Cantrell said. As I think back, it was probably because I was so nervous that I couldn’t focus. When he finished his talk a guy named Bill Leonard got up to close the meeting. Robert leaned over to me and said, “This is the guy who founded the High Tech Prayer Breakfast."

Religion vs. Relationship

Bill talked about his relationship with Jesus Christ. He said, “It is not about religion. It is about relationship.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. I grew up Catholic, and I always thought my relationship with God was all about religion. This concept of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ was brand new to me.

When Bill spoke about his relationship with Jesus, he teared up. He spoke in measured short sentences. Clearly. With downward voice inflection. The words he was saying struck me because it was clear his words had deep meaning to him. 

After the Breakfast, I had a meeting with an investor friend. He asked, “Were you at the breakfast this morning?” 

“Yes, I was,” I answered.

“What do you think about that Bill Leonard guy? Can you believe he was talking all that religion stuff? He is a commercial real estate broker for crying out loud,” he said.

I said, “I’m not sure I believe what he was saying, but he sure did. Do you believe in anything the way Bill Leonard believed in this Jesus he was talking about?”

“No. I guess not,” he said.

That’s when I decided I needed to meet with Bill. I told him I was looking for some office space. Then I said, “I was impressed with all the technology people who attended the breakfast. You seem to know everybody. I was wondering if you could introduce me to these Christian business leaders?”

Bill asked, “Would you be willing to attend a Bible study? It is a men’s group which meets every Friday morning at a restaurant near Perimeter Mall. You’ll meet a lot of the guys there.”

Making New Friends

What Bill didn’t know was that I was eleven months sober through AA. My AA sponsor told me I had to find new friends if I was to stay sober. Over my lifetime I had accumulated some great friends. The problem was, they were all heavy drinkers. Thus the sponsor’s advice. But how does a forty-year-old man make new friends? Bill was giving me the answer.

In preparation for the first Bible study of my life, I looked all over the house for a Bible. I found a discolored green Bible which Robert Campbell had loaned me over ten years ago. When I pulled it off the shelf, it was dusty, and all the pages were swollen. I must have dropped it in water at some point. But it was the only Bible I could find.

My nervousness for this Bible study exceeded my nervousness for the Breakfast. I pictured myself at a table with five guys all who knew what they were doing. I would be the only idiot who knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about the Bible.

6:45 AM Bible Study

I walked into the restaurant at 6:45 am and was greeted by the friendliest man on the planet. He introduced himself and gave me a warm handshake. He escorted me to the coffee station and began introducing me to the other men. As I looked around the dining room, there had to be over 60 men there. I felt better but still uncomfortable.

Week after week, those guys loved on me. They shared their lives with me. They taught me all about the Bible. They demonstrated to me what it looked like to have a personal relationship with God. I had never felt the warmth like that in any business meeting I attended. They loved me and understood me. We were all in technology, and we were all excited to learn about Jesus and each other.

Eight months later I gave my life to Christ. 

Thanks to Robert Campbell. He never gave up on me. As ugly as I was to him about his faith over the years, he knew Jesus would do a miracle in my life. And the miracles continued.

It all started by accepting Robert’s invitation to a breakfast. That’s all I had to do. Unbelievable!


Act Now: Only 15 Tables Left


There are only fifteen tables left for this year’s High Tech Prayer Breakfast. Are you ready to watch Jesus do a miracle in a friend’s life? All you have to do is get a table then invite your friends. If you are interested in joining the leadership team by becoming a table host email Amie Hood, Director of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast.

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.

Why Weekly Bible Studies Will Change Your Life

“Since you’ve taken a job so close to my office, would you like to attend my Friday morning Grace@Work Bible study? You are just starting your career, and it will give you a great opportunity to meet new people and get to know God personally,” I said to my daughter Julia.

A Critical Insight

“Who normally attends?” she asked.

“We have people of all ages from all walks of life. Most are Christians, but some are just interested in the Bible,” I said.

“What time does it start?” she asked.

“Seven a.m. But we serve coffee and breakfast,” I said, hoping it was enough of an enticement.

She replied, “I can tell you this. Anybody who goes to a 7 a.m. Bible study every week is not just interested in the Bible. They are seeking God, and they are on their way to becoming Christians.”

This stopped me cold. I thought it was a great observation. It sounded like truth.

When Did You Become a Christian?

Just a few weeks later, Nora, one of the attendees at the Friday study, said she became a Christian. She said this casually while offering her ideas and experience on a scripture we were discussing.

I said, “What a minute. When did you become a Christian?”

“I’ve been sitting in this study for the last four months. Every week we are reading and discussing the Bible, the God of the Bible and our relationship with Him. I don’t remember what was said at one of the sessions, but I suddenly knew it was all true,” she explained.

“That very night I went home and admitted I was a sinner and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. He came into my heart and changed my life,” she continued.

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Just like that,” she answered.

Practical Biblical Wisdom

My personal experience and observations match this conclusion.

The church has it right. You must make a weekly commitment to learn about God. A time you set aside to meet with others to read and discuss the Bible.

God even made a commandment to be sure we would do it: “Remember the Sabbath day.”

He knew if we would just spend one day a week with him, we would know the truth and the truth would set us free.

A Surprise Ending

Craig Calloway, our keynote local speaker at the 2000 High Tech Prayer Breakfast, gave this advice after sharing his story, “If you are not a Christian or spiritual person, don’t stop pursuing it (faith).”

He came to accept Christ as his personal Lord and personal Savior because of a weekly breakfast with his friend Regi. Regi Campbell had enough of the water cooler conversations with Craig about God.

He said, “If you really want to know the truth about Jesus Christ, commit to meeting me for breakfast once every week.” Craig agreed. They met for breakfast every week for two years.

At each of those breakfasts, they would discuss the Bible and even some books Regi recommended. The purpose of the weekly meeting was to talk about God.

As Regi tells the story, one day he just had it. He was talking to Craig, and Craig countered with one more argument against the truth, and Regi said, “Fine. I’m done with you. Believe what you will believe.”

Surprised, Craig said, “I love you and appreciate you. You met with me every week for two years, and you are one busy guy. I believe Jesus is God, and he came to save me from my sins and make me right with God. I just didn’t want to say it to you because I don’t want to stop meeting with you every week.”

Your Turn

Make an appointment with someone you love to talk about God for an hour every week. It could be a breakfast, a lunch, a Bible study or attending church together. Just make sure it is weekly.

Two Videos Worth Watching

Nora Charlesworth’s (formerly Nora Church) story from the 2012 High Tech Prayer Breakfast.

Craig Calloway’s talk from the 2000 High Tech Prayer Breakfast.

Start Here

If you are interested in a Bible study email Amie Hood, our program coordinator, and she'll help you find one.

Atlanta Technology Gives Back

On May 6-8, High Tech Ministries and Serve@Work traveled to Smyrna, Georgia to help restore 7 Bridges to Recovery.  With 7 sponsors and 120 volunteers, multiple projects were completed throughout the course of the week.  These volunteers renovated the dining room by building and staining wooden tables as well as replacing the floor.

A necessary outdoor shed roof was built and the landscaping was updated.  We also installed a door to the laundry room and spent time with the residential kids playing games, helping with homework, and making crafts

5 Ways Being a Table Host Has Changed My Life

The first time I signed up to host a table, I went to a meeting and heard our founder, Bill Leonard, share his vision: “One day, people outside the Atlanta technology community will see our differentiator, what sets us apart from every other community, is the light of Christ shining forth.”

Quite honestly, I was uncomfortable with it. What did I get myself into here? This vision was too big, and the mission was too hard.

But I stayed. I signed up to be a table host.

As I left that meeting, I was pumped. I was convinced I was doing the right thing for God. By the time I got to my car, I wasn’t so sure.

I was told to only invite people I knew did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And don’t invite them via email. Invite them face to face. After all, you do have a relationship with these people.

I felt all alone and poorly equipped. 

I was an infant Christian having started my relationship with Jesus just one month prior to this meeting. And now I was supposed to invite people like I knew what I was doing.

When I don’t know what I am doing, I go to Jesus in prayer. I asked him, “Who should I ask?” The names started popping into my head. They were my closest friends.

They said, “Yes.” Every one of them. I think they were in a state of shock. “Charlie is asking me to attend a prayer breakfast?”

The day of the breakfast quickly arrived. After greeting my guests, we sat down and the program began. I sat with my head down. I couldn’t look at my friends. The speakers told their stories. They talked about Jesus ...a lot.

Then there was the call to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. The breakfast ended, and each of my friends thanked me for the opportunity.

They really enjoyed it.

What followed was amazing. I can’t tell you how many conversations about Jesus, faith and religion we had while on golf trips or out to dinner or at parties. Some attended my Bible studies, and most of them came to know Jesus as their Savior.

That is the power of the breakfast.

Agreeing to be a table host the first time brought me to five places I’d never been before.

1. Brought me closer to Christ

People talk about figuring out which friends to invite and say if they can fill a table, they will host a table. That’s backwards. You have to trust God.

2. Brought me out from under my desk

When you ask your coworkers to a breakfast, they know you are a Christian. You are now marked.

3. Brought me into the body of Christ

The friendships which developed by being on mission for God together is akin to being in the Marine Corp. Brothers for life.

4. Brought my friends into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ

Some I have asked to the breakfast received Christ there. But over the last 20 years, others came to know Christ through weekly Grace@Work Bible study groups.

5. Brought me into Jesus leadership

I have a very well known VC in town who calls me the Pope. Wherever we are, whatever meeting we are in, he calls me the Pope publicly. This leads to a discussion about my faith.

Look at all the places God will take you.

This is why God has you right here, right now. He wants you to join him in leading the event He created to reach our community for Jesus Christ.

If you don't already have a table get your table here.

Why You Need to be a Table Host

I’m walking out of the Southeast Software association meeting with Bill Leonard of Wm Leonard & Co and founder of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. I said to him, “I want you to know something big happened in my life.”

Taking the First Step

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am born again!” I said proudly.

“That is great! You need to become a table host at this year’s High Tech Prayer Breakfast,” he said without hesitation.

“No way,” I said.

We walked into the parking deck, and the next thing I knew, I was pinned against one of the support columns. Bill had me trapped.

He said, “This is your opportunity to let all the people know you are now a Christian.”

Big Decision Made Timidly

“You don’t understand the life I lived. These people know me really well. I don’t think I am ready to tell them,” I said.

He was pounding me, and I was pounding right back. But I knew in my heart he was right. I needed to tell my friends and business associates, including my family.

Then Bill said, “Yes, you are ready. Jesus made you ready. It is not about you. It is about Him and what you came to believe he did for you.”

“Ok. I’ll do it,” I said timidly.

I had just agreed to invite nine people to a prayer breakfast. Those invites were really hard for me. I was so concerned what my friends might think. After all, they knew me!

Same Friends, Different Me

Not one of the people I invited to the breakfast was a Christian. This is because I didn’t hang out with Christians. All my friends were just like me. We believed and behaved pretty much the same way. Now I was different, yet we were still friends.

As I look back, it was the best table I ever hosted. Each of the men I invited thanked me for the invitation and said they enjoyed the breakfast. I was so glad it was over.

But it wasn’t over. From that day onward, our relationships changed. They knew I was a born again Christian. They saw me differently and expected different. Our conversations were now sprinkled with questions about God, Jesus and religion. 

This led some of them to attend Bible studies. They were curious. They wanted to know more about this new faith of mine. Some of them even became born again themselves.

Becoming a New Person

Twelve years ago I was attending a friend’s 60th birthday party. At the time he was a self proclaimed atheist. While making his remarks to all his friends and family, he singled me out and said, “I have known many men throughout my life. But I only know one who truly changed from who he was into a new person. That’s my friend Charlie.”

I was stunned. That’s when I realized Jesus had changed me. I am a new man in Christ. The old man is gone. 

It is time for you to sign up as a table host for this year’s breakfast. Only God knows where he will take this simple act of obedience.

Has God Given You a Vision?

I received the call at 3:35 pm on Monday, October 3rd. I was working in my home office on one of the new week’s priorities.

“He isn't going to make it. We need you to be the keynote speaker for the High Tech Prayer Breakfast on Friday,” Matt said.

Canceling a Week of Appointments

He explained why the keynote speaker had to cancel. I agreed to speak. We ended the conversation, and my week’s priorities were changed in an instant. The first thing I did was drop to my knees and start praying. I asked, “Now what, God? What exactly do you have in mind? This is your event, and I am your servant. Help me.”

The next thing I did was cancel all my appointments for the week. I needed to spend time in prayer and preparation. This is the biggest event in the Atlanta technology community, and it’s a prayer breakfast. God chose me to tell my story of how Jesus came into my life and changed me forever. I went from being king of my life to making him King of my life.

Godly Support Just in Time

I called Dave Mims who heads up the intercessory prayer team for the Prayer Breakfast. I asked him to start praying for my message and preparation time. He put the word out immediately, and I knew I was covered.

Then I called Ellen who is the most faithful intercessor I know, and she prayed with me right over the phone. She said God told her months ago I was being called to something big for Him, but she wasn't sure what it was. Now she knew.

It was time to listen to God. The first thought I received was this. He set this event in motion even before the world began. He is in control. I was chosen to be the keynote, not on Monday, but long ago. He knew. I didn't. This thought comforted me.

God Gives Me a Vision

Then God gave me the close of the talk. He told me I was to ask, “What about you? Is this the day of your salvation?” He told me I was to ask people to stand if today was the day they would give their lives to Jesus. If they would get off the throne of their lives and give it to Him. And the details of the close proceeded from there.

What hit me hard was a vision he gave me. He showed me hundreds of people standing when I gave this invitation. Really, hundreds. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I was dancing around my home office.

A Miracle About to Happen

Imagine hundreds coming to know the Lord and changing the course of their lives, the lives of their families and everyone else in their lives. Jesus can do this. He did it in my life and in the lives of so many I know.

The day of the breakfast came. I had slept fitfully the night before. God was continuing to talk to me, and he changed a big part of my talk. I got up at 4 am, prayed and practiced this new idea he wanted me to include. He never did change the close from the first moment he gave it to me on Monday.

Matt McConnell, the emcee for the prayer breakfast, introduced me. I went through my talk knowing the close was coming. I couldn't wait to get there. I wanted to see God’s vision become a reality right before my eyes.

The moment came. I said, “If this is the day of your salvation, if this is the day you give the throne of your life to Jesus, if this is the day you are changed forever, then stand up.”

 The Miracle Doesn’t Happen

I waited. The room was very quiet. You could hear a pin drop. I looked at the crowd of 1,500 people. My eyes scanned from one side of the ballroom to the other. I remained quiet. It seemed like an eternity. Time stood still. No one stood. Not one.

Then to my right one person, a young man, stood. I was so relieved. I looked at him, pointed to him and said, “Thank you.”

I continued to invite others to stand. Another person stood. Then another. And another. One here. One to my left. One in the back. One in front. When I concluded, there looked to be maybe twenty. Twenty, maybe less. Not hundreds. That was it. What happened, I thought?

I told this story to a mentor and he said, “God calls people to him. You can’t be so arrogant to think people came to accept Christ as Lord and Savior because of something you said. It is not you. It is Him. Never forget this. All you can do is what he asks of you.”

I can think of this in one of two ways:

1 I can rationalize for God. I can use my imagination and ascribe to God what he really meant when he gave me the vision of people standing. I can develop a plan and narrative around it explaining how God is ultimately going to make this vision a reality.

2 I can accept it did not happen. I don’t understand it. I can trust Him.

I know this. I was given the vision of all those people standing. I saw it. It did not happen the way I expected. I am giving this one to God. All I can do is what He asks me to do.

My faith rests not in visions, not expectations, not outcomes. My faith rests in God.

If you’ve ever had a vision from God that did not happen, tell me about it.

Starting a Bible Study with Others is Best

“I’ve been in a two-year discipleship program in my church. As we were about to start year three, I thought, isn’t it time I discipled others?” said Joe Yi to me in late November.

God's Call to Action

Joe was part of a Bible study I led at the Atlanta Technology Development Center a few years ago, and eventually he very ably led it himself.

He said God called him to work with me on starting a Bible study at the Atlanta Tech Village.

“Really?” I asked.

He said, “Will you meet with me so we can discuss it? I’ll meet you at the ATV. How about next Monday?”

Then I approached Kevin Sandlin who is the founder of the popular Pitch Practice community at ATV. He said, “I’d be happy to join you and Joe in a study at the ATV.”

God Moves, Even if I’m Not

I still didn’t do anything with these two guys except talk. As they say…talk is cheap. 

Last week, Kevin sent me an email that said, “Please meet John Duisberg, believer and co-founder of a startup and long time ATV member. We had lunch today because he reached out to me about starting a weekly ministry at ATV.”

“This is unbelievable!” I said to myself.

Finally this week I received an email from an old friend, lawyer and successful entrepreneur, Wayt King.

He commented on my blog post and finished his email by saying, “Also, do you have Tuesday Bible studies up at ATV or elsewhere on the north side of town?”

Next: Date, Time, and Room

We talked by phone, and he said he wanted me to start a Bible study at ATV. He will help any way he can. 

“What’s the next step?” he asked.

I said, “Set a date and time, and get a room reserved. Once this is decided, each of you will start inviting people.” 

“OK. What’s the date we start this thing at ATV?” he immediately asked.

I gave him a date which I thought would work. He told me it is on his calendar. He is ready to get started. 

We Serve an Awesome God!

This is how God works in calling people into marketplace ministry. They hear from Him and jump into action. They start reaching people like me who help them get started. 

I’m confident through the able leadership of these four men (Joe Yi, Kevin Sandlin, John Duisberg and Wayt King), God will populate this study with people he wants to hear his Word.

I love the ATV culture. If you want to do something which will feed community, David Lightburn and his staff are all for it. In fact, they will jump in and help. Even for a Bible study. 

Thanks to David and Karen Houghton for your leadership and for trusting me with your community.

You Are Invited

The new study will begin on Thursday, February 2 from 11:30-1:00. Lunch included. You are welcome to experience it and become part of this new community.