Tell Your (Whole) Story

May 2019 Blog.png

How to be a Christian in Business

Tell Your (Whole) Story

Charlie Paparelli

This is part of 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.

I attended a breakfast the other day at the invitation of Bill Leonard. He wanted me and others to meet Nancy Ortberg. She is the wife of pastor, writer, and speaker John Ortberg who leads a church in Silicon Valley. She leads Transforming the Bay Area with Christ, a nonprofit in the Valley started by Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware.

Bill is always on the lookout for great speakers who will share their faith story for the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. He believed Nancy would be a good referral source for speakers. After all, she and her husband have been serving in the Valley for over ten years.

There were six of us at that breakfast—Nancy, Bill, me, Blake Patton of Tech Square Ventures, Chad Merrill of Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, and Tim Erwin, a behavioral psychologist, author, and speaker. We only had an hour, and there were multiple agendas.

At one point during the breakfast, Tim Erwin looked at Blake and said, “I don’t know you. Could you share a bit of your story?”

I know Tim was looking to understand what Blake does for a living and why he was at this breakfast. But that’s not how Blake took the question.

If Blake was asked this question in any other environment, I am sure he would have talked about his resume and Tech Square Ventures. But because of this very Christian crowd, he answered more completely. He shared his life with all of us. He talked about his wife, Stephanie, and his kids, Luke and Alexa. Then he talked about his career and transitioned to his faith in Jesus Christ and how it happened. I noticed everyone leaned in for this part of his story because it was here he shared his heart. He finished up with the great work he is doing with his VC fund and Engage at the ATDC.

But it didn’t stop there.

Tim’s request of Blake to tell his story turned into each of us telling our story. Person by person in a clockwise direction, we shared. First Blake, then Chad, then me, then Tim, and finally Bill. For some reason, Nancy didn’t share her story. It was probably because she was our host and was assumed to be so well known.

The breakfast was special.

Everybody’s agenda was satisfied, but something no one expected happened. We really got to know each other in a very short time. When our hour was up, Nancy had to run to another meeting. All of us Atlanta people were left to talk. It was interesting how we paired off and stuck around for the next hour. 

I believe this happened because we became closer over a meal. We shared our stories. We shared our hearts. We shared our struggles. We shared our personal lives. We shared our successes. We shared our common belief in Jesus as our Savior. All in one hour with six people present.

I do this all the time.

I recently met with a young man who just sold his business. He netted close to $100 million. An amazing accomplishment at any age. And here he is in his early thirties.

I was introduced to him by a friend who said, “I met Tom at an industry association we both belong to. He just sold his company. I think you can help him sort through his next step in life and career.”

Tom and I met at Starbucks. 

It was busy and noisy, but we found one of those two-person tables wedged among lots of other two-person tables. To our left was a lady talking to someone across from her. To our right was a guy wearing headphones who was typing on his computer.

I asked Tom lots of questions about his early life and business and his life now. I got him talking...a lot. As I was about to ask the next question, he stopped me and said, “I was really curious about your story.”

When he asked this, I knew I needed to tell my “whole”  story. Not only my career but also my family, my success, my alcoholism, and my search for the God who saved me from this dreaded disease. 

It all came out. 

And it all flowed quite naturally. Tom, who is Jewish, listened intently and respectfully, just as I had to him.

We walked away from that one-hour meeting closer to each other. He shared his life, and I shared mine. He, a man in his early thirties, and me, a man in my mid-sixties. But we connected because we told each other our whole stories. 

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.