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.

My First Bible Study

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My First Bible Study

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.

“What are you looking for?” Kathy asked as she saw me rummaging through the bookshelves in our bedroom.

“I am looking for a Bible,” I said.

“A Bible? Why do you want a Bible?” she asked in disbelief.

“I am going to a Bible study in the morning,” I said.

“You are going to a what?” she asked. “You are going to AA every night, and now you are going to start going to a Bible study?”

“Do we own a Bible or not?” I asked.

“My sister gave me a Bible when I was a kid. I think it is on a bookshelf in the basement.”

I went downstairs and found it. It was an ugly green book with dried, swollen pages. At one time it must have been soaked in water and later dried out. It would barely rate as “Used – Acceptable” on the Amazon book condition scale. But I found it.

I was ready to attend my first Bible study.

At 7 am I walked through the front doors of the restaurant. I was greeted by a man my age. He was quick to welcome me and introduce himself. He said, “Welcome to the men’s Friday morning Bible study. Is this your first time?”

He had me fill out a name tag and then pointed me to the coffee and doughnut bar they’d created for the guests. It was a friendly crowd. A couple of men introduced themselves, but I was more interested in keeping a low profile.

After all, I had no idea how to conduct myself in a Bible study. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they would call on me to speak? Ask me to read the Bible or, worse yet, tell them why I had come in the first place? What was I going to say, “I’m looking for my higher power? Have you seen him?”

Chris White, the leader of the gathering of approximately 40 men, called the meeting to order. He asked everyone to find a seat. Then he said, “Welcome, men. Thanks for getting out of bed so early to hear the Word of God and discuss it. We are here to learn more about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“For those who are here for the first time, our format is simple. I’ll choose a selected reading from the Bible and then speak for ten minutes on the passage. Then we’ll get together in small groups to discuss what we’ve learned and how it might apply to our lives. If you don’t have a regular small group, please see John over there, and he will assign you to one.”

Then Chris said, “Please turn to Matthew 6, verses one through 10.”

I sat there frozen.

I had no idea how to follow those instructions. What was Matthew? Where was Matthew? Who was Matthew? And what did the numbers mean? I didn’t want to look stupid, so I opened the Bible to about the middle and looked like I was reading something. What I was doing was hoping nobody was watching me. I didn’t want to look incompetent, but I needed help.

He did what he said he would do. He read the Bible. It seemed like everybody except for me was following along with him. Then he talked about what he had just read. I don’t remember any of it.

When Chris concluded his remarks, he said, “Ok. Let’s head to our small groups.”

As instructed, I went to see John. He was kind to me as I expected. He showed me to a table with five men I’d never met and asked me to introduce myself. Then each of the men in turn stood and shook my hand. The leader of the small group thanked me for coming and welcomed me. He said, “We are glad you’re here. Our format is simple. I’ll ask questions about what Chris read and talked about, and each of us will have the chance to share our thoughts.”

And with that short introduction, I started my first Bible study.

Before he asked any questions, the table leader asked me why I chose to attend that day. I said, “Bill Leonard sent me here. I was interested in learning more about God, and he recommended this meeting.”

Then the leader asked for prayer requests. Each man gave an update of what was going on in his life. I was struck by how transparent these men were about their lives, families, and business challenges. Some of the stories were pretty horrible. Parents with cancer, wayward kids, marriages not working, no job or income, bad bosses, and the list went on. I was thinking, I’m in AA and can’t seem to figure out what I’m going to do professionally, but my wife and kids love me. I’m in pretty good shape. I didn’t share any of this. I was there to observe and learn.

Then the leader asked a man to pray for the prayer requests.

I’d never heard a prayer like he prayed. It was from the heart, and it was free-form. He was simply in a conversation with God. Until that moment, I’d only heard people read or recite prayers from a prayer book. This guy was talking to God like he was sitting at the table with us.

“What did you think about the reading?” the leader asked.

I listened as these men shared their insights and struggles.

It was like a book club discussion but far more personal. The more the men at the table shared, the more comfortable I became. These guys are just like me. They are struggling with life and searching for answers. They’re here because they believe God has the answers. They think the answers to their questions can be found in the Bible, I thought to myself.

At the end of our time together, each of the men thanked me for coming and asked me to join them the next week.

I liked these guys.

They were not like the people I was meeting while networking in the community. They were authentic and transparent, unguarded. I wanted to be authentic and transparent. Maybe this was a place I could be that way. Maybe, just maybe, this was something I should attend every week.

Could I trust them?

Could I tell them the truth?

I said, “I’m looking for an introduction to my higher power. Can you point me in the right direction?”

Grace@Work Small Groups

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Discover Your Grace@Work Small Group

Take One of the Most Important Steps to Growing Your Spiritual Walk

Yesterday morning I met with the Grace@Work small group leaders from across Atlanta. These are leaders excited and dedicated to helping you grow spiritually. Look through this list and find a group that works with your schedule and give it a try. Find a small group near you. These groups have enriched the lives of thousands, they can do the same for you. I challenge you to give them a try.

Charlie

Charlie Paparelli
President
High Tech Prayer Breakfast

Alpharetta: Intradiem

Meeting Time: Friday, 7:15 - 8:30 am
Leader Email: Don Otto (LinkedIn), Tim FitzGerald (LI)
Location: 3650 Mansell Road, Building Two, Suite 500, Alpharetta, GA, 30009

Alpharetta: Windward Pkwy

Meeting Time: Friday, 6:45 - 8:00 am
Leader Email: Jeff Browning (LI), Jason Phillips (LI)
Location: 5900 Windward Pkwy, Suite 250, Alpharetta, GA 30005

AtlantaTech Village

Meeting Time: Thursday, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm (lunch provided)
Leader Email: John Duisberg (LI), Joe Yi (LI)
Location: 3423 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta, GA, 30305

Midtown at the ATDC: Advanced Technology Development Center

Meeting Time: Tuesday, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm (lunch provided)
Leader Email: Courtney Alexander (LI), Adam Sheridan (LI)
Location: 75 Fifth Street, Atlanta, GA, 30308

Midtown at the ATDC 2: Advanced Technology Development Center

Meeting Time: Wednesday, 11:45 am - 1:00 pm (lunch provided)
Leader Email: Scott Lopano (LI), Blake Patton (LI)
Location: 75 Fifth Street, Atlanta, GA, 30308

Norcross/Peachtree Corners

Meeting Time: Wednesday, 7:00 - 8:30 am
Leader Email: David Hauser (LI), Chris Baker (LI)
Location:  6050 Peachtree Pkwy, Norcross, GA 30092

Old Peachtree Road & I-85: iStaff Offices 85 & Old Peachtree Road

Meeting Time: Monday, 7:15 - 8:15 am
Leader Email: Jason Smith (LI)
Location: 1325 Satellite Blvd Suite 1305, Suwanee, GA, 30024

Perimeter 1: ROAM Dunwoody

Meeting Time: Monday, 7:15 - 8:30am
Leader Email: Mike Morris (LI)
Location: Suite 800 (2nd Floor), 1155 Mt Vernon Hwy NE, Atlanta,  GA, 30338

Perimeter 2: HA + W | Aprio 

Meeting Time: Thursday, 7:00 - 8:00am
Leader Email: Susan O'Dwyer (LI), Curtis Cain (LI)
Location: Five Concourse Parkway, Suite 1000, Atlanta, GA, 30328

*See our Grace@Work page for newly added groups or any changes since this blog post.

Making the Bible Personal and Real: Blake Patton

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Blake Patton

An interview with Grace@Work Bible study leader Blake Patton, Managing Partner at Tech Square Ventures

In three short years, Blake has established Tech Square Ventures as the leading early-stage Venture Capital firm in Atlanta. Using his Georgia Tech network and his reputation as a technology leader, great entrepreneurs intending to build high-value companies followed.

I met Blake while cruising around the ATDC several years ago. He was intent on building a stronger community in his role as ATDC’s General Manager. I ran the idea of a Grace@Work Bible study by him, and he loved it. He said, “This is an element we are missing in our community. Faith is a big part of people’s lives. It would be great if you host the study.”

I hosted, and Blake showed up. That study grew to a point where we decided to split it. One is focused on building ambassadors for Christ. Blake’s is focused on people interested in getting to know the God of the Bible.

Blake will be the local keynote at this year’s High Tech Prayer Breakfast on October 6th. Come by and meet Blake at his study then come to the High Tech Prayer Breakfast to hear his story.

Charlie

Charlie Paparelli
President
High Tech Ministries

Where: ATDC (Google Maps
Leader: Blake Patton
When: Wednesday 11:30 AM
Open: Yes. Everyone welcomed.

Why did you start the Bible study?

Patton: I first got involved in Grace@Work when I was leading ATDC four years ago. I heard stories of the studies' impact from Sig Mosley and others, so I wanted it to be a part of the evolving community at ATDC and around Tech Square. I teamed up with Charlie Paparelli, Bird Blitch, and Greg Foster and we started meeting with other seekers weekly. 

What was your biggest concern?

Patton: Our biggest concern was where to start. We quickly learned that personal invitations to attend the study were the best way to get the group going. I didn’t know how to lead a study, but fortunately, Charlie, Cortney Alexander, and Sawyer Miller stepped up and have been terrific facilitators. After our first study group had grown, I helped support Sawyer in creating a second seeker study.

What do you use to study?

Patton: The Bible is an amazing leadership manual. The best part of the study for me is learning from other technology leaders in our community how they are applying their faith in their professional lives. 

What’s an unexpected benefit of doing the Bible study?

Patton: The study has given me clarity on why I love what I do. It has helped me view being an investor as an opportunity to serve God by serving others – helping entrepreneurs succeed and achieve their dreams. The companies in the building create jobs and improve lives. When they succeed, we succeed allowing us to invest in more entrepreneurs. What I learn by studying with other investors and entrepreneurs builds my relationship with Christ, and helps make me a more successful investor.

Cutting Through Spiritual Fog with Biblical Insight: Mike Morris

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Mike Morris

An interview with Grace@Work Bible Study leader Mike Morris, Co-founder of Broadgreen Solutions

Mike is one of my most favorite people in the whole world and a close friend. 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.
 
On the advice of Matt Stevens, the Chairman of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, Mike attended a Grace@Work Bible study I was leading at the ATDC. That was back in 2008. And within a few years of attending the study, Mike became the leader. 
 
Mike was a rising star with the North Highland Company. He later became a Group VP leading multiple business units for the consulting firm. Later he co-founded the successful Broadgreen Solutions.
 
Mike is one of the men in my life from whom I seek advice. He is a clear thinker. He cuts through the fog of confusion in seconds and helps me define the problem I need to solve. He not only does this in his management consulting practice but also in his ministry.
 
If you have the opportunity to attend Mike’s study, you really need to do it. 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
 
Where: ROAM Dunwoody (Google Maps
Leader: Mike Morris
When: Monday 7:30 am to 8:30 am
Open: Yes. Everyone welcomed.
 
How long have you been leading a Grace@Work Bible study group?  
 
Morris: I started leading this study about two years ago. I previously led one in Midtown for three to four years.

Why did you start leading this Bible study group? 
 
Morris: I felt God nudging me to start the study. I was working out of the ROAM co-working space in Dunwoody, as the co-founder of a new business. I looked around at the environment, and it seemed like a great place to launch a Grace@Work study. 
 
I also realized that, if I didn’t start it then, while I was also co-founding a business, my life was going to fill-up, and I wouldn’t have time for the study. I wanted to start the study while also starting the business, to make sure I fit it into my workweek.

What were your fears or concerns before starting?  
 
Morris: Launching a study is a bit of a “build it, and they will come” adventure. My concern was and still is participation. We get people who come for a while, then their work situation changes and the time, date or location no longer works. I overcame my concern by partnering with Matt Stevens. We co-launched the study and pulled on our networks to find our first members.

What has been the single biggest reward of doing the study?  
 
Morris: The personal impact on a few individuals.  I’ve had people pull me aside or catch me after a study to talk about the impact our study had on them.  That keeps me coming back.

How do you continue to grow your study?  
 
Morris: Word of mouth.

What is a story of how your Bible study has had an impact?  
 
Morris: I got to know someone more closely because he came to our study. He really plugged in and was going through some personal challenges at the time.

Outside of the study, he ended up going deep on some issues. At a critical moment, he put his faith in Christ. He called me the next day to tell me. I was thrilled to play a small role in God’s bigger plan.

Where does your group meet? 
 
Morris: ROAM Dunwoody, Monday mornings.  We start to trickle in about 7:15 am, then our study runs 7:30 to 8:30 am. We have a hard stop so people can get to work. It’s a great way to give God the first fruits from the workweek.

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.

Speaking Truth in Love: Jason Smith

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Jason Smith

An interview with Grace@Work Bible Study leader Jason Smith, President of iStaff

Jason Smith is one of the very best and most active members of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast leadership team. He is a table host with two tables, and he is always careful to invite friends, co-workers, vendors, and clients to this iconic event. 

He uses the prayer breakfast as his number one tool as an ambassador for Christ in the Atlanta technology marketplace. Jason is the founder and leader of iStaff, a premier staffing firm for technology and accounting professionals.

One day, Jason called me and asked me to lunch. He said, “We keep seeing each other at industry meetings but don’t know each other.” 

This is when I learned his story as a young man who grew up on the beaches of Jacksonville and who came to know Jesus as an adult. 

Jason is a good friend, HTPB Board Member and a great Bible study leader. Christ is the foundation of his family, and his business and all that wisdom and knowledge comes through in his study. 

If you live or work near Suwanee, or know someone who does, this is a study that is worth attending.

Charlie

Charlie Paparelli
President
High Tech Ministries

Where: iStaff (Google Map)
Bible study leader: Jason Smith
When: Monday 7:15am - 8:15am
Open: Yes. Everyone welcomed.

How long have you been leading a Grace@Work Bible study group? 

Smith: 7 years

What were your fears or concerns before starting? 

Smith: I was a new Christian and didn’t have a high-level knowledge of the Bible.

What has been the single biggest reward of doing the study? 

Smith: Seeing others grow in Christ.

How do you continue to grow your study?  

Smith: I invite people personally and also our group members invite people. It is very organic. We are in Suwanee so we have to be intentional about inviting new members

What is a story of how your Bible study has had an impact on leading people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ?  

Smith: I invited a friend to the study. At the first meeting, he announced, “I believe that all good people go to heaven.” He felt this strongly and didn’t seem open to debate.

We didn’t argue with him, we just loved him and spoke the truth in love. About two years later he professed Christ as the only way to heaven. 

Where does your group meet?  

Smith: iStaff’s offices in Suwanee, GA

Becoming a Christ Ambassador: Cortney Alexander

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Cortney Alexander

An interview with Grace@Work Bible study leader Cortney Alexander, Patent Lawyer

I met Cortney in his conference room. One of my companies was looking for a patent law firm to evaluate the strength of our patents. At the end of the meeting, I got up to leave and Cortney blocked my way. He said, “I heard about you. You are in marketplace ministry. I read about you on the High Tech Prayer Breakfast website.”

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

“Show me how to do marketplace ministry,” he said.

“You should attend one of the Grace@Work groups offered by our members. They are all over the city,” I said.

“Ok. I will,” he responded.

I figured I would never see him again. But the next week he showed up at my Grace@Work group at the ATDC. Then, in what seemed like no time, he was taking over the leadership.

Cortney is a gifted leader with deep knowledge of scripture. He comes prepared. He is a superb facilitator. Not only that, he also personally cares about everyone who attends. I’ve learned much from him.

Charlie
Charlie Paparelli
President
High Tech Ministries
 


Where: ATDC
Bible study leader: Cortney Alexander
When: 11:30 AM Tuesday
Open: Yes. Everyone welcome

Why did you start a Bible study?

I was interested in reaching people like me: people who went off to college and were pulled away from whatever relationship they might have had with God. Then they were too focused on career and family to make any time for him.

How did you get involved?

When I met Charlie in making a pitch for his company’s business, I stopped him on his way out the door to ask about HTM. He pointed me to the Grace@Work groups, and I signed up for the study at the Atlanta Technology Development Center in midtown. That happened to be the study Charlie and Blake Patton were leading.

In August 2016, I took over the study for several weeks while Charlie was out of town. Like Tom Brady when he filled in for Drew Bledsoe, I didn’t let go when he returned!

What is one story that demonstrates the study’s impact?

We’ve seen God at work in a number of lives since then. One is Tom Grant, a lawyer practicing technology law and commercial litigation. He joined our study for Discovery 2015 after attending the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. He’s since said that he didn’t know why he kept coming back those first few weeks, and, to be honest, I was a little surprised, too! But God kept drawing him back.

After some months of attending our study, Tom told a story about a personal turning point that occurred in an unexpected moment—in the midst of an argument with his wife. When (in the heat of the moment!) she questioned why he was even going to a Bible study, he responded, “Because I want to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!” I love his response!

How has your study grown?

We’re now preparing to split the study in two: (1) an introductory study for those exploring what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, and (2) an “ambassador training” study for those interested in diving deeper into the Bible to better prepare to live out the gospel in their daily lives.

I wonder when I’ll find myself out of town for a few weeks and return to find that God has raised up another person to lead people in the study of His word. For me, that journey started by attending a Grace@Work group.

We’d love to have you join us.