yourministry

Start Your Own Ministry...The Easy Way

Mar 2019 Blog.jpg

How to be a Christian in Business

Start Your Own Ministry ...The Easy Way

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 need your help. Will you meet with me?” asks the entrepreneur.

“Sure. I’d be happy to,” I say. “Let’s do this. I’ll meet you at the ATDC at 10:30 am, and we’ll go through your business. When our meeting is over, would you be willing to join me at a Bible study at the ATDC? It starts at 11:45 am and ends promptly at 1 pm. You’ll meet some new people and have a new experience. You’ll even get a free lunch. What do you say?” 

More often than not, people say, “Yes.”

This has kept the Grace@Work at the ATDC front and center for me. It has also helped to grow the study. Cortney Alexander leads the study and has been leading for a couple of years. He does a great job, and people do come back. Many have come to know the Word of God, and many now know Jesus as King and Savior because of this simple invite.

And all I do is ask people to join me after I help them with their business. 

Here’s how it all started.

In October 1994 I got a call from Bill Leonard. He is the premier real estate broker for fast growth startups in our Atlanta tech community. He is also the founder of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. 

He told me that he and Emma Morris were going to lead a four-week Bible study after the Breakfast. 

“Why are you calling me?” I asked.

“I found you that great office space in Interstate North. Emma and I think this would be a perfect location to host people who are interested in attending a Bible study. So can we use your conference room?” he asked.

“When is the study?” I replied.

“The study will run from 7 am to 8 am on Fridays. I’ll even pay you for any coffee we drink. Will you give me access to your office and let us use your conference room and kitchen?” he asked.

I answered, “That is not a problem. I’ll get you a key, and don’t worry about the coffee.” 

“Thank you.” Then he added, “You know you can join us.”

I was thinking to myself, I’ve got enough going on with my wife, driving the kids to school, and investing and helping operate three businesses. I don’t have time for this.

But I said, “Sure, Bill. Since it is only four weeks, I’ll be happy to join you and Emma.”

That was how I started going to Bible study in a tech company office. That’s how the first Bible study started in my office. 

At the end of the fourth meeting, Bill announced, “Well, that’s it. This is the last meeting. Thanks for attending.”

I said, “Hold on! I like coming to this Bible study. I was learning a lot about the Bible, and it was great to discuss my questions about God and Jesus with everybody. Why does this have to be the last meeting?”

I looked around, and the other five people in the study, besides Bill and Emma, were all agreeing with me.

Bill said, “Well, I’m not signing up to lead a study here going forward.” 

Emma jumped in and said, “I’ll come for a couple of weeks to make sure you guys are on track, but I’m not a long-term leader either.” 

I said, “OK. I’ll lead the study since this is my office. Is that OK with all of you?” Everyone agreed.

Emma stepped in and said, “You’ve never led a study, and you really don’t know the Bible, do you?”

“Nope.” I answered. “But I promise we will read the Bible and discuss it. My interest is to continue to do what you did for the last four weeks.”

Emma said, “OK. I’ll come for a few weeks. I’ll be there to help you lead. I’ll guide you on how to facilitate a Bible study. If you do OK and everybody stays interested, I’ll step out and give it to you guys.”

Within a year, that study grew from five of us to over thirty people. We kept inviting our friends and business associates to join us. At one point, I would be leading the study in our conference room with people two deep and with chairs behind me leading to my lobby. It was nuts. It wasn’t long before we split the study into two groups.

God really blessed it.

As I look back, I see the significance of using this Bible study as my own ministry. That Bible study was initially the ministry of the founding five guys. It grew, as did Cortney’s ministry at the ATDC, to include many others. 

If you attend one of the Grace@Work groups on a regular basis, I challenge you to make it your ministry. Your way of introducing people to the God of the Bible and his Son, Jesus Christ. All you have to do is ask them to join you. How simple is that?

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.
 

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.

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.