Recently I was given an incredible gift. I had the opportunity to spend four hours with Andrew Young. His list of accomplishments is long. To list only a few, he was a pastor, a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement, a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Also, he was the Atlanta mayor instrumental in bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta.
During our afternoon conversation, he talked and I listened. I learned so much about life and leadership. In this series of posts, I will share what I learned from this man of God. He is a great leader who has made history multiple times. To read the rest of this series, visit paparelli.com and subscribe.
It was Sunday evening, and I had just finished watching the Arnold Palmer Invitational on TV. I was struck by the age of the men in contention. The average age was 27. Francesco Molinari, an old Italian of 36, won it with an astounding performance of 8 under par on the final day.
This got me thinking about something Andrew Young said. He made an observation on the power of getting young people together to share ideas. I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
Andrew said, “It is wonderful to get young people together for the sole purpose of free thinking. This is what happened with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Smart, young people with ideas and money. They changed the world as we knew it.
“We were smart and young in the late 1950s, but we had no money. The youth of today have resources. We need to make every effort to bring these people together to share their ideas with each other. Great ideas will emerge, and so will many great leaders. Our world as we know it will once again change.”
Then he told the story of Gardner Taylor.
He said, “Gardner was the Billy Graham of the black community back then.
“Every year after Christmas, he would bring together all the great African-American pastors in the United States. This included a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr. They would meet in Jamaica for two weeks.
“They would talk, pray, and play golf. When they returned from this getaway, they would have a year’s worth of sermons. Sermons on social issues and faith. These sermon topics were intended to change the world.”
I experienced this a couple of weeks ago.
Henry Kaestner, Managing Partner of Sovereign’s Venture Capital, coined the phrase Faith Driven Entrepreneurs. He and his partners, Luke Rouch and Jake Thompson, came to Atlanta as part of raising money for their new VC fund.
It will be focused on funding faith-based companies with community impact and dramatic growth potential. In addition to pitching investors, they had the idea of bringing together men and women who lead their companies with their faith in Jesus Christ as their foundation.
They asked me as the leader of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast if I would partner with them on this meeting. In addition, they asked David Theil of C12 Groups and Chad Merrill of Fellowship of Companies for Christ International to partner with them on this meeting. The meeting was a Tuesday night affair held at the New Realm Brewing Company on the Beltline.
I was blown away when I arrived. There were close to two hundred smart, young, faith-driven leaders. They are making a difference for Christ every day in their companies, but they also feel like they are out there all alone while on this mission. This meeting announcement brought them together to talk and share ideas.
They realized they were not alone.
It was an amazing meeting because of the quality of people who attended. And there was an incredible connection in that they are all CEOs and founders who are disciples of Jesus Christ.
Henry Kaestner, a former High Tech Prayer Breakfast keynote speaker, shared some thoughts on how he operates his business. He told stories on how he operated Bandwidth.com, which grew to a $1B company. He shared with all of us their core values and how they stuck to them. Click here to see his presentation.
A couple of days later, I was talking to my nephew who lives in Tampa, Florida. He is a faith-based leader in his company. He said he found out from a friend on Facebook that this meeting was taking place in Atlanta. He told me, “I wanted to fly in to attend. It sounded so interesting.”
“Why would you consider coming? That’s an awfully long way to come for a two hour meeting at a brewery.”
He said, “I just wanted to meet the people who attended and share ideas. I know it would have been very encouraging for me.”
Andrew Young is right. We need more gatherings of great, young leaders where they can share their ideas in all areas of our community.
These are the people who will change our world. Who knows what ideas will be shared. But the result will be great new companies and high-impact social initiatives. And these organizations will result in a better life for all of us.