The C-12 Story
About the Guest
Success doesn’t always deliver what it promises. Buck Jacobs, founder of the C12 Group – a Christian leadership development organization, talks about his life as a financially successful, yet spiritually and emotionally miserable businessman before giving his life to Christ. Don Barefoot, president of C12, describes the excitement of seeing businessmen become kingdom focused.
Success doesn’t always deliver what it promises.
The C-12 Story
Bob: Don Barefoot remembers hearing a story about a business owner who was kind of a Christian business owner.
Don: He was living about three different lives—one at home, one at church, one at work. The one at work was all about money; and it was dog-eat-dog, cutthroat. He had lots of turnover. He was successful. He believed that Christ was Lord, but he had had that tightly compartmentalized, over here.
A fellow came knocking, and he was interviewing him. He said, “So, who owns your business?” The guy said, “Well, I do,” quite proudly. He said, “Really?” It took a little while; but within ten minutes, he saw the brokenness of his business, and the people, and the carnage that they had had, relationally, through that business. He started weeping.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What happens when God gets hold of a man’s life, so much so, that he gets that man’s business? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I want to see if you agree with this. I think you probably will. It has been my observation that success in business can be hazardous to a person’s spiritual health.
Dennis: Oh, no doubt.
Bob: Why do you think that is?
Dennis: Well, I think success can be like cancer. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of human cells. They grow so fast they kill you. I think some businesses can grow so fast that they kill the man or the woman that starts the business—and takes his life, takes his marriage, his family, and his legacy.
Bob: Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a successful businessman to enter the kingdom. He said a rich man, but I’m just interpreting here that it’s a successful businessman.
Dennis: He had to get his money somehow.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: He didn’t get it by clipping coupons, I don’t think. Well, we have a couple of successful businessmen with us today. Don Barefoot and Buck Jacobs join us on FamilyLife Today. Don [and] Buck—welcome to the broadcast.
Buck: Thank you, Dennis. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Don: Thank you.
Dennis: Don is the President and CEO of the C12 Group®. He has a storied career with almost a half dozen global businesses—has been a leader and executive with them. Buck Jacobs is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of C12, after also a storied career in business.
The way I decided to introduce both of you is—you’re ambassadors. You are ambassadors. You are ambassadors for Christ—what Paul talked about over in Second Corinthians, Chapter 5. You are really training others to be ambassadors. Buck, I happen to know that you didn’t start out as an ambassador.
Buck: No, not at all. I started out as anything but an ambassadorial role for Christ.
Dennis: Yes. What was your life like before you met Jesus Christ?
Buck: Well, I was raised in an agnostic home. My dad was in World War II. When he came home, what he had seen and experienced in three years in the South Pacific had led him to question whether or not there was a God. So, God was just not a part of our life. We didn’t go to church; we didn’t own a Bible. Sunday morning was skeet shooting and doing other things.
I grew up in that kind of an environment. The environment was very much success-oriented—first in athletics. My dad had been an athlete, and he wanted his son to be an athlete. In fact, my birth announcement said, “The greatest news in the history of athletics has arrived.” [Laughter] Not a burden to carry, at all.
Dennis: No, not at all—to live up to that!
Buck: Yes. Also, my family is an entrepreneurial family. My grandfather and his brothers owned a business. My father owned an advertising agency. So, I was raised in an environment where success and performance were measured in yards gained, points scored, dollars earned, and so forth.
I had a very successful business career—a very unsuccessful personal life—because of living that philosophy. I was divorced twice. I was a qualified alcoholic—about 40 pounds heavier than, what nobody can see but you can, today. At age 30, I was living in Rome, Italy, in a $600,000 villa with my Maserati parked in the driveway, and every financial dream I’d ever had more than fulfilled.
I sat behind my desk one night and I said, “You know, if life is just 35 or 40 more years of this, I’m not sure I care.” I found no peace, no happiness, and no contentment in the lifestyle of always more.
Bob: The culture had been modeling for you that this is what you should be pursuing. So, all you’d done is you’d said, “Okay, if that’s success, I’ll go after it;” right?
Buck: Sure. In the absence of God, what’s left? You go for the world. What the world advocates and holds up as its level of success is what I sought after.
Bob: So that night, behind your desk, when you said, “Is this all there is?”—was that when the light started to come on for you, spiritually?
Buck: It’s when it started to come on. It wasn’t anywhere near fully-developed at that point, but I turned away from the path that I had been on. I said, “There’s got to be something more than this.” My first decision was: “Well, I’m in the wrong business. I’m going to go back to the States and start another business that I can run in a way that I feel is more appropriate.”
I was involved in another corporation when I was in Italy; I did not own the business. I was an employee, and I felt I needed to own the business. But because of the revelation of the futility of it, when I came back to the States and started a business, I wasn’t committed to it. So, I just threw money at it until I had no money left to throw at problems that came up.
Actually, it would take way too long to tell you all the circumstances that actually happened; but what developed was I was living in Los Angeles. I got up on a Sunday morning to watch a football game at ten o’clock, and I had never watched a church program on TV—wouldn’t have if I had known it was going to be there.
Dennis: Did you know who Jesus Christ was?
Buck: No, I didn’t. I had heard that He came at Christmas. We celebrated Christmas, of course. I had heard that Jesus was the Savior of the world—came to take the sins of the world—but I looked around and there was still a lot of sin left in the world. I thought either He must have failed or—I just didn’t get it.
I had taken instructions in the Catholic Church to get married the first time. Back then, the mass was still in Latin. I didn’t understand it. They talked about Jesus, but I didn’t understand that He died for me. I thought He must have died for something else.
Dennis: Were you on your third wife by now?
Buck: Yes, I sure was.
Dennis: Was she a believer? Was she—
Buck: No. She wasn’t a believer either. She was out of town when this TV program came on. He said, “Life is a series of problems;” and I had nothing but problems. I was out of money. I was entering into a third marriage that probably didn’t have a much better chance of success than the first two. I had enough money to get through the end of the month, and that was about it. Anyway, so that got my attention.
He said: “You can’t avoid problems in life. There’s no life that can be trouble-free.” It was just as personal as us sitting here, Dennis, and talking together. He said, “If you’ll give your life to Christ, from that point on, every problem that you have will be an opportunity to see God’s love expressed in and through your life.” Then, he explained the Gospel—how Jesus had died for me—and for some reason, I got it.
I knew that I was a sinner; I didn’t have to be convinced about that. I just didn’t know what to do about it. In fact, I was certain that if I’d died, I would go to hell. There was no question in my mind that that would be the case. So, he said, “If you will accept Christ, you can do it right where you are.” And I did. I knelt down in that apartment, all by myself; and I just said: “Jesus, if this is real and You want my life, You can have it. I give it to You. I’ll do with whatever You want with the rest of it.”
I started to cry—didn’t know why—but I had a feeling of relief. I had a feeling of change. I cried for a few minutes. The program ended. I sat back on the couch; and I wondered, “What in the world just happened?” I didn’t know. I didn’t have a Bible background to even know the language to describe what had happened; but in the process of being prepared for that, I thought about my best friend who was the only Christian that I knew in the world.
He had tried to witness to me about four years earlier, and I’d just blown him off. I said: “I’m happy for you. Glad you found something, but I’m not ready for that, at this point.” His name was Bob, but I didn’t have the guts to call him. So, the next day, after Bonnie, my wife, came back from work—we were having dinner, and I started to try to describe to her what I had experienced the day before.
I said, “I have this friend--his name is Bob—and I’d really like to talk to him because he’s a Christian. I think I might be a Christian, now. As I was explaining it to Bonnie, the phone rang. It was Bob, calling me from Chicago.
Bob: You hadn’t talked to him in—
Buck: I hadn’t talked to him in years.
Buck: When I heard his voice on the phone, I knew that the deal that God had made with me the day before was real. I would never doubt it again, and I would do whatever Jesus wanted with the rest of my life.
Bob: What did Bob say when you said, “It’s funny you should call.”
Buck: Well, this is really amazing. He said, “When are you coming to Chicago again?” Typically I would have said: “I’m too busy. I can’t come to Chicago.” But I couldn’t say that. I said: “Well, Bob, I can’t come to Chicago. I’m broke.” He said, “Oh, don’t worry about that, Buck.” He said, “You know, about a year-and-a-half ago, I committed my business to Jesus Christ.” He said: “I want my business to model that a man can be successful in business and as a Christian at the same time. I’ve been praying, and I think God wants me to talk to you about coming to work for me and being in charge of our sales.” I started to cry again. He heard the catch in my voice; and he said, “What’s the matter?”
I said, “Bob, I just gave my life to Jesus yesterday.” Then, he started to cry. Then, I started to laugh; and I said, “What’s the matter with you?” He said, “Holly and I have prayed for you every night for four years.” Within three weeks, Bonnie and I moved back to Chicago—went to work for him in his business—a specialty chemical business in the Chicago area. We worked together in that business for ten years.
Dennis: Now, wait a second. I’ve got to back up. What happened to Bonnie in this spiritual jet sled that you just got on, here?
Buck: Well, she came back to Chicago with me. Bob’s wife, Holly, took her to a Bible study. Two weeks later, she received the Lord. So, we really have come into a life of faith pretty much together and have grown together for, now, 39 years.
Bob: Those seeds of what happened in Los Angeles, and as you moved to Chicago and started this business with your friend—with the purpose of having a business that would model both successful business practices but also a Christian faith—that was formative for what God had in store for you and what became C12; right?
Buck: Absolutely. In fact, God grew the business in all the normal business measures. We grew ten-fold in revenues and so forth. God showed us His power and His sovereignty in the way He supplied all the things that we needed to grow. But the most important things were what we learned spiritually, during those years, about the integration of God’s Word in everyday life.
Bob: Don, you’ve heard Buck share that story how many times; do you think?
Don: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe eight or ten—last week. [Laughter]
Bob: And I’m guessing that every time you hear it, it is still—you just marvel; don’t you?
Don: Oh, yes. Seeing God’s hand in all of history—let alone, Buck’s history, is something I love!
Dennis: The thing about both of you guys that I so appreciate is because both of you have a passion for seeing businessmen and women use their businesses as an outreach for Jesus Christ—to minister to the marriages, the families, the people who work there—and not just do business to earn a living—but be about the King’s business through their business.
Explain what C12 is all about and how this is operating around the country.
Bob: And I’m presuming C12 is not some super-explosive like C4 times 3; right?
Dennis: It is. It is, spiritually. Spiritually, it is explosive.
Don: Yes, it’s more of a controlled explosion, hopefully; but we sure want it to be multiplicative across the entire marketplace. We just believe as Bible-believing Christians, that God owns it all. It’s all from His hand—He owns it all. As those, who are disciples of Christ, we’re stewards of what He’s entrusted to us. If you’re at the helm of a business, that’s really not by accident. You have accountability and responsibility.
So, we’re to do things with excellence. We’re to be ambassadors for the Lord in the process. It’s this counter-cultural notion that happens to be perfectly biblical—that it’s one life under the lordship of Christ—and that extends to what you do every day and the impact you have on all those that the Lord brings into your path. In a business, that’s thousands of folks every year.
Bob: So Buck, what does C12 stand for and how does it play itself out? What is it that you’re calling businessmen to do?
Buck: Well, the original brainstorming time that we had about this whole concept—we were trying to think what the name of the business should be. We decided it would be called the Christian 12 Group. One of the directors that was there said: “That’s too long. Let’s just call it C12.” That was 20 years ago, and that stuck.
Bob: The name stuck.
Buck: But what we’ve done is adopted a model that’s been well-used in other formats, which is the gathering together of like-minded folk to work on common problems and to help one another. It’s really a microcosm of the design of the Church, biblically—where God has made everybody different, and we work together, and one’s weakness is counterbalanced by the other’s strength. We didn’t develop the model. We just put it into the context of being Christ-centered—and focusing on the part of the market that is Christian business owners and CEOs—who have the authority to make unilateral decisions to affect the culture of the business. That’s our target.
We do it by bringing them together into a small group of 12 to 15 members that meet for a full day, once a month, and work through a prescribed format that we provide to them—studying different materials that are really designed to be organizational development, from a biblical perspective, and also to emphasize and encourage the perspective that the business itself is a ministry—that the business touches employees, customers, vendors and others that they know just because they’re in business.
If they recognize the opportunity and choose to do so, they can pursue those relationships in a way that earns the right to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We help them see that, recognize it, and then enable them to do it by giving them technology—“Here’s how you can do it.”
Dennis: So a business leader, whether small or large, can really impact a lot of people if he just takes a step back and then becomes intentional about using his influence for Christ.
Bob: And you guys help them think through strategies that they can use—like having a chaplain for your business who can minister to employees, or having evangelistic events for employees or for customers. I think a lot of business owners feel like: “I couldn’t do that. First of all, the IRS might get involved; or if I did something like that, some of my employees would be offended.” You’ve heard all the concerns—
Don: Oh, yes.
Bob: What do you tell a business owner?
Don: Well, we basically encourage them to approach this in truth, but with grace—in that they need to submit to the laws of the land. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has something called Title Seven, which basically says we need to be Equal Opportunity Employers. All that means is you can’t discriminate based on race, or sex, or religious belief—on hiring, compensation, promotion, these kinds of things. It’s an easy bar for them to comply with.
That doesn’t mean they park who they are at the curb when they come to work every day. Their closely-held beliefs and the core values that drive how they lead the enterprise really need not to be hidden. They need to be clearly enunciated so that people can affiliate themselves with an organization they trust, and want to be a part of, and actually enjoy their vocation—enjoy their work—whether they are Christians or not. We find that true Christian servant leadership is much more trustworthy for all people; and so these people stay long-term employees, even if they’re not believers.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of a business leader who truly got it and said, “I want to use my business as an opportunity to share Christ.”
Don: A year ago, we had a conference in Orlando. One of our newer members—been with us just about three years, at that point—he gave his testimony. He was all about money. He was living about three different lives—one at home, one at church, one at work. The one at work was all about money. It was dog-eat-dog, cut throat. He had lots of turnover. He was successful, but it was a miserable place to work.
A fellow who would later become his C12 Chair came knocking. He was interviewing him. He said, “So, who owns your business?” The guy said, “Well, I do,” quite proudly. He said: “Really. Where does all this come from?” It took a little while—but within ten minutes, he believed that Christ was Lord—but he had that tightly-compartmentalized, over here—he started weeping. Within an hour, they were hugging. This guy became a C12 member. He started to change how he—
He saw the brokenness of his business, and the people, and the carnage that they had had, relationally, through that business. Long story short—within the next couple of years—that became a zero-turnover, rapidly-growing, expanding place. It’s now a national company. The ministry is just flowing out of that place. The employees couldn’t be more loyal and excited about being there. It’s just outstanding. They have retooled their business core values and their vision for what’s possible—consistent with what the Lord shares with us in His Word—and it’s just amazing. They’re knocking it out of the park, from a business perspective; but primarily, because they have people excited to be there—doing something that’s worth more than a paycheck.
Bob: I have to tell you—I have observed, over the 20 years that Dennis and I have worked together—I have observed the things that get him excited. When a businessman gets a Kingdom-focus, that’s one of those things that causes you just to bust out in a grin and get pretty pumped up.
Dennis: Or a couple. When a couple get it and they go, “You know, I’m here for a purpose. One of the purposes is back to Christ’s—well, among His last words He spoke on the planet—Matthew, Chapter 28:19 and 20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” So, He’s got the authority. Now, listen up. “Go therefore,” He said, “and make disciples of all nations.” He called us to go. He didn’t say, “Sit you, therefore.” He said, “Go you, therefore.” A part of why you guys are kindred spirits is because I believe the listener, who is listening to this broadcast, is every bit as important and has every bit of a spiritual and a divine assignment as each of all four of us, here in this studio.
Dennis: God has a plan for him—for her—for that couple—and wants to use that couple, that businessman, that businesswoman for His purposes—to make an impact on those under his or her influence. I just applaud what you are doing through C12. I hope that this broadcast stirs some folks, around the country, to go, “How can I get one of those started in my community?” because that’s the kind of outreach that will encourage other leaders to use their companies to reach out for Jesus Christ.
Bob: I think we need to recognize when Jesus said “Go,” that doesn’t mean over the ocean. It might, but it doesn’t necessarily. It may mean: “Just go out in the shop,” “Just go out in the hallway,” “Just go to the office next to you.”
Dennis: Seriously. That’s what these guys are talking about!. Walk out in your company and talk to the real people who are living real lives— who need the real hope of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. I just appreciate you guys—Don, Buck—for being on the broadcast.
Don: It’s a privilege, Dennis.
Buck: Thank you very much.
Bob: And thanks, as well, on behalf of our listeners—thanks for the offer that we’re making today. Buck has written a book called A Light Shines Bright in Babylon: A Handbook for Christian Owners and CEOs. It’s a guidebook for anyone who owns a business and wants to employ biblical principles in the operation of that business. Again, the title of the book is A Light Shines Bright in Babylon.
These guys have provided us with a limited supply of this book. If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and request a copy, we’ll send it to you. If you’re a business owner and you’d like a copy of Buck Jacob’s book, A Light Shines Bright in Babylon, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and request it. We’ll send it out to you. It’s courtesy of the folks at C12 and all of us, here at FamilyLife Today. We’re happy to get a copy of this book into your hands—all you have to do is request it. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to request the book: 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can order a copy over the phone. Again, it’s free to anybody who is a business owner—while our supply lasts. So, get in touch with us. We’re happy to send a copy out to you, and hope you find it helpful—useful in the operation of your business.
Now, before we wrap up, a quick word about our matching-gift fund. You may have heard me talk about this during the month of May. Some friends of the ministry came along and said, “We want to help you guys get ready for summer.” They know that summer is a time of year when ministries, like ours, often experience a dip in donations. Folks get busy, and our expenses stay the same——but we’re hearing from fewer people over the summer.
So, our friends came and said: “Let us see if we can get you ready for that. We’ll make a donation, but there’s a string attached to that donation. Your listeners are going to have to match it in order for you to receive it.” The total matching fund amount is $603,000. We’re excited about that; but we’re also getting down to the wire—where we need to hear from listeners if we’re going to take full advantage of that matching gift.
Would you consider going to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says “I CARE”, and you can make an online donation? When you do, that donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, so your donation is essentially doubled when you give this month. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone. Again, we want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you are able to do. We hope you’ll pray for us this month—that we will, indeed, be able to take full advantage of the matching-gift opportunity.
With that, we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about the great adventure of adolescence—and what you can do, as a parent, together with your preteen—to get them ready for the teen years. We have some thoughts for you. We’ll share those Monday. Hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back [next time] for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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