Men are challenged in the marketplace and often struggle to find community. The Christian Business Men’s Connection (CBMC) provides that community to help men grow professionally, spiritually and personally, explained Steve Solomon, area director of South Florida CBMC. Founded in Chicago in 1930 just two years into the Great Depression, CBMC expanded to Fort Lauderdale in the 1950’s to present the Gospel and develop Christian business and professional men to carry out the Great Commission. In recent months, South Florida CBMC has expanded to include groups in 22 cities reaching from Fort Pierce to South Miami.
Perhaps their most well-known events have been the CBMC business lunches at The Tower Club, which have drawn some great speakers and professionals to downtown Fort Lauderdale for more than 40 years.. Since the addition of Solomon as a full time area director in 2018, South Florida CBMC now has over 30 teams of different types, including five lunches and five Cigar Fellowship Nights. Many of these have continued via Zoom during COVID-19 restrictions, expanding their reach. And CBMC’s Vision 650 aspires to connect men in 650 cities nationwide by the end of 2021.
“The vision is to introduce businessmen to each other, to bring them to God and to have God develop them to become ambassadors in the marketplace for Christ,” said Solomon. “Our hope is to be able to make connections professionally to be able to disciple and mentor them in a more focused way rather than to just have the outreach lunches… All these lunches, all these meetings are really just launch points. They’re touch points, and there’s a miracle that comes out of every one.”
Bill Tolia, CBMC board chairman and president of BrightStar Care, described it as “an opportunity for men to get together and fellowship and to strengthen each other as iron sharpens iron.”
Ultimately, there are three main things CBMC does, said Tolia. “One is called Connect 3, which is peer to peer advisor groups. Then we have Young Professionals, a mentor program for professionals under 40. And the most important thing we have is Operation Timothy. Modeled after the example of the Apostle Paul taking Timothy under his wing and teaching him, we take new believers under our wing through this program called Operation Timothy. The main thrust of CBMC is to make disciples, and there are lots of individuals who will say Operation Timothy has been the biggest influence on their walk. It really takes someone who is drinking spiritual milk and grounds them in the faith so they can be a Paul to other Timothies.”
A self-described “Jewish kid from Yonkers,” Solomon accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in 1991. Two years later he was introduced to CBMC and went through Operation Timothy with Steve Estler. “Going through Operation Timothy got me into the Bible,” said Solomon. “It helped me to understand what my role was as a businessman and as a man… What it did for me was it put me on the right track, and I connected with other businessmen where I saw how God played a roll. It really set me up for success. I wasn’t out there alone.”
Bill Davell, director, Tripp Scott Attorneys at Law, said he “first came to Christ and heard the Gospel at CBMC in 1981.” After hearing the testimonies of businessmen at two meetings, Davell, who had gone to church his entire life, said “That was the first time I heard the Gospel. Shortly after that I began to ask another lawyer on the CBMC board a lot of questions and he was patient with me. He gave me a tract. One day I read the tract, and it made sense, and I asked Christ into my life.”
Discipled through Operation Timothy, Davell was soon asked to join the CBMC board. “ I got to be around some men who were unbelievable and they helped me mature.” Over the years, Bill has mentored many men through Operation Timothy. “Now it’s one of the greatest blessing in my life because these guys have become like a band of brothers. They pray with each other. They joke with each other. It’s amazing.”
The CBMC member with the longest history, however, is perhaps Wes Scott, P.E., owner of Wes Scott Cycles, who has been involved in CBMC for about 40 years. “My father (Miles Scott) is on the original founding documents from 1956. Paul Wackes was the chairman and my father (a general contractor) was the vice chairman.”
After his father passed away in a tragic car accident while Wes was a teen, Scott said a few men came alongside him and kept him on the right line. “When I was working at Broward Motor Sport and going to college at FAU getting my engineering degree., John Morris Jr., Paul Wackes and another guy named Joe Taylor, who were good friends with my father, said you need to come to CBMC… I was a young professional in my twenties when I started and I caught the mission. It’s an interesting tool God has used over the years. I’ve seen the results and been truly blessed to be involved.”
According to Tolia, the initial thing that attracted him to CBMC was the ability to hear from businessmen who share their close personal testimonies. “You can read the Bible to someone and they may say it’s not true, it’s exaggerated or I don’t believe that, but you can’t argue with someone’s personal testimony. This is the way I was before Christ. This is the way I am now. It’s what happened to me and it’s inarguable. So I think that’s a very, very powerful way to reach the lost and also to encourage believers. The second things is, I just enjoy seeing people grow in the faith, so I love the Operation Timothy aspect.”