ATLANTA (BP)–Dwight “Ike” Reighard is on a mission to help people exchange ordinary living for an extraordinary life through Jesus Christ. It’s a message fit for a pulpit, but the well-known Southern Baptist pastor has found it equally powerful in corporate America.
More than a year ago, Reighard did some exchanging of his own — taking his God-inspired message into the marketplace as Chief People Officer and executive vice president of Atlanta-based HomeBanc Mortgage Corp. Leaving NorthStar Church in suburban Kennesaw, which he founded in 1997, the 53-year-old minister found himself on the threshold of a new ministry in which evangelism has no boundaries.
“We as ministers have bought into a great fallacy that the only way you’re going to be in fulltime ministry is if it is absolutely church-related vocationally,” said Reighard, a former president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. “I know that at my core of cores I’m called to be a pastor. I can serve God equally well in whatever door of opportunity that He’s opened for me.”
Walking through the door of the secular arena wasn’t an easy decision for Reighard. He served as pastor of Atlanta-area New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville for 20 years before launching NorthStar Church. Being a pastor is all he’s ever known, so the potential to reach souls for Christ outside the ministry of a church created somewhat of a dilemma. “It was a struggle mentally for me, because the only model I understood was being a local church pastor,” he admitted.
Conviction stemming from his own sermons began to open his eyes to God’s plan. As NorthStar’s pastor, Reighard often encouraged the 2,000-member congregation to be a minister to the body and a missionary to the culture. Then his belief in this ministry model faced a test — in the form of a job.
He was seeking “to challenge our people to go out and change the world, and I was always challenging them to reach people where they are,” he said. “After a while, I actually became convicted by my own preaching. Suddenly I have in front of me this opportunity to see if I want to go out and attempt to do the same thing I’ve been challenging my people to do.”
Reighard caught the eye of HomeBanc officials four years ago as an enthusiastic preacher being interviewed on a religious talk show. The company’s chief executive officer and president -– both born-again Christians — were struck by Reighard’s passion for church growth. NorthStar had experienced explosive growth in a five-year span through the implementation of his servant leader philosophy –- the same sort of philosophy HomeBanc was exploring to grow their company.
Initially, Reighard was invited to lead voluntary Bible studies at the mortgage company’s corporate office. That opened the door to being called upon by other organizations to speak on issues of workplace ethics. After nearly two years of searching for a human resources professional, HomeBanc realized Reighard was a perfect fit and popped the question.
“They talked to me from the perspective of coming and pastoring people — it was just going to be in a different setting than I had been used to,” he said.
Making the transition from preaching at NorthStar to “pastoring” employees in a corporate setting wasn’t a far stretch. He doesn’t consider himself a fish out of water. Overseeing a flock of volunteers isn’t tremendously different from working with compensated employees, Reighard said. Both have a mission to complete.
“People are people. If you help them grasp a dream and get a vision of what that organization can be and you tap into their heart, then it’s absolutely all the same,” he said.
It doesn’t hurt that HomeBanc officials encourage the spreading of Christ’s love and Christian service through projects with Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society. “We are unashamedly a faith-based company. Our associates shouldn’t have to check their spirituality at the door,” Reighard said. Because of HomeBanc’s community involvement and dedication to investing in their employees, the corporation recently was ranked 39th in Fortune magazine’s best places to work list.
Although Reighard had ministered in a church setting for nearly 30 years, he was not oblivious to the details of secular corporate America. Having pastored New Hope Church for two decades, he watched how nearby Chick-fil-A Corporation became successful while making an impact for Christ. “It gave me a picture years ago of what it could be in corporate America if you had people that didn’t back away from their faith,” he said.
Helping employees catch a vision in order to create a world-class organization is all about inspiring people, something Reighard does naturally. His passion for people and life makes him naturally adept at being an example of what God can do through the life of one man. Drawn to his enthusiasm, people regularly give him a platform to help them in their spiritual walk. “My life is about developing people and it always has been,” he said.
With nearly two years of ministry in the marketplace, Reighard has grown accustomed to this new phase of his calling. As Chief People Officer and executive vice president, he is in charge of recruiting and has hired 550 new associates this past year. As part of his responsibilities, he oversees the training, leadership and wellness of more than 1,000 employees.
Though Reighard is finding success and fulfillment through his work at HomeBanc, he is -– and will always be — a preacher at heart. Every Sunday, he can be found spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Twice a month, he preaches from the pulpit of NorthStar Church as the founding pastor. When he’s not there, he can be heard spreading the Gospel at other area churches.
“Every Sunday I’m preaching somewhere,” said Reighard, who also is on the board of the Institute for Leadership, Character and Ethics at Kennesaw State University. “I know I have the best of both worlds.”
Reighard lives with his wife Robin and two daughters Abigail, 19, and Danielle, 22, in Kennesaw. He earned an undergraduate degree from Mercer University and a master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Luther Rice Seminary.
Jackie Watson is a freelance writer in Atlanta. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PASTOR’S NEW ARENA and IKE REIGHARD.