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Kemmons Wilson Jr: Business Is Important, But It's #6 On The List!

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 2, 2022 3:03 am

Kemmons Wilson Jr: Business Is Important, But It's #6 On The List!

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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December 2, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, for our "Faith in Action" series, we hear from a wise leader out of Memphis, the son of Holiday Inn's founder.

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Talk to an agent today. And we continue with Our American Stories and with our Faith in Action series where we tell stories about how people of faith live it out in the public square. And today's story comes from a business and community leader in Memphis, Tennessee named Kemmons Wilson Jr. And we broadcast from Oxford, Mississippi about an hour due south from the great city of Memphis. Kemmons has previously shared the great story of his dad founding Holiday Inn, which you can hear at

And today Kemmons shares his own story. My faith walk really was I didn't come to the Lord till I was like 30 years old. I had been asked four or five times to get into a Bible study with some young guys my age at the time. And I was always too busy. And I really wasn't avoiding them. I didn't particularly want to do it.

It was early in the morning, so I wouldn't have missed anything. But we really did have a lot going on with five kids in the business. And finally, they asked me a fifth time, and I said, this is over the course of maybe three years.

I said, yeah, I'll do it. And so I go to that Bible study. And believe it or not, that was a long, long time ago. Those same guys are meeting. We met this morning at 730. So I've got a 55-year history with the same guys.

It really is amazing. And we've held together. And it's John Stimler, Ron Hickman, Rick Moore, Rick Collins, and Fred Schafer was there.

Fred Schafer died. But every Thursday morning, and we started out, and we still do it, where someone hosts the meeting every week. And if it's at my house, then I'm responsible to fix breakfast for everyone. And then we would go in and do some sort of a Bible study.

And now we've gotten so old that all we do is talk about sports and politics and ailments. But every time we've ever met, the last thing we do is ask for prayer requests. So I know five guys are praying for me every week, whatever that situation is. And obviously, the trust is built up. They say there are nine layers of trust. The first layer is everything's great. I don't have a prayer problem, and I don't need any advice. And there are seven other layers of trust.

And the last layer is I got a problem. It's my fault, and I need some advice. Well, when you get your group to go to that level, you're kind of home free. I mean, in a sense that everybody needs a truth teller. And a truth teller is someone who will tell you the truth no matter what the consequences are. They're willing to risk the whole relationship.

In the Christian world, it would be somebody that loves Jesus more than loves you. And we all need truth tellers in our life. And so I've got that group of truth tellers, and I've got one other group that started as a business group, and we've probably been meeting 40 years. So this is another kind of support accountability group that I have I could go to. I mean, these are people you can go to at three o'clock in the morning when you screw up. These are the people you call. And now, we're talking about aging parents.

We're talking about kids that are getting in trouble. I mean, you know, it's just life. It goes back to my comment about, you know, we were so focused on what we thought was important was all this work.

What are you doing? How many things, how many companies have you bought? You know, everybody was, you know, trying to, and they were kind of like your own personal board of directors, but not really. But we have got to that ninth layer of trust, you know, to where, you know, I can tell them anything. And that particular group, I mean, we've saved a divorce, and we didn't save one. But, you know, it's such a comfort to know that you've got those kind of friends that are there.

You know, I mean, I tell you how special it is. One of the guys in our group, his son got married. And, of course, we went to the wedding. And so, you know, we're in line, and they said, hey, they want you to sit with the family. You know, wanted me to sit with their family at the wedding. And, you know, I mean, I'm just, you know, and I try to tell every young guy I meet with, whatever you do, try to get in with a group of good, like-minded guys.

You know, I mean, you know, life wasn't meant to go, this is not Lone Ranger Christian. And I'm able to tell people now, I'm 74 years old, that if somebody asked me what's important in life, you know, I mean, you're 74 years old, I'm on the back nine. I owe them like 12 or 13, you know. But if they said, what's important, I would say, faith, family, friends, church, community, and business. And if you add those up, business comes in number six. And I talked to a ton of young guys, and I'm delighted to be able to tell them that. To be honest, that wasn't my priority when I was 40, okay?

But it is now. And I wish somebody had told me when I was 40 that it, at the twilight of your life, it's not going to be about business. You know, business is a, you know, it can be a wonderful success, but it's a horrible God, you know, and a little G. You know, a man with a full resume usually pays a price, and generally, you know, God and family suffer just the way it happens. And nobody ever said on their deathbed, I wish I spent more time at the office. Everybody says, I wish I spent more time with my wife and my kids. Every single one.

Every single one of them. So I can bring some perspective, potentially, to somebody where they're all into business. You know, this is their life, and they're trying to get to the next house, to the next second home, and, you know, say, hey, it's number six. You know, you know, I've just seen too many people sort of crash and burn because they kept reaching for happiness, thinking it comes in the form of, you know, material goods or promotions or, you know, whatever it is. And you're listening to Kemmons Wilson Jr.'s story, our Faith in Action series, didn't come to know the Lord until he was 30.

And it was at the persistence of some friends, three years worth of persistence, to finally bring him into this early morning Bible study. And they've been at it for 55 years. What a spectacular thing.

When we come back, more of this remarkable story here on Our American Story. You know you can't cook. I know.

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Visit to find out more. And we continue with our American stories and with the Memphis business and community leader, Kemmons Wilson Jr. for our Faith in Action series. Let's return to Kemmons. And I will say this, I had some guilt in a way that I'd been asked on multiple occasions to run for elder, deacon, and it just didn't appeal to me.

You know, I love to work for or with maybe start-up ministries, more entrepreneurial kind of things, rather than a session meeting with four people or something. I felt a guilt. I mean, you know, when you first become a Christian, like, okay, God, am I supposed to go to China? What am I supposed to do? And I didn't get an answer.

Go to church. They asked me to do this. I just didn't want to do it. But I felt guilty because I got asked every year. And a little bit of guilt trip, you know, like, hey, come on, you know, you're expected to do this.

And then I was sitting here one day many, many years ago with a young guy and just talking about life, his career, his marriage, and I went bingo. This is exactly what God wants me to do. He wants me to be a Christian businessman and try to live, you know, a reflective life of what He represents. And I was kind of released, you know, like, oh, my heavens, this is great. Because I, you know, I just felt like, you know, it's one of those things you go through your life wondering what is God's will for your life.

And I really feel that's kind of what it was. He didn't say, hey, I don't want you to go off and start a nonprofit. I don't want you to go to seminary. I don't, you know, just stay where you are. Keep as clean as you can, you know, and be available.

Just be available because there are going to be plenty of people that will seek you out. So really what I've done in the last 15 or 20 years of my life, I made a conscious decision to have three focuses. One was discipleship, one was mentoring, and one was stewardship. And if something didn't fit in those three buckets, I would say no to it. And earlier in my life, I said no to nothing. I just said, bring it on. And some of it is you had to do. I mean, when you're young and somebody a little older than you calls and say, hey, can you help with the United Way drive? Well, man, I bet, you know, okay. And so I've kind of gotten to the stage about 20 years ago where I could say no. And the reason I could say no is that it didn't fit in those three silos.

So for example, if somebody called and said, hey, would you be on the, can I put you up for the country club board? Zero. It doesn't fit in the bucket. And those buckets are what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. You know, one of the questions I ask people all the time is, what are you doing today? Not yesterday, and not what you're going to do tomorrow, but what are you doing today that will make an impact or an influence in the next generation? And discipleship will, mentoring will, and stewardship will. And I carry out the mentoring.

I'm doing that through Nexus. It was my 16th year to mentor a young person in Memphis. We put young emerging leaders with seasoned business people, and they spend nine months together. And part of that system is you have to ask your protege every week or every month, twice a month, what are your plans and how can I help you?

So it's all about the protege. I was mentoring a young African American that worked for FedEx, a wonderful guy. So I kept asking him, you know, all right, what are your plans and how can I help you? Well, his plan was to write a book. I said, oh, man. I said, I've never written a book.

I don't know. You know, then I thought, I said, look, I know two guys that have written books. So I put him with those two guys. And before our nine months were gone, he wrote a book and gave it to me. It was, I mean, it was a fabulous kind of a self-help kind of book. Another person I mentored was Kenan Vaughn. And Kenan Vaughn is now my pastor. I mean, he was sitting at my foot, you know, 15 years ago.

Now I'm sitting at his foot. And out of that, you know, his, when I said, what are your plans? His plan was downline ministries. And so I explained that to me.

What is that? He said, I want to have an Institute that teaches people how to be trained and equip people to be disciples. And really it's all about fulfilling a great commission. It's Matthew 28, 18 through 20. Go and make disciples of all nations. You know, all authority has been given to me on heaven and earth and, you know, baptizing them and the Holy Spirit. And so I guess I had read that verse maybe a couple of hundred times in my life, maybe even closer to a thousand as old as I am. And looking back, I thought I read it with sincere reverence and understanding, you know, the great commission. And when I met Kenan, I really, he really kind of was the first one to confront me about those verses. And I slowly kind of recognized the magnitude and the significance of what was being said. And these were Jesus's last word to the disciples before he went to be with the Father. And to me, that's kind of huge. That is almost comparable to someone on their deathbed giving you their last request, their last wish while on this earth.

So what would you do with it? I don't want to have to stand before God and say, you know, I don't, I didn't get this part. And I said, all right, well, how can I help you? He said, if I get it off the ground, would you be my chairman? So I've been the chairman of downline for 16 straight years now. And we didn't know if anybody had come because at that time we started at 5 30 in the morning and lo and behold, by God's grace, we had people sign up.

Now we've had three or four thousand people go through. And it's the downline. I mean, it's the theory of down the line. And Ken would tell the story about, you know, if Billy Graham preached to 5,000 people a day, it would take him 800 years to preach the world. But if I disciple you and you disciple two more and you disciple three more, it'll take 35 years.

You know, so just the multiplication of it. And one thing that Bob Buford said that I loved, he said, this is talking about legacy in a sense. He said, our fruit grows on other people's trees. You know, if I pour into you, some of my fruit is going to be on your tree.

You know, that's just the way it is. And then Ken Blanchard, who's a good friend, he would always say there's no spiritual retirement. He said, don't retire, refire. And that on his tombstone, he wants to put, all used up.

All used up. And Bob Buford's was 100x. You know, whatever I do, I wanted to multiply 100x. You know, you got to let those kind of, you know, things sink in. And, you know, I've told people decision-wise, the three most important decisions you'll ever make is who's your master, who's your mate, and what is your mission. And if you can figure those out, I mean, you know, generally your career, marriage and the career are the two biggest decisions you'll ever make.

And if you don't have the right master, it could be a train wreck. A train wreck. It's kind of like the two most important days of your life, the days you were born, the day you discover what you were born for. And a special thanks to Joey for the production on the piece. And a special thanks to Alex for bringing us another in a long series we've been doing almost from the beginning, our Faith in Action series, how faith animates the lives of so many people in this great country, and how it's so misunderstood. And it can only be told through stories like this and men and women that we've told these stories about. My goodness, God wants me to be a Christian businessman. A great story, Kevin Wilson Jr.'s story, another of our great faith and action stories here on our American story. Hey guys, want to know how to be the best gift giver this holiday season spring for something unexpected like beauty from Estee Lauder surprise her with a fresh floral fragrance like Estee Lauder's best selling beautiful Magnolia or give the gift of glowing skin Estee Lauder's advanced night repair offers seven skincare benefits in just one bottle you'll find something for every beauty lover on your list at Estee Lauder plus free gift wrapping and free shipping shop the holiday collection today hey there's a better way to fly instead of being stuck in endless lines and packed onto planes try simplifying your travel with surf air save an average of two hours on every trip and avoid crowded airports with a new way to fly private with surf air you'll fly from smaller airports closer to your home there are no lines no waiting and no stress the best alternative to commercial air travel that makes flying easy get a free quote on your next flight at there's a better way to fly private so you never became a soccer star but you could still show out during the FIFA World Cup 2022 with cool soccer swag from Frito-Lay the official USA snack of the FIFA World Cup 2022 add your picture to the golden world soccer ball then pass the ball to fellow fans for a chance to score custom swag scan the QR code on specially marked bags of lays cheetos or Doritos or visit Frito-Lay to join the pass the ball challenge no purchase necessary open the legal residence of the usdc 18 plus c rules at Frito-Lay
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-02 04:35:19 / 2022-12-02 04:44:14 / 9

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