Meet Our Founder
Christian, journalist, combat veteran
My current mission is to build a strong theological foundation and strengthen my walk with Jesus Christ, so I may continue to carry out my work in the military, Asia, and my professional career wrapped in polished "Armor Of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18).
My Christian pilgrimage has been defined by my constant struggle of living in the peace that the Grace of Jesus Christ provides to the Father’s children and wanting to walk with Christ because I can no longer walk the line between what I believe to be His specific calling for me and what my earthly nature desires.
Chapter 1 began at North River Baptist Church in Roswell from birth until I was about seven. North River was a great family atmosphere and a wonderful, loving environment for a young child, but it did have financial difficulties like so many churches experience. During my time there, I learned the basics about Jesus and the Bible from my parents, who taught an older children's sunday school class. Even though I wasn’t mature enough to fully understand the Trinity, Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Grace, or the "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:16-20) much less anything about theology, I did know that I was a Baptist. I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and then make a public expression of my Faith through a public baptism.
Besides my parents and paternal grandfather, the three most influential teachers in my life have been Pastor Dr. William “Bill” Self (who was both my mother's childhood pastor at Wiecua Road Baptist Church where he would later wed my parents and become my future pastor after our family moved), President Jimmy Carter, whom I met at Johns Creek and wrote me a letter after I enlisted in the military, and music legend Gregg Allman, whom I had the honor of interviewing twice and being invited as a guest to his final concert. Not only was Dr. Self the spiritual leader of my family but he would be the spiritual leader for the development of my Christian Foundation.
Chapter 2 began when I realized Dr. Self gave me a strong foundation to develop a deeper understanding of Baptist theology and that is why I align with both Mercer and Emory's School of Theology. Both Dr. Self and President Carter fuse their love of country and faith into synergistic service. It is not enough for me to learn more about economics and accounting principles. I want and need a stronger spiritual foundation rooted in strong Christian theology.
I went to a military high school because I always had the military bug. Little-Phil also had “too much energy” and was “too smart for his own good,” so my parents had no problem paying for me to go to a college-preparatory military school. The military school from which I would graduate never had Spiritual Development as part of their curriculum and I always thought that was a huge failing of the school. They would try to bring in local pastors and the services would be good, but there was no discipleship for the young men and women, who were typically lost in their developing years.
When I told my father I wanted to enlist in the Army or Marines after graduation, he said, “Son, the military needs more officers than enlisted men. Plus, not all of those enlisted men have the opportunity to go to college and would need a good officer like you” or something to that effect, and it registered. So, I enrolled at his alma mater, the University of Alabama, and ended up joining the same fraternity as him. Joining the fraternity would be the first time I basically walked away from Christ, but would also be what pushed me into Chapter 4, which is coming soon. I promise.
Chapter 3 began when I went to college at the University of Alabama and later joined the U.S. Army, where my walk with Jesus was much much less straight and narrow than any other stage other than Chapter Four. I guess you could say I lived the typical Southern frat boy life that consists of drinking lots of beer before going to college football games while trying to date all the pretty girls. To be fair, I was coming out of a military school where I graduated with a class of 44 and about 95 percent were boys; but, I still was out of control.
About a year before I would ship off to basic training, one of my fraternity brothers, whose father was a fraternity brother to my father, was very active in a college ministry and got me involved. After praying and breaking down one night by the shame of my sin, the amazing Grace of God opened my heart and mind for the first time. It was the first time I could literally almost hear God tell me what to do. He told me to carry out his Great Commission and start spending more time because I was going to need it, even though my pride would cause me to stumble. Luckily, he has picked me up time and time again and put me back on His path. This is where I would really accept Jesus into my heart and Chapter 4 began.
I decided to go to Asia to carry out the Great Commission by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our fellow classmates, who would later become teachers, while we were undercover as students ourselves because the some places do not allow the freedom of religion. I was able to share the Gospel with a handful of my fellow students during my few months there and even made one friend, who is now what I believe to be my Communist Party minder (you should see our chat logs if you are interested), but dear friend to this day. The night I left Asia, this one friend and I said goodbye to each other with a tear in our eyes and I promised I would come back to Asia one day to see him.
In 2007, I enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Calvary Scout and served in the 101st Airborne Division's famed Band of Brothers unit (4th Brigade Combat Team, 1-61 Cavalry Regiment) with a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Task Force CURRAHEE, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1-61 CAV, Attached to 1-506 Infantry Regiment, 2008-2009). While deployed, I decided to continue my studies at Alabama by taking an english class through mail to prove to myself that I had the discipline to continue my education regardless of my workload.
My time in the Army was tough. It's not an easy place for a Christian to publicly carry their cross, especially as a combat soldier. However, I took my Bible with me wherever I went and would often read it in my bunk, which is kind of rare in today's world with video games and portable DVD players. Other Soldiers of all ranks, usually the enlisted, would come up to me and ask what I was reading. This is where God began to use me in the Army.
My deployment to Afghanistan was also far from a cakewalk and it caused severe PTSD issues that I still deal with and fight today. However, God's work through me during my time in the military is the second most rewarding thing I have ever done because I was able to serve the Lord and my country.
Even though I was the new guy to my platoon, one of our senior Non-Commissioned Officers asked me to act as the platoon Chaplain on Easter Sunday through the rest of the year-long deployment because we did not have a real chaplain and no one else in the platoon seemed to regularly read the Bible.
However, I was scared because I knew I was not prepared and my foundation was not yet built on stone, but I was proud and honored to be asked. My call sign became “Combat Christian” and one of my best friends and Brothers to this day says I helped lead him to Christ while he was thinking about suicide and “fragging inefficient and dangerous” officers during our deployment because he was under a stop-loss order, felt abandoned by our senior leadership, and was betrayed by some men in our own unit. Being told by his wife that I helped get him to a stronger place spiritually is still the greatest award, compliment or achievement I have ever experienced in my life.
After I completed my time and decided not to reenlist, even though I was a good combat soldier and didn't want to leave my brothers in the fight without me, but I knew the enlisted life was one I no longer wanted to live. I went back to college and, once again, became selfish. I knew my first semester back at Alabama in the spring of 2010 was going to be tough because Army manuals are written at a 6th-to-9th grade reading level and I also didn’t do any math more difficult than basic arithmetic in the military due to my status as a private. However, that would change.
My proudest academic accomplishment other than receiving my degree and presenting it to my mother and father, came when I passed calculus my first semester back as a full-time college student. I also wanted to catch up on my academic-development time lost while serving in the Army so I worked as a producer and host of a show on the student-run radio station New Rock 90.7 FM, wrote for the student newspaper, embedded with a search-and-rescue team from New Orleans looking for cadavers during the 2011 Tuscaloosa–Birmingham tornado (and dropped the story halfway in the day to join the search party for a missing woman), and eventually became the Editor-In-Chief of the university’s oldest student-run publication, the Corolla yearbook. To say my parents were proud of their "baby boy" would be an understatement.
My junior year back at Alabama is when God would once again need to humble me to bring me back to Him. On Nov. 30, 2010, I reached out to my friend and dear mentor, SFC Jarvis, who was in Afghanistan, on Facebook and was told by his wife, who was on his account, that “Barry and [my replacement PFC McClain; as well as my friends SSG Oaks and PFC Ramsey; and the two new guys PFC Gassen and PFC Staggs] were just killed.” The Chaplin had apparently just only knocked on her door an hour or so before. I’ll never forget it. My heart broke and my soul still hurts. I cry just typing and now rereading this, but I promised myself, and I stand by that promise today, that I will NOT waste my life and I WILL do things that no one ever believed I could or would because, most importantly, I’m doing it walking with God this time. The reason I first joined the Army in 2007 was because I was inspired by my parents. The immense pride I felt after looking into my mother or father's eyes after coming home and turning my life around has only been surpassed by the immense pain I feel from my mother's recent death and my father's declining health. I refuse to dishonor their sacrifice.
While I can’t make up for my past, I can unequivocally say that I am extremely grateful for God’s Grace and the opportunities he has given me, even though I have rarely deserved them. My life path is no longer my own and my new map was written clear as day in The Bible. I’m also happy to report that I have recently been accepted into Emory University's (12-week) Veterans Rehabilitation Program (for my PTSD) and the program is considered to be Best-in-Class.
My professional work experience began as a "cub reporter" for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, where I was became its all-time leading web traffic producer and was nominated for “best beat reporting” to The Society of American Business Editors by the publication’s executive editorial team. During my nearly five years at the publication, I formed both professional and personal long-lasting, mentor-mentee relationships with select c-suite members in several multinational industries and was a stringer for the Sports Business Journal. I was later inducted into the North Atlanta Business Post’s inaugural "40 Under 40" class for “highlighting the racial divide” among Atlanta’s business community and several Atlanta-based multinational-blue chip companies” for The American City Business Journals.
In September 2017, I partnered with Atlanta Braves Radio Network's flagship station (WCNN) to launch its first-official podcast turned weekly-web video series, "Mind Your Business: Sports, Music & Money," as producer and co-host. One year later, I began contributing to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where I still write features today, about the intersection of business, culture, art, music, and society.
My parents taught me that the Bible says, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48) and I know that if I have the honor of graduating business school and serving my community and country, I will always remember their words and strive to emulate their extraordinary love and leadership throughout my career.
My work has been recognized and/or cited in internationally-respected publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, National Public Radio, Billboard, and USA Today. Additionally, I personally mentor several young-black journalists at Georgia State University’s student newspaper, The Signal, and have been a guest speaker at both Georgia State University and Spelman College.
My current goal is to find a program that will allow me to simultaneously pursue a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Business Administration, so I may take a Commission in the Georgia Army National Guard as a Second Lieutenant battle chaplain while also building my small business Phil This Atlanta, which that aims to serve the Lord, communities in Atlanta, and the world at large.
The business plan for Phil This Atlanta as well as personal and professional long-term goals are to help emerging American businesses grow to new international markets through digital marketing and personal relationships. Our current clients include: several nonprofits, for-profit sole proprietorships (insurance agencies, investment firms, real estate companies), and an agricultural firm that helps Georgia farmers make sure they are in accordance with regulations regarding the CBD to THC ratio, so patients like my late-mother can treat the symptoms of their painful, debilitating, and eventually fatal diseases.
My defacto board of directors currently consists of: my father (retired banking executive), brother-in-law (homebuilder), Jeff Norris (spiritual mentor), Joreal 'JFly' Flynn (nonprofit founder/musician), Ed Roland (musician), Bonneau Ansley (real estate entrepreneur/investor), Erin Shearer (marketer/publicist), Diamond Dallas Page (athlete/fitness guru), and Alan Pledger (tech entrepreneur). My general council is more of a legal team consisting of undisclosed attorneys in Georgia's Court of Appeals, JAG Corps, and experienced private practice lawyers with specialties in intellectual property law, First Amendment law, and employment law.
Phil This Atlanta helps grow the bottom line by developing best practices for accounting and financial management while simultaneously creating industry-specific, social-media platforms alongside a strong digital presence to increase leads and drive sales. We traditionally use a combination of digital-content production, consistent company branding, and a consortium-oriented cross promotion marketing strategy to optimize SEO (search engine optimization) algorithms and ensure the tracking of quantifiable metrics in ever-evolving technologies and industries.
For nearly four years, I have proudly served as a professional member The Recording Academy (GRAMMYs) in addition to serving as a board of directors member of Atlanta-based How Big Is Your Dream Foundation 501c(3), where we use a curriculum provided by the Georgia Tech School of Music to teach our student-artists how to navigate the entertainment industry without feeling the need to compromise their moral or ethical convictions.
Today, I write at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, run a sole-proprietorship with the aim of helping small businesses grow their digital footprint, and am finishing my autobiography titled "From the Mission Field to the Battlefield: One Christian Soldier's True Story of Fighting Through Hell to Get Back to Heaven."
However, my story is not completed. It is just beginning. Chapter Five will be about how I learned to better myself so I am able to more efficiently “help His people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10) by fine tuning my service to Him in the military, my hometown community, and throughout the world.
God is amazing and America is the greatest country in the world. Redemption, grace, love, and second chances are wonderful things and the story of my life.