The "Why": Insurance executive leverages business platform for a higher calling

A lawn crew from Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America unloads equipment in Cape Girardeau. (Photo by Fred Lynch)

Friday, March 1, 2019 ~ Updated 5:40 PM

You might have read organizational consultant, author and speaker Simon Sinek's books or listened to his speech about "the why," defined as the purpose or core belief that motivates someone to do something.

For insurance professional Marc Harris, "the why" is helping guys become the husbands, fathers and leaders they were meant to be. Insurance is a means to invest into this "why;" it is his reason for business he calls "marketplace evangelism," or using a business platform to share the love of God.

"Fatherhood is so lost now in so much of our society," Harris says on this mid-January morning while on the campus of Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America in Cape Girardeau, where he is a member of the board and teacher of a class called One to Won. The president of Chap Arnold Insurance, Harris grew up without his father. But he gained one 24 years ago through the mentorship of his boss and father-in-law, Chap Arnold.

"I was always fairly good at talking and selling something, but it was when I got around Chap Arnold the man that he galvanized and pointed me in the right direction," Harris says.

Arnold was successful, but Harris notes that more than that, his standard was to conduct business with integrity and use those resources for "Godly things."

Marc Harris, of Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America, sits in the Teen Challenge Chapel before a worship service.
Photo by Tyler Graef.

In 2007, Harris faced the challenge of raising $50,000 to bring quarterback Kurt Warner to Cape Girardeau for a Men at the Cross rally. Arnold asked him what his strategy was to raise the money, to which Harris said he planned to ask five business leaders for $10,000. After about 30 seconds of silence, Arnold said, "Well, put me down for the first $10,000."

Ultimately, $100,000 was raised to host the event, and 4,000 men had the opportunity to hear from Warner at the Show Me Center. Harris calls that event a "watershed moment" for his life in ministry.

"Business people who truly adhere to God's principles with their money, a lot of good can come out of it, and I believe God continues to bless those things," he says.

While being a good steward with resources is certainly important, Harris' work goes beyond fundraising and into the trenches of discipleship -- helping men become better husbands and fathers.

Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America

On the morning of this interview, snow covers the ground between Cape Girardeau and Jackson where Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America, a long-term, residential, faith-based program ministering to men with drug, alcohol and other addictions or life-controlling issues, is located. Harris serves on the board of directors.

Much like a fresh coat of snow changed the scenery on this morning, Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America gives students a fresh chance at life. There are currently 180 men going through the 14-month program on "the hill," what staff and students affectionately call the campus. More students will join when a new induction facility is completed.

It's a program built on changing lives through the Christian faith, defeating addiction and becoming responsible and productive men who serve God.

Harris teaches One to Won. It's based on 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV): "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others."

The goal is to teach men that they are called to serve God first and their families second.

"So many guys in that class grew up without parents," Harris says. "One to Won is just a manhood class. It's amazing to see that we have some men out there who don't even know how to treat a woman, don't know how to honor authority."

After four and a half years of teaching, Harris says it's inspiring to see some of the men's stories of change.

An attitude of giving

On the financial side, Harris says he remembers the day when he heard a message based on the Scripture verses found in Malachi 3.

"The stress point that day was you can't out-give God," Harris says. "I just remember thinking, '[That's] an interesting concept.' Because growing up very, very poor, I thought, 'I'll just get all I can, collect it and hoard it somewhere.' Just really studying [that Scripture] was amazing to me. We're called to give it all away. I know I probably wear out some people in business that I get the chance to work with every day, but I believe we're supposed to give it all away."

Harris says he's felt God's calling to do for others before himself. The quote from Edmund Burke echoes in his mind: "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing."

"From a business standpoint, I get a chance to have relationships with some amazing, amazing business owners in this community that put God first, their family after that, and they realize what they're doing is just a means to an end to support Christian causes out there," Harris says.

Marketplace evangelism also includes involvement with causes like Project 200, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Campus Outreach.

"We have some great churches in the area," Harris says. "But in my opinion, we have some pastors that are in desperate need of help. I think marketplace evangelism was always supposed to be the battlefront. ... Christ, even as he was picking his disciples, he didn't go to the seminary to pick his disciples. He picked people that were in the labor force."

Harris is quick to give credit to other causes supported or led by Christian business owners or operators, including the downtown Cape Girardeau organization One City, championed in part by Jeremy and Raelenna Ferguson.

"We have a great area to live in. I don't think people realize how blessed we are," Harris says.

Marketplace practices

These same values he preaches to the men in Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America also apply to his business and how he leads his insurance team.

"God's been really patient with me," Harris says. "As he's given me people to mentor, I've really found patience that I didn't know I had. Really learn to, just like Chap did with me, selflessly give some time to those that need it. Because if you don't give it to them ... where are they going to learn it? They don't need to be learning it from a phone. They don't need to be learning it from Google. They need to be learning it from the people who have been there and done those things and walked that ground before them."

Harris says when he hires employees, he's looking for attitude and effort -- and hopefully identifying those without an entitlement mentality.

"I'm great with education. I'm great with college degrees and all that. Those things are fine. But what I'm looking for is if I don't have to coach attitude and effort, everything else I can coach. I can teach those things at least about our business. ... That's the biggest issue we have in this country."

Pressing forward

Whether it's coaching his team members, fundraising for ministry or providing discipleship training to other men, Harris is focused on being effective. Not in an arrogant, look-at-me way, but in a way that builds others up and helps them grow as Christians ready to lead their families.

"The enemy can't steal my salvation, but what his only goal is for me is to make me ineffective -- just to keep me numb, to make my life be about meaningless things," he says.

Harris adds that too many times we get distracted or taken off-course, even in church and other ministry. Too many times, people jump ship instead of sticking it out.

"I've continued to see Pastor Bolen's [director and pastor of Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America] done a phenomenal job just pressing forward, stumbling toward the cross as it's said," Harris notes. "Life is going to disappoint us. People are going to disappoint us. Are there disappointments here? Yes, of course there is. But Paul reminds us in Acts 20:23-24, 'I stay on this road. Trials and tribulations await me at every stop, but these things do not deter me.' And I think that's something that we're missing today. We get deterred way too easy at our church."

The only thing that matters, Harris says, is which side of the cross you're on. Ultimately, that's his "why:" being part of any effort where lives are changed. And that includes Adult & Teen Challenge Mid-America.

"I continue to see God moving," he says. "I can't imagine not being a part of it."