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2017-2018 Speakers

Meet the National Speakers for the 2017-2018 Journey


Louis Upkins

President, Look Up Enterprises

Louis Upkins Jr. is an entrepreneur who has created alliances and partnerships with Fortune 500 companies in the sports and entertainment industries. He brings a broad range of experience, having worked on projects as diverse as brokering deals between Oprah and Starbucks, co-chairing the highly successful Luis Palau Nashville Cityfest, consulting on national campaigns for the likes of McDonald’s, Gap, UPS and even the Olympics, to name a few. He has served as the CEO of The Lifebook Company, and been a Partner of Executive Development at GiANT Impact. Louis is the author of Treat Me Like a Customer (Zondervan/Harper Collins, January 2010) and is passionate about helping people live their lives with purpose. He recently launched Look Up Enterprises and is also the President of Upkins & Co., a consulting firm for individuals looking to improve their professional and home lives. Louis resides in Franklin, TN with his wife, Charita; son, Caleb; and daughter, Zoé.

Knowing God

Gordon Pennington

Managing Director, Burning Media Group

Gordon Pennington is the Managing Director of Burning Media Group, a boutique marketing communications firm providing creative direction for strategic marketing impact to a select client base both local and worldwide.

As a marketing communications and advertising professional Gordon Pennington has worked as a corporate director of marketing as well as an advisor to some of the world’s largest companies. After developing award-winning marketing communications for Citicorp and serving as a consultant to both Chase Manhattan Bank and J.P. Morgan Bank, he turned to fast growth consumer product markets, serving as Director of Marketing for Tommy Hilfiger, where he helped position it as the fastest growing menswear company in the world.

Working with The United States Council on Economic Development, Pennington led the team to assist American CEO’s in assessing emerging Soviet investment opportunities at the end of the Communist era.  He has also managed marketing and strategy assignments and been advisor to Apple Computer, British Airways, the CBS Television Network, the Coca-Cola Company, Equinox Fitness, the Oxford Analytica, Meyado Investment Bank of London, Her Majesty’s Ministry of Defence in the UK and the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University where he is also a board member.

Mr. Pennington has a keen interest in education and has been a trustee of The Universal Literacy Project. He has appeared on television and lectures in the US and abroad where he has been a speaker on media, culture and communications and other related subjects. He has provided briefings on media, culture and communications to The White House, members of Congress and the Senate in the US and members of the British Parliament and the Peruvian Congressional leadership. He studied international human rights law at the University of Strasbourg and has been a visiting scholar at the Wolfsberg think tank for Union Bank of Switzerland.

Pennington was a Senior Strategist at The Marketing & Planning Group, Inc. where he headed strategy and creative development and marketing communications in New York and London. He serves today as Managing Director of Burning Media Group in New York, and leads a team that is actively serving clients internationally with a suite of strategic marketing services.


Gordon MacDonald

Author and Speaker

Dr. Gordon MacDonald serves as chancellor of Denver Seminary and editor-at-large of Leadership Journal. He is an author, speaker, and teacher. “I am in that stage of life,” he says, “when I feel the call to be a spiritual father to a younger generation.”

MacDonald was a pastor for more than forty years, most recently the senior minister at Grace Chapel, Lexington, Massachusetts. He led other congregations in New York City, Southern Illinois and Kansas. For three years MacDonald was president of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. In 2008/09 he was the Interim President of Denver Seminary.

Gordon MacDonald has written 20 books and co-authored others with his wife, Gail. Perhaps his best-known title has been Ordering Your Private World which won the Gold Medallion and the Platinum Awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association. There are almost a million and a half copies of this book in print, and it has been translated into a dozen or more languages. Among his other books are Secrets of a Generous Life (Published by Tyndale, Fall 2002), The Life God Blesses, Renewing Your Spiritual Passion, When Men Think Private Thoughts and Mid-Course Correction. A revision of Ordering Your Private World was released in January ’03He writes regularly for each addition of Leadership Journal and also writes a monthly column which appears on the website. A Resilient Life, (now also in German, Korean,

and Dutch) was released in early 2005  MacDonald’s most recent books are Who Stole My Church, (Jan, 2008) and Building Below the Waterline (May 2011.  A new book, Going Deeper, was released in the fall of 2011.

MacDonald is a former Chairman (not president) of the Board of World Relief Corporation, an NAE-associated relief and development organization. He also speaks frequently at pastors and leadership conferences both in the US and in other parts of the world. Privately, he engages with company leaders as an executive coach.

MacDonald’s academic background includes a prep school graduation from the Stony Brook School, a B.A. from the University of Colorado (’62), and a M. Div from Denver Seminary. In 2011, Denver Seminary awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree.

Fifty-two years married, Gordon and Gail MacDonald live in Concord, New Hampshire. Their greatest delight is in their two married children and five grandchildren. Beyond that the MacDonalds are hikers, bikers, kayakers, picture-takers and vigorous readers.


Steve French

President, Lifework Leadership

Steve French has been the President of Lifework Leadership since 2000. Formerly known as the Greater Orlando Leadership Foundation (GOLF), under his leadership, Lifework has grown from an alumni base of 150 business leaders in Orlando to a community of nearly 1000 leaders in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. He is passionate about helping leaders follow the leadership model of Jesus.
Steve was raised in the NJ/NY metro area and founded Meadowbrook Church in North Haledon, New Jersey. During his ten years as Senior Pastor, Meadowbrook Church became the leading church for creative expression of the gospel. He has served on the staff of Willow Creek Community Church, First Baptist Church of Wheaton, IL and Discovery Church, Orlando, FL.  He regularly consults numerous business and church leaders and presently serves on the Board of Directors of Centra-Care of Florida Hospital.

Steve attended Biola University and holds a B.A. from The King’s College in NYC, where he served for two years as Student Body President.  He received his M.A. degree from Wheaton College. He and his wife, Sharon have been married for twenty-six years, reside in Lake Mary, Florida and have two adult children, Scott and Alissa.


Ron Peri

Founder and CEO of Radixx International, Inc.

Ron Peri is founder and CEO of Radixx International, Inc., Orlando, FL.  Radixx was incorporated in 1993 and is an innovator with dozens of industry firsts, including the development of the first modern cloud based airline reservations system and the only system able to simultaneously support both traditional and Low Cost Carrier business models.  Radixx has grown to be a major provider of airline reservations systems, currently hosting forty airlines on six continents of all business models.

An electrical engineering graduate of Rutgers University, Ron started his career at IBM.  A skeptic, Ron came to faith after a careful analysis of the Bible.  Ron then took a hiatus from the business world, earning a Masters of Divinity degree and spending several years in full-time ministry as a pastor and president of Regional Seminary of the Northeast.  Returning to the business world, with $500 in startup capital, he founded systems integrator Computer Support of North America, Inc., where he pioneered the move to inexpensive networks from mainframes at a variety of companies worldwide.  Ron was dubbed “the father of mainframe downsizing” for his ground breaking efforts and “in the vanguard of a revolution” by the Wall Street Journal.  CSNA provided its services to clients like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, CBS, Beneficial Life, and was acquired by The Ultimate Corp in 1991.  As a Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Ultimate, Ron designed an innovative, award winning approach to monitoring and managing distributed networks sold under the name “SupportLink”.  Bell Atlantic, USWEST,  and Olivetti all became resellers for SupportLink.

Ron has founded, successfully managed, and grown three companies, in the process functioning as a consultant to many Fortune 500 companies as well as multiple government agencies. Ron speaks at business conferences and seminars throughout the U. S., Canada, and Europe. Ron has trained over 5,000 IT managers in the techniques of client/server migration in seminars in France, England, Spain, Africa, Germany, Canada, Japan and the United States.

Ron and his wife Ingrid reside in Windermere, FL.  They have been married for 47 years and have four children and ten grandchildren.


John Cortines

Chief Operating Officer, Generous Giving

John Cortines serves as COO, with responsibility for Generous Giving’s internal strategy and operations in sharing the biblical message of generosity.  John also works to reach a new generation with biblical generosity through our Emerging Leaders initiatives.  A native of Texas, John began his career as a Petroleum Engineer, spending time everywhere from the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, to the offshore platforms of the Gulf of Mexico. While studying at Harvard Business School, John began a journey of discovery on the intersection of faith and wealth which culminated in a decision to leave behind a lucrative post-MBA job to work, speak, and write full-time on generosity (his book God and Money, co-authored with Greg Baumer, is out now).

John’s greatest blessing in life comes from being married to his beautiful and gracious wife, Megan, and sharing in the joy of their two young children, Jack and Anna. John holds degrees from Harvard Business School (MBA, 2015), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia (MS Earth Science, 2011), and Texas A&M University (BS Chemical Engineering, 2010).


Bob Lupton

Speaker/Author, Founder – FCS Urban Ministries

Bob Lupton has invested the last 46 years of his life in inner city Atlanta. In response to a call that he first felt while serving in Vietnam, he left a budding business career to work with delinquent urban youth. Bob and his wife, Peggy, sold their suburban home and, with their two sons, moved into the inner city where they have lived and served as neighbors among those in need. Their life’s work has been the rebuilding of urban neighborhoods where families can flourish and children can grow into healthy adults.

Bob is a Christian community developer, an entrepreneur who brings together communities of resource with communities of need. Through FCS Urban Ministries – a non-profit organization that he founded – he has developed two mixed income subdivisions, organized a multi-racial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families and initiated a wide range of human services in his community. He is the author of several books including the widely read Toxic Charity, Theirs is the Kingdom, Renewing the City, and the widely circulated “Urban Perspectives”, a monthly reflection on the Gospel and the poor. Bob released a new book in July of 2015 titled, Charity Detox which draws on his many decades of experience, and outlines how to structure programs that actually improve the quality of the life of the poor and disenfranchised.

Bob’s long-time friendship with Ralph Veerman, Lifework’s founding partner, has been instrumental in Bob being an annual Lifework speaker since its inception in 1992.


Brad Rex

President and CEO, TBRG, LLC

Brad Rex is a senior executive and corporate officer with proven experience growing businesses and driving results in start-up, turnaround, expansion and multi-site situations. He has over 20 years of corporate experience in major multinational companies including the Walt Disney Company, Hilton and British Petroleum. Mr. Rex is a distinguished graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Harvard Business School.

He is CEO of TBRG, LLC, a hospitality consulting company with expertise in business turnaround and growth, guest service enhancement, theme parks, hotels, vacation ownership and restaurants, cost reduction and labor management. His prior roles included President, Chief Executive Officer and a Board Director of Foundation Partners Group, a private equity backed company that owns over 59 funeral home and cemeteries across the United States.

Mr. Rex served as the EVP, Chief Customer Officer at Hilton Grand Vacations, Hilton’s vacation ownership (timeshare) division, from 2007 to 2009. From 1994 to 2007, he worked at Walt Disney Attractions and Walt Disney World Co. in operations, finance, competition and strategy. Mr. Rex led Epcot Theme Park, a $600 million revenue operation with 5,000 employees, for over five years, from September 2001 to May 2007, achieving record performance. He led labor management for WDW (30,000 employees) and strategic planning, annual budgeting, forecasting and competitive analysis at WDA ($6 billion segment).

He is the author of The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence, and a public speaker on leadership and guest service. Brad has served in many volunteer organizations, including former Chairman, Greater Orlando Leadership Foundation/Lifework Leadership; Treasurer, Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Board; Elder, Discovery Church and Board Member, K-Life Orlando and Orlando Regional Director, Men at the Cross. He is currently a Board member of Lifework Leadership National and an Advisory Board member of PathNorth.

Brad has been married to his wife, Nancy, for over 35 years. Their son, James, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and works for Goldman Sachs in NYC. Their twin daughters, Monica and Natalie, recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University, and are in Denver (McKinsey Consulting) and NYC (AppNexus). Brad’s hometown is Gladwyne, PA.


Brant Hansen

Radio Host, Writer, and “Storyteller” for CURE International

Brant Hansen is a radio host, writer, and serves as “storyteller” for CURE International. He has won multiple national awards for his on-air work, and his radio show is syndicated nationally on more than 200 stations.

Brant’s writing has been featured in diverse places, from to to In Touch Magazine. Unoffendable, Brant’s first book, was released in 2015 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Brant has been married 25 years to Carolyn, and they have two kids. Justice is a senior at Cal-Berkeley, while daughter Julia attends The King’s College in NYC.


Chuck Bengochea

Founding Member CityServe International

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