“Your life is about to change.”
Bishop Eddie Long was speaking to a few dozen members of his New Birth Missionary Church congregation in Lithonia, Georgia. It was a weekday in late October, 2009, and Long had invited a businessman to address the members.
The businessman’s name was Ephren Taylor, Jr., 27, who billed himself as the youngest African-American Chief Executive of a publicly-held company in the country’s history.
“Everything he says is based on the word of God,” Long said, before introducing “my friend, the great, Ephren Taylor.”
Taylor, a husky young man in a gray suit, seated off to the side of the stage, got up and sauntered over to Long. The two men embraced heartily.
“I’m here to teach you how to build wealth,” Taylor said to the group, with the casual confidence of one who had achieved it himself.
A few days later, on Sunday, Taylor was on the same stage, this time in front of Long’s 25,000-member congregation. Taylor was preaching now, and he was on fire. He pumped the New Birth crowd into pandemonium, incorporating Long’s popular “Cross It Up” message into his sermon.
“When the devil tries to sit next to you,” Taylor exhorted, “you’ve got to, what? ‘Cross it up!’”
The crowd erupted.
The man on stage was an impressive combination in an individual – a young black millionaire CEO, and a charismatic preacher.
That much was true. Ephren Taylor, Jr. was one very impressive individual.