Front Stage, Back Stage

Johnny Parker

JD Hayworth

Dr. Johnny Parker is an executive coach and “relationship architect.” He is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and has conducted personal and professional development seminars for more than 25 years. Along the way he’s served as life coach for the Washington Redskins and regularly helped professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, PGA, and WNBA develop healthy personal lives and strong relationships. He’s been featured in national media including CNN, NBC News, Viewpoint, BET, The Washington Post, Ebony, Essence, and The Baltimore Sun.

“What I do in my speaking and teaching is blend the teachings of the Bible with the findings of science,” Johnny explains. “I take an evidence-based approach to how people flourish. In my Positive Psychology class we study virtues like gratitude, optimism, resilience, hope, humility, and look at the science behind them. It is the science of virtue. I love it when scientific research says amen to Scripture.”

Johnny was recently introduced to Pinnacle Forum by his pastor, who invited him into a conversation with Guy Rodgers. As a result, Johnny joined two video Forum groups with men from the Midwest. What attracted him was the caliber of the Partners. “I found that these men are leaders and influencers in their industries,” Johnny says. “They’re CEOs in business. Some are in politics; others are in the military. I wanted to connect with them.”

Another thing that resonated with Johnny was the emphasis on the seven mountains of culture. “I was aware of them, but Pinnacle Forum has helped me become much more intentional in terms of thinking about what it looks like to bring the kingdom of God to earth in these areas. I am in the education and business space and I coach leaders from every mountain.

“I was also encouraged to learn that Pinnacle Forum uses a metaphor I coined to describe my life: front stage and back stage. My front stage is my work. It’s what I do: I oversee the men’s counseling ministry at my church; I’m a professor, a leadership consultant, executive coach and a keynote speaker. That’s my front stage.

“I have a saying that we can’t know ourselves, grow ourselves, by ourselves. We have a front stage. It is our public world where we do our work, and that matters. But our back stage matters more. We can’t sustain an effective front stage if we’re not intentional about the back stage. The back stage is our truest selves. It’s where our story emerges, and we need to grant access to people who’ve earned the right to be back stage. We need to invite them into our messiness and brokenness in order to help us understand ourselves.

“My back stage is my private world,” Johnny continues. “I’m a married man (31 years) with three sons. I need to grant access to my back stage to men of similar ilk; leaders in their fields and men of faith with whom I can talk about the challenges of loving my wife well, loving my sons well, leading my team well, dealing with stress, etc.”

Johnny admits, “I’m very much a front stage guy. My gifts and talents are public. I’m a leader; I’m a communicator. I’m a writer. But it’s the back stage that enables me to have an impact on the front stage. I needed a group where I could raise the curtain to my heart and allow some trusted men to peak in without judgment and see me as Johnny, not Dr. Parker or Reverend Parker. That’s what I’ve found with Pinnacle Forum.”

Such vulnerability didn’t come easy to Johnny. “I was popular for my front stage work, but I was a lonely isolated man and it led to depression and panic attacks. I was not good at being vulnerable and allowing others to really see into my heart, not even my wife. It is emotionally challenging to be vulnerable because it can be used against you. Vulnerability is messy stuff. I think about the Apostle Paul asking God to take away his weakness, his thorn in the flesh. And God answered, ‘No, I’m not going to take it away. I want you to sit with it. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.’ Well, no man wants to feel weak. That’s vulnerability. How do we embrace that? But if we can’t be authentic, we won’t have authentic strength or authentic power.”

Johnny doesn’t regret taking the risk to be vulnerable with the Partners in his groups.

“I’m the only African-American in my Thursday group and one-of-two in my Tuesday group. With what’s happened recently to Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, I wrestled with sharing what it’s like to be an African-American man with three sons who have been pulled over by the police multiple times. Could I share what it feels like watching a video of Aubrey being killed? Will they get it?

“They’re my brothers in the faith. I took the risk and I shared my heart. They listened. They heard me and gave me the gift of empathy.”

Learn more about Johnny’s unique “Turn the Page” system used by CEOs, pro athletes, coaches, and other high-impact people to discover the story they were born to live by visiting

Listen to Johnny’s podcast, When God Rewrites Your Story in a Chapter of Crisis,


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