Bishop Kenneth Spears
Pastor, First Saint John Baptist Church
Fort Worth, Texas
Bishop Kenneth Spears, 45, exhorted his 4,400-member church to seize the benefits of sitting on top of the Barnett Shale, one of the nation's biggest deposits of natural gas.
"When the energy companies started knocking on doors, talking about buying mineral rights, many residents were afraid that they would lose their homes if they signed any papers. It's not every day that the oil and gas industry starts waving checks at blacks in Texas.
This was not just about gas but about the future of the community. We held lots of meetings at the church and in the neighborhood to educate people. I preached about it on Sundays. God had put something valuable underneath the inner city. I think of it as manna from heaven. It took a while before I got 'amens' from the entire congregation.
There are now about 30 people locally who work for Dale or Chesapeake [the two companies drilling]. Internships and scholarships have been created. One intern told me last night that she's changing her college major because she's thinking of a career in the energy business. There is something new going on in southeast Fort Worth—opportunity."
A version of this article appeared in the October 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.