Have You Thought About Walking Away?

Walking AwayI made a new friend recently. During our conversation, he told me about his decision to walk away from a very successful business because he felt God calling him to something different. He did not know where God was calling him, but he knew he had to follow. I think you can draw inspiration from his story – whether you have ever considered walking away or not.

Mark Cress’ Story

In 1993, Mark Cress was part owner of an Inc. 500 company. At 37 years old, he was extremely successful and it appeared he had nothing but blue skies ahead. But then he started to realize that God was calling him to something else. Once he and his wife made the decision to follow God’s call, things changed rapidly. Within months, he was walking away. He had sold his business to the employees, sold his house on the lake, and enrolled in seminary. In less than a total of three years, he had started the organization that is now Corporate Chaplains of America.

Corporate Chaplains of America (CCA) now ministers to more than 800 different business locations. Those locations represent thousands of employees served on a weekly basis. Can you imagine the impact God is having through this organization?

My Story

As I listened to Mark tell his story, I saw a few clear parallels to my own story. At the same time, God sent us down different paths.

All of my life, I had been working toward taking over my family’s business, an automobile dealership group in Georgia. In 2001, I was General Manager of two of our seven locations. I planned to expand and take the company to new heights!  I had visions of grandeur and everything looked like it was headed that way.  But when I began spending time in God’s Word, I realized that everything I wanted and was working for was only temporal.  None of it would really matter in 1,000 years.

My Revelation

I realized I was only giving God the Christian requisite one day per week (actually, just Sunday morning) and an occasional Wednesday evening.  The rest of the time was spent trying to juggle my job in the car business and my family at home.  Even when I added the daily quiet times, God was still not the central focus of my life.  This was not the way He wanted it!

Searching For Answers

I began searching for answers.  If God wanted all of me, what would that look like?  I had heard of people getting “called” into full-time ministry, but I did not feel that call.  I knew of others, like Mark Cress, that were “called” into the mission field, but I did not feel that either.  What exactly was God asking me to do? What was I created to do?

Was I Walking Away?

To tell the truth, I did not have a clue!  I only knew I was not comfortable with the status quo and had to change it. I sat down with my father and explained that I was walking away from the business.  Because I was already in a significant leadership position within the company, I told him I did not want to do it effective immediately.  I wanted him to have time to replace me and make any other arrangements that may be necessary.  This would likely involve downsizing the business and could take a couple of years.

I did not feel God calling me to leave right away, only to let go and be prepared to walk away.  I had no idea where I was going or when.  I only knew I wanted to be spending more of my time working for God – whatever that entailed.

Called To Stay In The Business!

Fast forward eleven years, and I am still in the business! It was almost two years after that conversation with my father that God showed me where He wanted me. Though I thought I was walking away, He showed me that He had placed me in the position I currently held for a purpose and a season. He wanted me to do all I had envisioned in ministry, but He wanted me to do it through the business. As a good friend recently told me, God wanted me in the car ministry!

So that is exactly what I am attempting to do. I have said it many times – I do not have it figured out. Yet I keep showing up. I am determined to allow God to have the eternal impact He desires, through this business. I am only the steward of this business for now. Until He changes my direction, that is the role I will play.

Eternal Impact Either Way

See, Mark Cress followed God’s plan and he is enjoying the fruit of that decision. There is incredible eternal impact coming from his decision to step out of his business and start CCA as a non-profit organization. For me, walking away is not in the cards (at least for now!). God has called me to stay in business and I expect there will be eternal impact from that decision as well.

My point is this…regardless of where God calls you, you can have an eternal impact. There is no reason to think that you have to be a paid staff member of a church to do ministry. Seek God’s guidance, but know that He just may want you doing ministry right where you are!

What would you do?

Do you think this move was too drastic?

Have you thought about walking away?

The Journey Begins…

This is the last in a series of 13 posts that describe, from the beginning, our ongoing journey to integrate our Christian faith into our family automobile business.  This series of posts lays the groundwork for the context of this blog.  This final post wraps it all up and gets it started at the same time!

Read and Apply God’s Word
Going all the way back to the fall of 2000, I experienced an awakening of sorts when I realized how little I actually read the Bible.  If it really is God’s Word, then I need to treat it that way and begin learning it.  For the past eleven years, I have been doing just that.

Not only have I been spending time in the Bible virtually every day since then, but I have also been working hard to apply what I have learned.  Whether that application is in the home, at work, in the community, or even in the church itself, I want to live out what I read.  I cannot say that I have it all figured out or that I am consistently applying all I have learned, but I am working at it every day.

The Business Belongs To God
The area of application that I feel is most unique today has been my work.  God has shown me through this process that my business is not separate from my spiritual life.  My “spiritual life” is my whole life and my business is a part of that life.  As a result, it must be given over to Him.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that we are not our own, but we were bought at a price.  I believe this includes our temple (body), time, treasure, and talents.  This business is part of my time, treasure, and talents and therefore belongs to God.

Having made this decision, I have been working for the past eight years to transform this business into one that pleases Him and advances His kingdom.  This transformation has created many challenges.  We have encountered resistance along the way, both from friend and foe alike.  At the same time, God has been faithful to sustain our efforts.  He has given us victories when we most needed them and has blessed us with wisdom to see the fight for what it is.

A Long Journey
Since I made the decision to turn this business over to him in 2003, we have not looked back.  We are eight years into this journey.  In some ways, we have come a long way – in this blog, I will be describing some of the projects, initiatives, processes, and policies that have resulted along the way.  In other ways, it seems we have just barely started the journey – I will also be describing the challenges causing this feeling.  Either way I look at it, I believe we are fulfilling God’s purpose for this business.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, I hope you will find the information here helpful.  I also hope you will pass it on to someone else who may need it.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions!  I look forward to the journey together!

Are you on a similar journey?  Should you be?  

What is God’s purpose for your life and business?  

Are you ready to take the leap?

How God Led A Complete Overhaul of Our Business

This post describes what is probably the toughest change I have ever made to the business.  While the decision to make this change truly was an easy one, the execution of it led me through the worst months in my memory.  Want to know more?  Of course you do!

I mentioned two sources of godly wisdom in my last post – the Bible and a book by Larry Burkett, Business by the Book.In combination, these two sources helped me to lay the foundation upon which I would begin transforming our family business into a Christian business.

Discounting Decisions

It began with Burkett’s chapter on Discounting Decisions.  He leads off the chapter with a description of two car deals being negotiated very differently in a typical auto dealership.  One customer was an unsuspecting older lady and the other was a friend of the dealer himself.  You can imagine who got the better deal!

Rather than just giving his own opinion of the problem with the disparity between the two deals, Burkett instead refers to Proverbs.

Differing weights and varying measures – both are detestable to the Lord.

-Proverbs 20:10

After much prayer and seeking godly advice from others I respect, I felt convicted of violating this principle.  I knew God was leading me to make a total change in the way we did business.  Once I had made the initial decision to turn the business over to God, following His leading on something like this was an easy decision.  What I did not know was how difficult that change would be.


I made the decision to move from a traditional, negotiating auto dealership to a completely negotiation-free dealership.  While our business was never the stereotypical shark tank you might see on the news, we did have our share of problem areas that would not pass muster with the Proverbs standard.  If I was going to transform this business into a Christian business, then this had to change.

Over the next two years, we completely overhauled our sales operation and, as a result, suffered loss of profitability, experienced virtually 100% turnover of our staff, and had more sleepless nights than I care to remember.  I have never questioned God more than during this transformation period.  Everything that I had learned through 20+ years in the business was turned upside down.

It took much longer than I expected to make the change and, even seven years later, there are still significant challenges with doing business in this way.  But despite these challenges, I would not do it any other way.  God has proven faithful in leading us through this change.  He continues to bless us in ways that can be measured eternally.

Do you apply God’s Word to your business?

What results have you seen?

Do all of your business practices line up with Scripture?

3 Sources of Godly Wisdom

I made the decision to turn my business over to God.  I was going to run it as a Christian business with an eternal purpose.  Now what?  What does that really look like?  To tell the truth, I had no idea what a Christian business was or what it looked like. I did not even know where to start, so I went to look for help.

Godly Counsel

While reading the Bible, I saw these verses:

Finalize plans with counsel, and wage war with sound guidance.
-Proverbs 20:18

Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
-Proverbs 15:22

I know godly counsel can include advice from godly men and women.  As I sought that in some of my reading, I came across many books full of such wisdom.

One book in particular was by Larry Burkett called Business by the Book: The Complete Guide of Biblical Principles for the Workplace.I immediately purchased the book and began to read through it, with a notepad to the side.

This book is a goldmine of practical, easy to understand advice on what a Christian business should look like.  Burkett covers topics like hiring and firing decisions, goals, compensation, and many more.  I spent hours going through this book slowly, trying to glean all that I could from it.

The Bible

One of the many pieces of advice Burkett gave in this book was to go back to the book of Proverbs.  He suggested reading through Proverbs, but not like you may have done it before.  He suggested reading through Proverbs with your “business” glasses on – treating it like a business manual or textbook.  I had never considered this approach, but I liked the idea!

I will talk more about a specific situation that I addressed with this method in my next post, but I will tell you that Burkett’s advice here was spot on.  Regardless of your perspective when reading Proverbs, the wisdom there is incredible.  Try it yourself!


No matter which of these sources you are using to seek wisdom, it is always good to begin and end with prayer.  Jesus said the Holy Spirit will guide us in all truth (John 16:13).  If we will pray before and after reading, whether the Bible or from another source, God will make good on His Promise to guide us.  Pray for discernment and understanding about what you are reading.  He will confirm the matter in your heart.

Are you seeking wisdom for your business?

What other sources have you found?

Are you praying for guidance in your search?

An Effective Offsite Brainstorm

After reading Loving Monday by John Beckett, I was blown away at the various ways he was able to integrate his Christian faith into his business.  I began to think about how I could do the same thing with our business.  As I prayed about it, I began to get a flood of ideas about how to integrate my faith into our business.

Afternoon Session

I decided to take several hours one afternoon and went off to a secluded, family-owned cabin nearby for a brainstorming session.  During this session, I wrote down everything that I felt God putting on my heart about what our business would look like in the future. I made notes on ideas for new policies, initiatives, and goals.  I think I ended up with eight or ten pages during that first brainstorming session!

I would not be able to implement much of it until further down the road, but at least I got it on paper.  I have referred back to these first notes dozens of times over the years.  It is really cool to see how much of it is now implemented eight years later!

Once a week, I would get my most critical work done in the morning, grab lunch to go, and take off down to the cabin for three or four hours.

This first session worked so well that I began doing this weekly for the next several months.  These sessions were extremely valuable in helping me get my mind wrapped around the huge change I was considering.

Session agenda

Once a week, I would get my most critical work done in the morning, grab lunch to go, and take off down to the cabin for three or four hours.  Here was my brief, informal agenda:

  1. Start with worship music to get my mind on the right track.  Ten to fifteen minutes did the trick.
  2. Pray about what I was attempting to do.  I did not really know what to pray, except that I wanted to follow God’s will.
  3. Take notes on anything and everything that came to mind about working my faith into our business.
  4. Summarize these ideas.
  5. Create action plans according to timing and priority.

I cannot explain the certainty in my mind and heart regarding the fact that it was only God leading me down this path.  I knew it was Him.  I just wanted to make sure I did not run off and leave Him while chasing my own ideas of what He wanted!  I had to be careful to keep my ears and heart tuned to hear Him.  As long as I did that, His Word promised He would direct my paths.

What are you doing to hear from God about your business?

Do you carve out time to seek Him on this?

What would your business look like if He had full control?


God was bringing change!

I was sitting in Kansas City, MO at a Promise Keepers conference.  I was early because I wanted to get a good seat.  My brother was sitting next to me and I was feeling good!  He and I had a heart-to-heart talk the night before and I had confirmed that he is indeed saved and wanting to grow in his faith.  Because finding that information was the whole point of me making the trip from Atlanta, I could then relax!

Now, I could enjoy the rest of the conference…or so I thought.

The Article

As we sat there waiting for the first session, I saw a magazine laying on the floor.  Looking to pass the time, I started to flip through it.  The magazine was called Business Reform.  I had never heard of it before.  As I flipped through the pages, an article caught my eye.  It was about David Browne, former CEO of LensCrafters.

The article talked about how he was successful in his job, but he was also having problems reconciling his Christian faith with his business management style.  While attending a men’s weekend Bible study retreat, the Holy Spirit convicted him with Matthew 20:25-28.  In this passage, Jesus told the disciples that they are to be servant leaders, just as He came to serve.  From this point forward, Browne no longer separated his faith from his business.  He went on to execute a wholesale change of LenCrafters, basing its management principles and philosophies on the Bible.

This idea was revolutionary to me.  I had never considered this approach.  It had never even crossed my mind even though these were the exact same issues with which I was struggling.  I sat there in silence for a few minutes, just thinking about whether that could work for me.

The Book

Because I am a “more information” guy, I went straight to the conference bookstore booths to see if I could subscribe to the magazine.  I found the Business Reform booth and asked how to subscribe.  I was told I could do it right there and I could choose a free book as well!  I chose the book with picture of the man with a briefcase on the cover and went back to my seat to think some more.

Two weeks later, I came across that book again – I had forgotten about it, thinking a free book likely wouldn’t be that exciting.  I was wrong!!!

God had pricked my heart again, with the same type of story!

The book was called Loving Monday by John Beckett.In short, the book tells Beckett’s story from joining the family business, taking it over upon his father’s death, and facing multiple challenges from the start.  After spending time in the Bible seeking answers, he came to realize that he could run his business as a ministry.  The results God achieved through him and his decision are incredible.

Again, I was speechless.  God had pricked my heart again, with the same type of story.  I had felt the excitement when first read the article.  Now He was doing the same thing again with the book.  I could feel Him moving in me like I have never felt before. Something was changing in me.

Are you giving God the opportunities to do this in your life?

Has God done this in your life?

How have you responded?

Are you listening to God?

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been actively searching for my purpose for a couple of years (’01-’03).  I was doing everything I knew to do in order to allow God to speak to me.  I was studying His Word, praying, participating in Bible studies, leading others in Bible study, teaching, etc. and it seemed I was still not sure of what I should be doing with my life.

First of all, please know that hearing from God does not require all of this activity.  In fact, it is easier to actually hear Him when you are still and quiet.  My point is that I was filling my mind with His Word and trying my best to find His purpose for me.  Looking back from where I am today, I believe I was doing exactly what He wanted me to do at the time.

After my second Promise Keepers conference in 12 months, I was having lunch with my father and two younger brothers the following Monday.  I was really talking up the conference and trying to get them interested in going with me the following year.  My middle brother spoke up and said he would be interested in going.  I thought he meant the next year, but he spoke up again and said he would like to go to one of the remaining cities on the tour for that year!

For a long time, I had not been sure where my brother stood in his relationship with God.

Well, I knew God was giving me the chance I had been looking for.  For a long time, I had not been sure where my brother stood in his relationship with God.  The more I studied for myself, the more I wanted to find out where other members of my family stood.  This looked like the perfect opportunity to get away, just the two of us, and find out.

I bought tickets and we flew to Kansas City for the conference.  After the first night (an incredible experience if you have never been to one), we had talked for several hours before going to bed.  He shared that he was indeed saved, knew how and why, and was just trying to figure out how to live more like it.

I was so relieved!  While I had enjoyed the trip to that point, my main concern had been his spiritual condition.  It had been nagging at me and I could not relax until I heard what he had to say.  Now that I was comfortable with his response, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Of course, that was only true until roughly 8:00AM the next morning.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  Stay tuned…

Are you listening for the opportunities God is giving you right now?

If you recognize the opportunity, are you ready to take it?

If not, what are you doing to get prepared for the next one?

Get your fortune here!

Between April 2002 and the fall of 2003, I continued to go through the Impact Discipleship study and take others through it as well. I continued studying God’s Word on a daily basis. I started journaling on a regular basis. I was reading everything I could get my hands on in an effort to find my purpose. I had decided to walk away from the family business and was looking for other work that allowed me more time to volunteer and work for God in whatever capacity he had planned for me.

During this time, I attended three Promise Keepers conferences, listened intently to various testimonies from missionaries who were visiting our church, started teaching a Sunday School class, and engaged in countless other activities. I was on a search for purpose and I was coming up empty to this point (as far as finding my purpose was concerned). I was praying that God would just make it easy and show me what it was he wanted me to do. I kept telling Him that I was willing to do anything He wanted, but I needed to know what that was!

Just as before, I did not realize what He was doing during this process. I kept looking for a billboard or some significant sign that would tell me what I was supposed to do next. I knew I was supposed to be studying His Word. I knew I was supposed to be teaching others as I was able. I was doing all of that. What I wanted to know was what he wanted me to do for a living while I worked for Him! I was asking and He did not seem to be answering! The truth is that He was preparing me for what was next because I was not yet ready to be shown what it was.

As it turned out, it was roughly eighteen months after I started Impact Discipleship (and three years after my “awakening”) that God showed me what I was to do. I will get to that in my next post. In the meantime, I need to point out that God is not anything like the carnival fortuneteller Zoltar from Tom Hanks’ movie “Big”. You cannot just put money (or time studying His Word, or serving at church, or anything else for that matter) into Him and have Him spit our your fortune (or purpose). There just is no predictable formula when it comes to dealing with God.

Instead, He expects us to keep doing what He has already told us to do through His Word while we are waiting on whatever it is that comes next. In my case it was nearly three years before I really got my direction. For Moses it was forty years as a fugitive. We have to be faithful with what He has already given us before He can give us more. Even when it seems we are not getting anywhere, we must trust that God’s timing is perfect.

What about you? What are you seeking from Him right now?

Are you being faithful in applying the knowledge and wisdom He has already given you?

What do you need to change to get back on the right path to your purpose?

I do not have the gift of evangelism!

I have always feared being called to be a missionary or even worse, a street corner preacher.  Before you get mad, I am NOT saying there is anything wrong with either of these…I believe both are called and used by God.  I was simply afraid it would be me!

All of my life as a Christian I had shrugged off any sermons, lessons, etc. that attempted to teach me that I was supposed to actively share my faith.  Whenever questioned about it directly, I always answered that I did not have the “gift of evangelism.”  I would go on to say that I would live my life by silent example – that would be my witness to those around me.  I felt that got me off the hook from having to go door to door or street corner to street corner, preaching Jesus.

This response worked for many years.  I say it worked because I was never forced to go door to door and I never really felt guilty about it!

In my last post, I explained briefly about the small group discipleship study, Impact Discipleship, through which God worked to radically change the rest of my life.  While we are all products of the various influences and decisions in our lives, this one discipleship program stands out head and shoulders above the rest in my life.

“God wants, and expects, my entire life to be given over to Him”

It was in this study that I learned God wants, and expects, my entire life to be given over to Him.  Looking back today, this seems too simple and obvious, but at the time, it was revolutionary to me.  I had always kept God in a nice, tight package…He was part of my life, but only that – just a part.  When I found out that I was to open up to Him every crack and crevice and every room of this house I call my life, it rocked me.

It was also in this study that I learned my lame excuse was not working with God.  I came to find out, directly from the Scripture, that all believers are commanded to go and make disciples, to be Jesus’ witnesses to the world.  Different Christians have different gifts to be used in following this command.  There are also different callings to various places, methods, or ministries within the church or in the world.  Regardless of gift or calling, we are all commanded to go.  Based on what I have read, my claim that I was exempt from the command to go and make disciples was simply wrong.

Read the following from the Bible and see what you think…

Do you read the same thing I do?  

If you agree, how do you live this out?

What obstacles have you encountered?

Life in a Dixie plate?

Last time, I began to tell you about another crucial step in this journey – one that changed everything for me.

This crucial step was my participation in a small group discipleship study called Impact Discipleship.  The material was written by Ken Adams, pastor of Crossroads Church in Newnan, GA.  This is the study brought to our dealership by our controller shortly after he started working here in the spring of 2002.  As soon as he mentioned it during our first interview, I told him I was interested.  I had been consistently having a quiet time studying my Bible every morning for the past six months and I was learning a lot, but I was also extremely eager to learn more.  I saw this as my chance to do just that.

 The Structure of the Material

  • Five daily lessons – Each member of the group completes the five days of material (15-30 mins. per day). 
  • Weekly Meeting – The group meets for 60-90 minutes, once per week to review the material.
  • Memorized Scripture Verse – Each member recites the weekly memory verse for the group.
  • Personal accountability – Each member answers very direct, personal accountability questions from the group.
  • Prayer requests – These prayer concerns get more personal over the time the group is together

The group meets for a total of thirteen weeks like this to complete the first book.  There is a total of four books in the series, all with the same structure.

As you can probably imagine, the group becomes very close to each other through this process.  This is certainly a strength of the program.  But the part that truly changed the course of my life was the material itself.  Simply put, the material focused on the life of Jesus and how the Bible teaches that our mission in life is to be the same as His.

The three core verses that I still dwell on to this day are the following:

The material taught, directly from the Bible, that we are to model our lives after the life of Jesus.  First, we are to BE disciples of Christ, learning about Him and His teachings and loving God with all of our heart soul, mind and strength.  Second, we are to BUILD more disciples by taking our faith to the world as we go through our daily lives.

Whereas I had previously separated my faith, business, family, and personal lives from each other in compartments like in a Dixie plate, with none of the various compartments touching another, I learned that God’s plan is different!  In all aspects of my life, He wants control.  He does not just want 10% of me.  He will not even accept 25% or 50% of me.  He wants ALL of me and the life I live.  This was revolutionary to me.  It was not something I had been taught before and I needed time to sort it out.

What do you think?  Does God have all of you or just the portion you are comfortable giving?  

Do you believe He can do more with all of you than you can?  

What parts are you holding back?