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Why a minister decided to run an auto body shop.

November 4, 2012

This post is going to get personal.

All my training and career up to this point has been directed at being in the ministry. So how did I end up owning and operating a local business?

The short answer: I needed money. My family was growing, expenses were increasing, and my income was not keeping pace.

And I also came to realize that many of the projects, ministries, and initiatives that I hoped to start or even just be a part of required an economic engine of some kind. I have seen scores of non-profits struggle because they lacked financial resources. And because I want to see what was started in my neighborhood continue and become sustainable I knew that a large, fundamental missing piece to the puzzle was having the funds to launch these dreams.

But I want to back up and sketch out the path that got me to this point.

Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to be a missionary. That seemed like the highest of all callings to me and involved elements of pioneering work, risk taking, travel  and adventure that intrigued me. I began preparing for this literally the summer after I graduated high school. A few days after graduating I boarded a plane for Brazil. I was heading to the Amazon jungle as a missionary with New Tribes Mission. How about that for jumping into the deep end! I spent the majority of my summer swimming in the Amazon river, digging a ditch at a boarding school for missionary kids, hiking in the jungle and we even did a little bit of “real” mission work when we went to some villages and I was asked to give my “testimony.” Now, if you grew up in church you’ll know that “giving your testimony” means telling people what a sinner you were and how much God/Jesus/the Bible/Sunday school/Church has changed your life and how it could do the same for others.

After that stint in the jungle, I decided I needed more training so I went to Cedarville College (now Cedarville University, thank you very much!) to study the bible for four years. But soon I was getting the itch to do something. So right in the middle of college, between my sophomore and junior year I decided to take a year off and pursue a calling to a different type of missionary field: the urban jungle. I joined Youth With a Mission aka YWAM and did some training and out reach in Amsterdam with a stint in Africa as well that took me to Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and eventually north to Cairo, Egypt as well. At this point the life of doing mission work mixed with the powerful elixir of adventure and travel was making me re-think even going back to college. But I figured I already had a couple years in, I might as well finish. So from Amsterdam I moved back to central Ohio to finish my degree.

After college I did another stint with YWAM, got married, felt called back home again and landed in the neighborhood where I graduated high school: Norwood, Ohio. I hooked up with this young church named Vineyard Central and eventually became the pastor, first as an associate pastor for 7 years then as the lead pastor for 8. During this time I was slowly working on a master’s degree in theology that eventually led me to a doctoral degree in ministry that I finished this year.

Most of the time I was a pastor I didn’t feel like a pastor. In fact, I didn’t really want to be a pastor. At least not in the traditional sense. I saw myself more as a missionary to my home town. I felt called to this place and this people. Also another thing you should know about me is that I’ve been mostly bi-vocational during this whole time. Working as a minister was my calling but I had to pay the bills in other ways. Even during college and right on through my time as a pastor this usually took the form of starting some small enterprise. Over the years I’ve started a dance club, a house painting business, a cleaning company, a handy man service and then ultimately launching into the auto body business with Center City Collision. So in one sense I’ve always been an entrepreneur, a starter. But its always been in service to my higher calling, ministry.

So my initial “Why?” was the simple need for an economic engine to support myself and my family. Then if things went really well I could also be generous and give back to others doing good work in my neighborhood.

And that happened! To a large extent and in various ways we’ve been able to do that. So its time to set the sights on something bigger… 

What I’m coming to realize is that the dream many of us have for this place is really big. And as the dream has evolved so has the need for an even bigger economic engine. And really it isn’t just one engine. There need to be multiple engines all pulling together. So hopefully my business will be one among many locally that are started and nurtured in this soil and fully committed to the higher purposes this place needs. For me and many others that is a holistic approach that involves caring for the whole person: body, mind, spirit, economy, and relationships.

I have no idea where this will all end up but I’m stoked to be a part of this unfolding story and ready to see what the next chapter will surprise us with….

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. D.G. permalink
    November 4, 2012 3:14 pm

    LHM, CHM, LHM!!!

  2. November 5, 2012 2:59 pm

    Thank you for this Kevin! I didn’t think I could respect, love, and look up to you more! So excited to just be living in the same city as you and your family.

    • November 6, 2012 11:19 am

      Jimi, thanks for all you’ve done so consistently for so many years to care for the kids of this city! I feel old now that you are doing the same for my kids… how many generations of kids are you up for? =) and you seem to never age…. amazing. Nothing but mutual love and respect my friend!

  3. November 6, 2012 1:12 am

    I love it. It’s not my call, and I have huge respect for those of you for whom it is. The engine is a good picture. I figure if St. Peter can successfully juggle the vocations of owner of a fishing fleet and leader of the Jerusalem church, than we’ve got a pretty good indication that it can and should be done by others also.

    • November 6, 2012 11:22 am

      Pat, So honored that you even visit my blog. Thanks for taking time to comment… deeply appreciated. (and we need to get that epic motorcycle adventure on the books even if its a few years out! =)) BTW, is there historical evidence that Peter continued to fish after being called to be an apostle? That would be amazing! Of course Paul did with his tentmaking biz but Peter too? I’d be very interested to learn more about that.

  4. November 14, 2012 10:05 pm

    Man, never heard about your New Tribes connection. I was in high school when I met some New Tribes missionaries that really gave me the bug for mission.

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