In 1988 I was in need of a job and took a position with a company selling new restaurant equipment. That job led me to two other companies both of which sold new equipment. These companies usually discarded or left old equipment that was being removed from the locations where they were installing their new equipment. At one location in Rockingham, NC, we installed a dishwasher and the old dishwasher was going to be left. It was a Hobart brand and I knew that Hobart equipment was mostly sold through exclusive dealerships. I called the dealership closest to me and asked if it had any value. He told me to bring it by. I took it by, he inspected it in the back of my truck and offered me $900. I could not take his money fast enough. I had just sold a new $6,000 dishwasher on which my commission was approximately $200. I took a discarded piece of equipment considered to be trash and sold it for $900. I continued to resell the used equipment and over time, I started my own business selling used restaurant equipment.
Over the years the business has offered blessings I would not have otherwise been able to enjoy. It allowed me to take less money for salary when I pastored my first church. It sustained me in the moments of my life when I had nothing else to do. When I took a position at Open Door, I stopped taking a salary from the business and gave some of that money to the church. Over the years it has allowed me to take a smaller salary from Open Door so we could hire other positions. It has provided things for my family we might not otherwise have. It has also provided it’s share of heartaches. There have been difficult times financially as any small business owner can appreciate. There have been disagreements with customers and times people did not feel like they were treated fairly. I think most every business owner can appreciate the joys and the heartaches I am talking about.
Over the past few years, though my day to day involvement in the business has been limited, it has still required a certain amount of my time and energy. I had hoped one of the children would want to take over the business, and though they have worked for or even managed it at different times, their interests are elsewhere. As the church has grown there have been times when the mental strain of the business affected my ability to lead at church. I struggled with what to do and how to do it.
Several years ago while in Israel, I heard a passage read from John 21 that resonated with me. It was about the disciples going fishing and Jesus appearing to them on the shore. They did not recognize who He was, even when He spoke to them. This fishing boat has been a part of Peter’s life throughout the gospels. He is called out of it to follow Jesus. He finds himself in it several times with Jesus. In this story he decides he is going fishing to get away and the others go with him. When Peter realizes who Jesus is and gets to Him, Jesus looks at Peter and asks, “Do you love me more than these?” There are a lot of “these” around. There are his friends, th 153 large fish he just caught, the boat….. Peter assures Jesus that he loves Him, but Jesus keeps asking. I am not sure, but it seems to me that Peter’s boat may have become a distraction. Jesus keeps telling Peter to feed the sheep. Jesus knows about all of the things Peter is going to do in the coming days like preach on the Day of Pentecost and speak to kings. Peter does not know these things, but Jesus is trying to prepare him. He keeps saying “feed my sheep”. This story is the last time we find Peter with the boat.
The boat in and of itself was not bad. It actually served a purpose on several occasions but Jesus did not want Peter to miss an opportunity because of the boat. So apparently, Peter walked away from it one last time. I am glad he did because he accomplished some amazing things in the days that followed.
I have reached a place in my life where it is time to sell the boat. Not the boat I literally own but rather my business. It will not be easy. I have 30 years invested in it. It is a part of my life. But it is time. I do not know what God has in store for me or the church, but I don’t want to be distracted when that opportunity comes. I believe there are greater days ahead. So, if you see me talking about my restaurant equipment business more in the coming months, know that it is my path to selling “the boat” and to clear my mind to be used more by God in the things He wants to accomplish.