Marcus Lemonis is an unusual name. Sounds like it might have been someone who was assigned to assassinate one of the Roman emperors. Except he was born in Lebanon in 1973, adopted by a couple in Florida, and has become an American citizen – and a very wealthy one. Camping World is America’s largest seller of camping gear and RVs, and is just one of the 140 companies Lemonis owns. His special knack is seeking out companies that are struggling and turning them profitable.
In 2013 CNBC decided to tell his story, and “The Profit” was born. To date he has personally invested $50 million in a score of floundering companies and coaxed them back to health.
I have been intrigued the half dozen times I’ve watched his program. I spotted a fascinating pattern. No matter how desperate the company, no matter the debt load it carries, no matter that all of the sales graphs point down, the owner initially insists on saying No to the changes Marcus wants to make. The owner may already have cut staff, changed the logo, and begun to skimp on quality, the ultimate end of the little company is in view, but the owner is adamant: “This is the way we do it here; this is how it worked when my dad started the company, and we’re not going to make any changes.”
I’ve met with more than a few church leadership teams over the years who had rehearsed that song and could sing it with conviction. We’ve talked before in this space about the fact that the normal life-cycle of a church is approximately the same as the human life-cycle: Launch, growth, slowed-growth, plateau, gradual decline, steeper decline, shut the doors and sell the building. It’s not infallible but unless something happens to re-light the fire, it’s a pretty predictable seventy-year template.
I’ve also learned that anyone who enters the picture and makes suggestions is not always seen as a friend. The pioneers remember how it was before and “if we could just get back to that, we wouldn’t have all these empty seats and empty spaces in the parking lot. Besides, we like it here.” But we’ve watched this long enough to know the trajectory of the church is re-set when a group comes together to pray. I mean these are intercessors. They get it that yesterday’s answers aren’t sufficient for today’s questions.
They will not let go of the arm of God till He helps them understand that the story they have to tell must be fresh every morning and current as the sunrise. Unlike pottery, our message is not valuable because it is old but because God answers each new generation’s questions with exciting new discernment. So they seek for the gift to speak timeless truths in words their communities find compelling.
By Don Jacobsen