155 – My Transition from Business to Ministry (1984-1991)
Recently I was asked to speak to some businessmen about the process that led me from Morley Properties to founding Man in the Mirror. Since men regularly ask me, I thought it would be good to publish the process I went through. As it happens, I kept a written journal of my transition from business to ministry. Here is my story taken from those entries.
To get the whole picture, let me take you back to Christmas 1984. For five years I had been leading a group I started after a “small” racial disturbance here in Orlando made national news. We called ourselves The Black/White Fellowship. Yet, since I had become a Christian in 1973, my overarching passion had been taking men to lunch and sharing Christ, then getting them
into small groups for discipleship.
Over Christmas I prayed for God to use me in a new ministry opportunity which would capitalize on the secular success I had enjoyed. After two weeks of prayer the only leading I received was the word “evangelism.”
Then in early 1985, I received two invitations to speak evangelistically. I remember driving back from one of those engagements thinking, “This is it! I am being called to be an evangelist!”
The phone never rang again. Patsy, my wife, and I did, however, connect with Executive Ministries and started hosting evangelistic dinners for business executives and their spouses.
I was on fire! I changed my life purpose statement and on February 1, 1986, I penned in the front of my Bible, “I want to live the rest of my earthly life for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”
That same month, five of us started what is today The Man in the Mirror Bible Study—150 men of all ages and stations in life who meet every Friday morning.
My pastor said to me one day, “Why don’t you just sell your business and go into the ministry.” I found it attractive, but immediately dismissed the idea. But I couldn’t get it completely out of my mind.
Meanwhile, my business started having troubles. Every morning I poured out my heart to God. I wrote a psalm a day during that season—on my computer, and I limited myself to one page. In March, 1987, I was praying (and typing) and asking God for some help.
As I told God how hard I was trying, I was overwhelmed by God’s love. He seemed to say to me (and I wrote down), “You will never be good enough for me to love you. I love you because I made you.”
At that moment, His love for me moved in a supernatural way from abstract to personal. He forced His love upon me, and I have never been the same. I had been a Christian for nearly 14 years.
After we started the Bible study in 1986, I was soon the designated teacher. That was odd, because in the summer of 1985 I wrote in my journal, “Little interest, ability in teaching.” But in the spring of 1987, God changed the desire of my heart to really want to teach. Since then I have become a tireless student of how to teach men and train leaders. Some time that same year, a desire to write was born.
On Thanksgiving morning, 1987, I wrote down five tasks I sensed the Lord leading me to tackle…
1. To help men draw attention to themselves (personal examination).
2. To look at the commonplace in uncommon ways (an unusual look at the usual).
3. To point out error in men’s thinking.
4. To assist men in shaping a godly life view.
5. To show men the pathway of change.
In early 1988, the idea popped into my head that I should write a book about what I had learned about men. For six months I put it out of my mind—after all, I was a businessman, not an author! Finally, I just felt it was disobedient to not to at least give it a try.
Meanwhile, business was tough. I wrote in my journal, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” On a really tough day in November 1988, I received two nasty letters. For the first time, bitterness welled up. As I left work, I knew I needed to come to terms with that bitterness immediately. The thought came to mind, “Praise God.”
I said, “That’s it!” and immediately played praise music and began to praise God in prayer. Within seconds, the bitterness was gone—and didn’t return! As I slowed for a traffic light, I heard God’s voice—not audibly, but nevertheless distinct from my own thoughts. He said, “I want you to take my message of love to a broken generation.”
Naturally, I was overcome with emotion. A few moments later I heard again, “I want you to take my message of love to a broken generation.” I’m still not quite sure how I made it home safely! But I do remember stopping in our driveway and working with a pen and paper until I wrote it out exactly the way I received it. I still have that precious piece of paper! For many months I had been considering that God may be calling me into ministry. Was this it? I met with several trusted men—including Chuck Green (my pastor), Tommy Boroughs (my attorney), Tom Skinner (my friend), Bill Bright (my model), and Dick Halverson (a true sage)—and they all helped me confirm the authenticity of this call.
From 1988 to 1991, I recorded many Scriptures and exclamations of commitment and devotion to God. The meaning of the call started to crystallize—at least the part about “to a broken generation.” (NOTE: Ten more years would pass before God would answer my redundant prayer,
“What do you mean—“My message of love”? One day it dawned on me while reading 1 John 4:9-10, Jesus Christ is God’s message of love.)
In November, 1990, I realized that I had been called, but not sent. Like Ezekiel lying on his side, God was restraining my natural inclination to take action. Instead, He was transforming the motives and desires of my heart.
I had the sense that my real estate career was over. In a scant ten years, from 1973 to 1983, Morley Properties became one of Florida’s 100 largest privately held firms. Then He showed me how quickly He can whittle it down.
While I was waiting for the sending, I started on my seminary degree—one course at a time. And my business problems lingered. After speaking at an outreach breakfast one morning in Vero Beach, Florida, I drove by an office park I had built in Melbourne. I pulled my car around to the back where no one could see, laid face down in the grass, and pleaded for God to deliver me.
For many years I had been bi-vocational (although I didn’t have that term in my mind at the time). I was eventually spending 90% of my time in ministry and only 10% in business (this had increased gradually over 15 years).
Everything came to a head on January 4, 1991. I had called a meeting to finalize our annual budget—or so I thought! But our general manager and controller had been conspiring! They both told me that because of a lost account and the general business downturn, I would have to jump back into the business with both feet. It just felt like the wrong direction.
I called Patsy and asked if I could come home to talk to her. Driving home my mind raced over all the possible options. As I explained our options to Patsy, we discussed impacts, ramifications, etc. Finally, Patsy said, “Let’s go for it!” My teeth fell out! We prayed, asking God for His wisdom and His peace. We decided to answer His call and go.
In one sense it was a day like no other, but in another strange sense it was a perfectly logical day. It did not seem sudden, even though I had given no thought at all to making such a monumental decision when I awakened that morning. It was a sober, reasoned day, not one of exultant jubilation.
Within a couple of months I was able to liquidate my company, and my general manager became a Joseph to me, faithfully looking after our projects.
I started Man in the Mirror—but even then it took five years to get focused on our current mission! David Delk, now our president, joined me in 1994 after graduating from seminary, and became a true partner in building the ministry—as have many others since.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
In this Christmas season, I’m grateful Jesus came, died, and rose again with power. You and I have the privilege of serving a risen Lord. Merry Christmas!
Patrick Morley, Ph.D.