Jim Hohnberger is the author of nearly a dozen books and is also the co-founder of Empowered Living Ministries with his wife, Sally Hohnberger.
Jim was born in Appleton, Wisconsin in December of 1948 to a family of 7. He would go on to earn a degree in Conservation, Forestry and Land Planning from Michigan Technological University before finding the love of his life, Sally, whom he married in 1972.
Over the years, Jim and Sally Hohnberger have travelled all over the United States, and to more than 20 countries around the world to share what God has taught them about marriage, raising children, and life.
Where did the idea for Empowered Living Ministries come from?
My wife and I when we graduated from college, we bought a nice home, fancy car, a lot of possessions, we wanted to be important people, we wanted to go on excursions, do a lot of fancy stuff, and ultimately we fell out of love, by chasing the ‘American Dream’. We looked at each other and we said “what on earth did we lose?”. When we were courting each other, we were the happiest two people in the world. We got caught up in chasing the stuff that doesn’t really satisfy, that the world tells you does. We packed up everything, sold our prosperous business, our home, our five vehicles – we were doing extremely well. We were in our mid-thirties and we moved to the mountains in Montana to say ‘what are we missing’. We were only 50 miles from pavement. Grizzly bears in our front yard, everything. We decided that we were going to reanalyze life because what we had when we were courting was better than what we had when we had a six-figure income, and that was 38 years ago.
What we found that satisfied us was Empowered Living Ministries. People ask ‘why did you move where you did, what did you find?’ As we shared that, people asked us to start coming to their churches, their schools, colleges, ministries, and share the move that we had made. From that, Empowered Living Ministries became a functional 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation to aid us in distributing the message. That started with tapes, then it went to CD’s, DVD’s, and has transformed into 9 books by myself 4 books by my wife Sally.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is very simple. I’m usually up by 5:30 – I get up, shower, brush my teeth, drink some water – then I usually go up to my desk and have some motivational time. I either read God’s word, spend some time in prayer, or I’ll read a motivational book by someone else that has walked before me. I do that for about an hour, and from there I go outside where I’ve got an elliptical on my back porch in the fresh air.
I usually do about 4 miles in half an hour, and in that half hour I contemplate what I just read, what I just thought about, what the principles for the day are going to be. That deals with the fact that I’m not on this earth alone, and I have a God that oversees my life and I need to be dependent upon him and surrender to him, and I want to use my life to touch other people’s lives.
Every day I go through that devotional time, that centering-in time, so I can keep my focus on where my power comes from – which is not myself, but from Jesus Christ, and then how I use that power to better my marriage, my family, my contact with whoever else God wants me to enhance.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I see where, in my life I’ve blown it and been weak. I used to have a huge temper, get irritated very easily like a full-blooded German. The girl that I love and the girl of my dreams that I hardly ever got upset with in 5 years of courting, after I became a successful person I would come home, and my wife would say
“Mr. Smith called”
“Well what did he want?”
“I don’t know”
“Why don’t you know?!” I’d say very loud and angrily.
That started killing our marriage – my temper drove my wife away from me. When I saw my weaknesses and saw what they did to damage my relationship with my wife and my relationship with my children. I brought that out in public, when I’d speak, and told people how I found victory over the weaknesses in my character.
People were shocked that I was that vulnerable, and secondly wanted to know ‘does it really work?’ Most people behind closed doors are not the same people they are in public and they want a better life. So, my ideas come from my own failures, and my ideas come from my own successes. I speak on my own failures and successes and people can relate to that because it’s honesty.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The fact that we’re seeing people saying to themselves ‘the church and going to church does not satisfy me. It’s empty. It’s plateaued.’ We’re seeing people wake up to the fact that the church is not the solution – the church is supposed to point you to the solution which is Christ within you.
Often people thought that because they went to the right church or they had the correct logo above their church that they had a big ego and they thought they were great people because they walked through that door. But behind closed doors, it didn’t work. People are waking up to the fact that they need more than church Christianity, they need a real power inside them.
What excites us most is seeing lives change! We are not about drawing people to ourselves or getting them dependent on us… we want to see them connected to the real power source which is a personal walk with God and recognising His guidance and direction in their lives and that excites me tremendously.
When marriages that are on the rocks and headed for divorce, we help them connect with God and they turn around and fall back in love. Then we often encounter child-rearing issues and bad behavior in children. We work with them and when they find God as their helper, learn how to take their children to Jesus to change their heart and attitudes; their children’s obedience improves.
The children want to obey and home becomes a happier place. We like seeing happy families.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Most people are highly out of balance. In other words, if you take a man who has a gift for catching a ball, the world takes that man and takes that one talent of his and he becomes the best quarterback, or the best running back in the league. But he’s imbalanced because he becomes so self-centered in his gift that he doesn’t realize that he needs to sacrifice and grow in his weak areas. Biblical principle says that when you are weak, then are you strong. Recognizing that I need to be strong in my weaknesses and not just in my strengths.
I have a great gift for reaching out to people. But I had a real weakness in getting irritated at my wife so when I realized that I was out of balance, that I was making too much money verses sacrificing for my wife, I was important to everybody outside of my home, I had to find the balance of humility to say ‘I must become successful in my weaknesses and not just in my strengths. Overwork always causes loss of self-control, so I choose less monetary success and more harmony in the home.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Simplify your life. Prioritize your life. Stay with your absolute priorities. Cultivate a sense of Christ’s presence and act on it. If you do that, you will be terrifically successful. Most people won’t.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
The Christian church today tells people that they are okay, they’re born again, they’re saved… but the truth of the matter is that maybe 5% of the people in those churches have really given their lives over to Jesus Christ. The other 95% are really still the ONE in charge, and haven’t allowed Jesus to be Lord of their lives. Only 5% of the people that attend church are actually living a surrendered, dependent Christian life.
They’re depending on their intellectual assent to truth. Their ability to express their knowledge of what Jesus Christ did, but that does them no saving good. Unless you take Christ in and let him be your lord and savior, you aren’t going to live Christ and you’re not going to find daily victory and success. Intellectual assent doesn’t make you a Christian, it’s the application of biblical principles that make a difference in your life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always ask myself a question that’s very humbling; it’s found in The Book of Acts, chapter nine, verse six. “Lord what would thou have me to do”. I’ll always ask myself that when I get into a situation when I’m dealing with people, I never look to myself for the answer. I’ll ask God to impress me with what I should do, not what I think I should do. Therefore, I’m always dependent on a power outside of myself which is not me, that way, I don’t get a big ego or a big head, because it didn’t come from me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I always look to care for other people. If I open a door for someone and I see they’re distraught, I look to discover what their need is presently, and I try to administer that need. By caring for others, discovering their need, and ministering to their need, that makes me a funnel for helping people and not living for myself.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Too much trust in people that say one thing but do another behind your back. I’ve learned to read what that other person’s real motive is. Realizing that most people are motivated by ‘what’s in it for me if I do, and what’s in it for me if I don’t’.
We trusted in a lot of good people and they stabbed us in the back and they sold us out when they got what they wanted. While we do trust people, we’re very cautious. We’ve had to learn a balance of caution and trust.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers? (this should be an actual idea for a business, not business advice)
Business ideas really determine what your unique talent is. In other words, everybody has at least one talent and if you look at what their talent is, and then look at the community around them, and look to meet the needs of people with that talent you’ll be successful.
You can’t just say ‘I’m going to be a doctor or a dentist’. First you need to discover what your unique talent is, then honing that talent to meet other people’s needs instead of your own. I told both of my boys to do that – my eldest today is 42, he makes about a half a million dollars a year, my youngest son is 40 and he makes about a quarter of a million dollars a year and neither of them went to college. They did it by doing exactly what I mentioned here – figure out what your talent is and use that talent to enhance other people’s lives, and business will come to you.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (professionally)
About a week ago we got an email from a gentleman in Kenya and he was in need of materials to help other people, so I just wrote a check and we sent the books and paid the shipping costs. Shipping costs alone were about $100 alone for a large box of books so it cost us a lot more than that.
Never met the gentleman, never heard of him, but felt his need was greater than my pocketbook.
By the grace of God we’ve established some genuine connections over there and we’ve sent an awful lot of materials to India, Nigeria, Kenya, you name it. We’ve been to a lot of countries and love to help people. Our ministry likes to meet needs.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
No question about it, Dragon Dictate. I am a lousy typist. I can sit back with my feet up and talk to the computer and my answers are much longer. I don’t have to sit there and pluck my fingers on the keyboard, Dragon Dictate has made a huge difference in my productivity.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One book that’s really affected my life outside of the bible was The Christian Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith. It’s one of the 10-most read books in the world. Powerful, powerful book.
What is your favorite quote?
From the Book of Micah, 7:7
“I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me”