A Publication of WTVP

The Bible as a Business Model

by Steve Stein | Photos by Ron Johnson |

Lighthouse Buick GMC in Morton practices the Golden Rule and moves a few (thousand) vehicles, too

Faith and business can mix.

That’s what the owners of Lighthouse Buick GMC in Morton firmly believe.

They make it very clear what drives them personally and professionally in a listing of Lighthouse’s “strategic values,” which have a prominent place both at the dealership at 100 W. Jackson St. in the Tazewell County community and on the company’s website.

Principles: “The Bible will be our compass and our guide.”

Ethics: “The implementation of Biblical principles as demonstrated by Jesus Christ.”

So important are those values to the dealership’s owners that they’re listed ahead of “creating an atmosphere where employees like to come to work,” “exceeding customers’ expectations,” and making a profit. A pocket Bible is placed in the glove box or center console of every car sold at Lighthouse.

“We believe in the Judeo-Christian Biblical worldview. If you live according to God’s values, good things will happen. They’re like guideposts on a mountain road,” said Bart Rinkenberger, who began working at Lighthouse in 1997 and now is one of the dealership’s three minority owners.

“We know God will provide us with everything we need to meet our business goals,” Rinkenberger said. “We’re not perfect people here, but when you do the right things, that builds trust with your customers.”

That theme also permeates the business philosophy of brothers Matt and Keith Grimm, who share minority ownership with Rinkenberger, their cousin.

General Manager Bart Rinkenberger (center) with associates Matt Grimm (left) and Keith Grimm at Lighthouse Buick GMC in Morton
General Manager Bart Rinkenberger (center) with associates Matt Grimm (left) and Keith Grimm at Lighthouse Buick GMC in Morton

“I wouldn’t say our religious beliefs give us an advantage in business, but they do let our customers know how we will treat them,” Matt Grimm said. “We live how Jesus calls us to live. I think people feel that and know they can trust us.”

Keith Grimm said Lighthouse customers appreciate “knowing we’re always committed to doing the right thing.”

‘People at Lighthouse don’t wear their faith like a badge … There’s a quiet biblical culture there’
— Customer Mike Witzig

Rinkenberger said he’s encountered a few Lighthouse customers that haven’t been on board with the dealership’s faith-based business practices, “but Jesus Christ loved everyone, and so do we,” he said.

Customer appreciation

Longtime Lighthouse customer Mike Witzig said he keeps coming back to the dealership because as a customer, “you feel important and valued. And it’s fun to be there.”

He attributes those feelings to what he describes as the dealership’s biblical culture.

“People at Lighthouse don’t wear their faith like a badge. And they don’t put themselves on a pedestal,” he said. “There’s a quiet biblical culture there, but you can feel it and see it when you’re there.”

By the numbers

So how is Lighthouse doing, business-wise?

More than 2,000 new and used cars are sold at Lighthouse each year, and the dealership provides repair and maintenance services for 800 to 1,000 customers each year, said Rinkenberger.

“We get car buyers from all over because of our presence on the Internet,” he said. “People find a unique vehicle that interests them, and they’ll drive hours to see and perhaps buy it.”

Meanwhile, more than 150 folks are on the payroll.

“We certainly don’t require every employee to have the same religious beliefs that we do,” said Rinkenberger. “But everyone who works here knows our beliefs, and may not realize when they treat a customer well that they’re displaying biblical values.

“Many of our employees are part-time,” he added. “These include high school students and retirees looking to work a few hours a week.”

Lighthouse opened a separate collision center in early 2022 at a site that’s a part of Morton’s history: the former Midwestern Wood Products building at 1500 W. Jefferson St.

The facility opened in 2004 after Midwestern Wood Products’ original building on the property was destroyed by an EF-3 tornado on May 10, 2003. The current building was constructed just south of the original building’s footprint.

Renovating the building from a wood shop to a collision center included constructing a wall that separates the parts department from the rest of the facility, adding carbon monoxide sensors and an exhaust system, and installing a sprinkler system to bring the building up to code.

Twenty-seven Lighthouse employees work at the collision center.

‘Hire the right people, get out of the way’

Jeff Grimm is the majority owner of Lighthouse. Rinkenberger and the Grimm brothers became minority owners in 2022.

Jeff Grimm isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the dealership, but his influence is still there, said Rinkenberger.

“Jeff believes in hiring the right people and getting out of the way,” Rinkenberger said. “He’s a humble person. He wants to be behind the scenes, not in the spotlight. That’s a major reason why his name is not on the dealership.”

Lighthouse formerly was Village Buick GMC, which was purchased in 1996 by Jeff Grimm and Bill Hart. Grimm became the sole owner of the dealership in 2003 and the dealership was renamed Lighthouse Buick GMC, with the construction of a replica lighthouse to drive the point home, in 2007.

An extensive remodeling and expansion project at the dealership in 2013 funded primarily by General Motors added parking and a new service facility.

Steve Stein

Steve Stein

is a longtime Peoria area print journalist