How does prayer and direction from God shape a business? What role does prayer have in the birth of a company?
We asked BAM practitioners to share how prayer has been significant to them in the preparation and launch stages of their companies. They shared how prayer has led them to discover new business opportunities, brought them to early crucial business breakthroughs, and also helped shape their:
- Business model
- Vision and mission for the business
- Company values and practices
- Business plan and strategy
In his description of 5 Stages of the Birth of a New BAM Company, Peter Shaukat outlines different activities involved in incubating the emerging business. Many of these involve identifying what God has already done or is doing:
The preparation stage includes recognizing what God has already done in the practitioner’s life in regards to their sense of missional call and life experiences. What has God been doing to both missionally and professionally prepare the person, in terms of their skills and competencies? This is where mentoring should begin: Tell me what God has been doing in your life? Tell me what your sense of call is? Tell me how God has been preparing you? The incubation of a new BAM business is the result of the process that God has already been doing before that. The perception stage is the next step. This is about gaining an understanding of what is going on in the environment that God has called you to do business as mission within; and what God wants to do through the business. What is going on in that environment in commercial terms? What is the missional calling to the people group? How is God raising up your business? The perceiving stage addresses the question: What is your business going to be about, commercially and missionally? This is the beginning of the gestation stage of the new business.
Spiritual preparation and prayer go hand in hand with good commercial practices to build strong foundations for BAM companies. Here is how nine BAM practitioners have experienced prayer in the birth of their business:
In the early stages, I usually seek wise counsel from other leaders in our community that can help to advise on our business plan. We want to make sure we are not establishing business for profit only. Our goal is to have a third party – usually a mentor – counsel on three things : Does the business suit our current potential (competence)? Does the business have a possible future in the market (not a sunset industry)? Does the business align with God’s principles? For the third we want to provide products and services that honors these three principles : Is it Lawful (1 Cor 10:23), Is it Helpful (1 Cor 10:23), Is it Peaceful (Rom 14:19). After we get the input, we will take time to pray for:
– Vision, Mission and Core Values
– Business Plan and Strategy
Usually we write down all of these ideas and then pray further upon them. God has graciously made things happen with 80-90% of the specific and careful plans we have drafted.
Through a series of meetings in our board room interweaving prayer, worship and brainstorming on the whiteboard we developed the key parts of our business model. It felt so easy. It felt so natural, like how it “should be”. The unique models that God gave us have been key to our early success and attracted academics from London School of Economics and Oxford to do research on our business. Praise God who is the giver of all good gifts!
There are many ways that prayer has woven into the business seamlessly. Our mission statement was a direct word from God.
Al, USA and international
At least one of my businesses was literally born in prayer. In a “Jerry McGuire”-style experience an extended stay in Florida led to extended reflection and prayer. This in turn led to a vision statement for a business launched 5 days later. It went on to become a successful international consultancy and the platform for incubating over 1000 startups around the world.
Mike, USA and international BAM mentor
We prayed a lot as we considered different market opportunities and decided on a specific business venture. We also prayed throughout the business planning process for wisdom and insight. We prayed as we waited on various government approvals and visas from immigration. Finally, we prayed for people of peace as we interviewed and hired employees.
The start of my business was very stressful. The company I had worked for had just closed down to a random event in a foreign country. We were out of a job and wondering what to do. The boss of the company I had worked for suggested that I start my own company and continue what this company had done. I was geeky Electrical Engineer with an MBA in Finance. I knew nothing about how to run a company. My wife, Lynette and I prayed about it, of course, and felt led to give it a try. We had 6 months of savings and then we would be on the street if the new company failed. It was thrilling and scary to start our own company. Within two months I found myself on a large US Naval base working on a contract the Lord had provided. Amazing.
Garry, USA and international BAM mentor
We worked for eight years in Angola, SW Africa, with the task of creating a publishing house, in order to encourage local Christians to write, and also to create the necessary bookstore chain to sell the books. Our Brazilian missions agency partnered with a mission from Europe that would give the seed money. But the vision was different, and I learned the hard way that vision + vision = division. After two years we had nothing, not even a visa. The yearly retreat of the partnering organisation was the occasion when my wife and I asked God to show us the way out of the deadlock. We fasted and prayed, hoping that God would give us and the other mission agency a harmonious vision. The opposite happened: the split was complete, and we were left on our own, without money, but with lots of friends praying for us. Six months later we made the first purchase of stock for the first bookstore, with half our own money and the other half lent by a man almost unknown to us. Five years later, we were selling 20,000 Bibles and 30,000 books per year, in around 20 private bookstores, and the first local books came out in print.
Hans, Brazil and Angola
When I started my first BAM business I made a habit of having prayers before meals every day. That grew very naturally and I found my Christian and Muslim employees all appreciated it. In my second company, I took over from another fellow who had started the business while I had helped as a consultant in the early days. He hadn’t wanted to pray publicly like that for fear it would discomfort the employees. Now I find it very difficult to make the move back. So I conclude that starting out with prayer as a company practice is much easier that changing.
Robert, Turkey and international BAM mentor
For us prayer is source of “God ideas”, whether it is formal times of articulated prayer or moments of silence, solitude and reflection.
Next week we will share ‘Prayer Habits of BAM Practitioners’ that are woven into their company life day by day and week by week.
Check back to The BAM Review blog regularly for more on ‘Prayer in the Business‘ this month.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.