by Andrew Clark
Editor's Note: The following is a guest blog from Andrew Clark, one of the leaders of the Lion's Den in Birmingham, a group of faith driven entrepreneurs in that city that have done a great job of bringing attention to the opportunities of Business as Mission. Please see the link to their event at the end of his post.
In 2008, Chuck Welden invited me to hear about a profitable business in India. With 50 people in the room, Tom shared his experience starting the business as a way to have an ministry impact. He spoke about others who intentionally sought to operate the business, deal with people, even handle the profit as a means to serve others and the Lord. I loved it. My faith and my work were not separate but work together to grow me closer to Jesus and others to know him through my example.
That lunch in late 2008 was the start of an informal group of business guys in Birmingham, Alabama, who wanted to leverage their time, talents, and other resources for ministry using business. Chuck and Mark Wesson shared their knowledge of several businesses operating under the practice of Business As Mission, or “BAM” for short. In our group of 6-8 men, some were already doing things in Africa (Bob Quinn) and Europe (Dan Stafford) through their influence. We went to other conferences, businesses, places, and opportunities to learn more.
Our interest was not to simply run a business but encourage it, invest in it, and find ways to reinvest what God had given to us. We also found that this interest around BAM, Kingdom Business, Business for Transformation, Christ-led, or whatever you want to call it, was stirring others in the larger Body of Christ. This wasn’t a big idea God blessed us with alone. He wanted every believer in business somehow to pursue it.
As the years went by, our Birmingham-based “BAM group” grew, meet more frequently, and continued to invite people to share with our friends in town. Friends challenged us to provide opportunities to engage. We tried to create committees, but it ended up not working. Who wants to be on a committee, much less another committee? Eventually, the group decided a fun event that showcased real business pursuits could provide real returns of financial, social, and spiritual capital to investors and the community.
In 2014, we wanted The Lion’s Den event to introduce people to the wonderful friends and professionals we had gotten to know in prior years. We also wanted to show to same professionalism we saw in these faithful entrepreneurs around the world. We called in favors, asked for referrals, and several took months to make sure things ran smoothly. The group wanted to inspire, educate, and mobilize people, wherever they were in their Faith, to do something. Less talk, more action. Whether it was learning through examples on stage, a change in mindset, investing in a company, or partnering with them.
The years together were a big help in pulling off TLD. Business is hard. Ministry is hard. International business with ministry is…hard! Still, we spent a lot of time learning from our friends spanning several industries, experiences, and a host of connections here and abroad. The Lion’s Den was an excuse to invite people we knew to meet each other, be encouraged, inspired, and if feasible, do some business together that would glorify God.
The Lion’s Den is now in its 5th installment for Birmingham (come join us!). We had some friends want to start one in Dallas, and they did their 3rd event this past March. We’ve heard of folks doing different versions of the Main Event pitch competition—loosely modeled after Shark Tank. Now we’ve dozens of applications for the 4 presenters and a conference bringing professionals from over 60 cities in 7 countries. We’ve heard >$10 million invested into presenters from accredited investors who met them at TLD. We’ve been blessed to play a part pouring into those who have poured out their lives and livelihoods for more than profit, but God’s Kingdom as well.
The Work, Together
If we cannot find ways to work together in service to God and others for His glory, then we really shouldn’t be doing any of this. Commerce is a universal language, and thankfully, so is our shared-faith in Christ. At the heart of those two things are the people and relationships we form, the fellowship, and fight together through business and market turns. They say “no man is an island.” Well, no good business is either.
The best thing I’ve gained from being a part of this group and The Lion’s Den is seeing how God brings good, faithful, professionally-minded people together to encourage one another to strive towards that upward call in Christ entrepreneurially. You cannot help but be inspired! I hear and see it almost daily as I keep in touch or connect colleagues to each other. I see each person’s perseverance, am amazed at the sacrifice, and challenged in my heart to “go and make” for the Lord.