In the entrepreneurial world, a sense of purpose is often seen as an important attribute for success. The World Economic Forum (WEF) suggests that businesses with a strong sense of purpose inspire confidence, and strategies with strong and effective purpose often see good returns. Additionally, the rise of for-profit business models has seen many companies embrace environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives through expanded corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.
Higher education, especially divinity schools, are actively increasing their offerings of purpose-driven entrepreneurship courses to meet the current market conditions and future expectations of their students. “Incorporating business courses into divinity education is a practical response to a busy reality,” says Yale Divinity School graduate Timothy Cahill.
Making a difference and moving business beyond personal interest is a growing trend that adds ethical considerations to evolving business models. As a result, it should come as little surprise that people with faith-based personal beliefs are guided by faith-driven principles in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Many entrepreneurs like Dave Ramsey and organizations like Faith Driven Entrepreneur have developed businesses that focus on shared personal and professional goals. For these individuals, there is a higher calling for their efforts that go beyond the typical marketing elements for certain businesses.
These faith-based entrepreneurs are thinking globally, working collaboratively with a moral compass as a guide. By common principles a society is formed by trade and faith as common purposes.
An often overlooked part of the equation is the dominance of the churches worldwide. The World Bank defines Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) as entities with social or moral components dedicated to religious identities. They are widespread and important because, according to the World Bank, 80% of the world’s population claims to be religious.
Alf Lukau is a renowned biblical scholar, international speaker, televangelist, entrepreneur, and author whose ministry and business endeavors expand relationships. As Senior Pastor and General Overseer of Hallelujah Ministries International (AMI), he has shaped and grown the South African operation founded in Johannesburg in February 2002 to hundreds of thousands of men and women.
Lucau describes himself as a modern bridge between spirituality, religious scholarship and business success. To date, his YouTube channel has garnered over 350 million views with 1.4 million subscribers. To put that in perspective, the current US population is around 334 million, albeit less than his channel’s viewers.
““It was simple, but I’m very passionate about what I’m doing,” Lukau said.
Lucau’s ministry operates the 24-hour Christian television broadcasting channel AMI TV. The station broadcasts in Africa and Europe and has satellite offices in Germany.
Also, the AL Foundation, a South African Christian charity founded in 2011 in Lucknow, was important to find balance among the masses and give back to the underserved. “It allows me to give back to the basics and express my deep compassion and passion for social welfare. We work for the public good and strive for good causes,” says Lukau.
Like Lukaw, faith-based entrepreneur Tiffany Montgomery, founder of Kingdom Entrepreneur University, teaches entrepreneurs how to build online businesses by focusing on overcoming the financial fears of owning a business. Montgomery has supported more than 3,000 students from around the world.
In 2016, Montgomery created the Millions Summit. Each year, she hosts nearly 2,000 faith-based entrepreneurs for two days of rotating speakers and educational sessions, teaching them to “impact millions while making millions.”
Seattle Pacific University has strengthened the relationship between entrepreneurship and theology by creating dual degree programs for graduate students. The ability of students to graduate with a combination of MBA and MA in Theology or Master of Divinity represents a significant shift in the role education will play in future careers for graduates.
While many students and early career professionals integrate personal belief systems into behavior and career choices, few in academia have examined the impact of faith-based business approaches on society.
Author Michael Zigarelli, Ph.D., professor of leadership and strategy at Messiah University, completed research for the book on 50 Christian-owned companies. Christian-Owned Companies: What Does It Look Like to Work as a Follower of Jesus? Author of a dozen books, Lukaku also has an online entrepreneur community of more than 2 million people in more than 130 countries.
“My research shows that many faith-based businesses are exemplary workplaces and exemplary corporate citizens, elevating lives and communities, helping people reconcile with God, and contributing to the common good of society,” Zigarelli said.
In a post-Covid world, where findings suggest increasing spiritual application to one’s life, more focus will shift to the intersection of personal and professional interests. As trends take root, institutions of higher education are reaping the fruits of change in divinity school efforts and other programs, indicating a real faith in community application.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), $437 billion is invested in the U.S. economy each year from faith-based, faith-related, or faith-based businesses. Adding broader religious contributions to the mix, according to the WEF, $1.2 trillion in socio-economic value is generated annually in the US globally, a number that is expected to grow and reach $449.99 billion by 2026 at a 6.4% CAGR.
The role of trust in business design, development and deployment has been debated for decades. Lucau, Montgomery and Zigarelli represent a global and diversified approach to faith-based businesses, a market segment that is open and important to the global economy.
Interviews were edited for clarity.