Chapter 1 Introduction to the Christian Business Reference Architecture

What is a business reference architecture?

In my experience as a small business owner, one of the elements that that caused me persistent frustration was my inability to find a coherent, holistic template for running my business that was grounded in the Scriptures. I read books on how to achieve profitability, a better culture or how to make my customers happy.

There are new ideas and new methodologies coming out nearly every month that purport to be a self-contained methodology that deliver lasting success.  “Just follow our method and you’ll be successful” seems to be the core message in many business books and articles I read. In reality, these are often disconnected from important aspect of running a business because they make assumptions about those aspects being healthy or working properly so that their method can shine.

Over a ten year period, God gave me the business reference architecture, which is what this site is dedicated to researching and documenting.  This reference architecture gave me a way to think about business from a holistic perspective, making the Bible and Christianity the foundation of how a business is operated.  It gave me a way to understand how the “dots are connected” and how a decision made in one area may affect other parts of the business.  It helped me understand the inherent tradeoffs between tensions that all business owners must balance, such as knowing what to do when you’re working “in” the business versus “on” the business.

A business reference architecture is not a methodology, a set of tactics, a strategy, a pattern, a practice or a model on how to run a business. Instead, it is something you should consult when you find yourself in any of the following situations:

  • You are trying to diagnose and understand pathology or health within a business.
  • You want to learn more about how to use your business to glorify God.
  • You keep reading book after book that offers silver bullets on how to be successful, but you keep coming away feeling as if each book has missed the mark.
  • You want to know how a decision in one area of your business will affect other areas of your business.
  • You have a good business, but you know it could be better. You just don’t know what to do to  improve your business.

In short, a business reference architecture is a way to ensure that you’ve “covered the bases” when you’re building your business. It provides context and purpose, but still gives you broad discretion in selecting the specific strategies and tactics for running your business.  It helps you understand how decisions you make about core values and long term plans impact the day-to-day operations of your business. It helps you focus your time and attention in the areas where you can offer the greatest value to your business. It will define those areas that you must pay attention to because you’re the owner and some decisions can be made only by the owner.

Finally, the reference architecture will ask more of you than any MBA program or any Sunday School class.  If you work it thoroughly, it will force you to confront your deepest struggles, make your toughest decisions, acknowledge your weaknesses and dysfunctions, engage the spiritual world and point you to Jesus Christ as the only person who can help you be more than you ever thought you could be.  But it also will unleash your business to fulfill God’s purposes and you’ll have lasting kingdom impact for the few short years you have on this earth.

This business reference architecture is agnostic when it comes to methods of developing strategies or tactics.  For example, you could take the EOS (entrepreneurial operating system)[1] and use that popular system or you could choose a different system or no system at all.  From the architecture’s perspective, it doesn’t matter.  Hence, this architecture provides the context or, you might say, the background, to implementing individual strategies and methodologies for running a business.

It is my understanding that nearly 543,000[i] new businesses are started every week in the United States. Based on the data that we have found It is my opinion that most of these businesses fail because they went through their entire lifecycle not having solved their more important problems.  As you’ll learn in this book and oon this site the others that will follow this one, I believe that paying attention to every aspect of the reference architecture is the best way to fulfill God’s purposes for your business and that, in turn, will help you achieve sustainability of profits and growth.

This reference architecture can easily be applied to nonprofits as well as for-profit businesses. In the United States the only real difference between a for-profit and a nonprofit business is that the profits of a nonprofit are to be put back into the business activities of the entity and do not accrue to the benefit of the members of the organization. In short, it is an IRS ruling that takes a regular for-profit corporation and turns it into a nonprofit corporation. Regardless of whether you’re running a for-profit or a nonprofit corporation, you still have to be profitable. The art of being profitable depends on the implementation of the concepts outlined in the business reference architecture.

At times, this book will feel almost like a pragmatic of business book. At other times you’ll feel like you’re reading a book on Christian discipleship. And still, at other times, we’ll be so far in the technical-business-weeds that we may never find our way back to civilization. Regardless, bear in mind that there isn’t much new in this book that cannot be found in other books and business courses. What the Lord has given me here are not starbursts of insight or new revelations about a new strategy or process, but instead, an organized aggregation against which you can measure the health of your business and understand how to steward your business as a Christian Business Owner, which means starting with you.  The business reference architecture will show that who you are as a person has more to do with your success in business or in ministry than any set of strategies or tactics that you’ll ever employ.

Are you ready for this journey?  If so, let’s get started!


[1] A popular system in American business today.