How Should a Christian Define Success For a Faith-Based Business?

But it was a moment of clarity for me where God was saying measure profit differently than a normal business would.
As a normal business, Copa is not a failure, but it’s not a success either. We’re eking by. But from a spiritual perspective, God has done so much through what we’ve done through the coffee shop.

It starts with why you got started in it in the first place.

Is it a calling or are you doing it, and then along the way you want to figure out a way to make this a sacrifice to God?


Looking Like a Loss

The way I define success is to look at profit differently.

I was into our fourth (Copa Vida) grand opening on Broadway (in San Diego). We had our soft opening, and it was a disaster.

Things weren’t ready the way they were supposed to be. Our employees weren’t properly trained because we rushed into the opening.  There was an issue with the build out, so things like the patio and the backroom wasn’t finished.

So when we got together to pray over the space like we usually do, there was this moment of, "Did I push too hard? Did I get ahead of God?"

There was a sense of failure at not having it done right. The other three had gone much smoother. We had been much more successful in our other openings – the way people received us, saw us, and heard about us.

Our grand openings are usually really, really huge. Our first grand opening, we had 800-some people come through the coffee shop in Pasadena.

We were expecting that, but we didn’t get anything like. It was a little bit of a letdown. [We] felt like a failure.

I looked at the numbers. Because we expanded so fast and we were investing right back into our business so quickly, it wasn’t financially successful.


Re-Defining Success

And so how do you define success?

I remember I was sitting with my wife and kind of bemoaning the status of our business. We were in our second (Copa) location in East Village and having breakfast and kind of going, "Did I mishear God? Did I get ahead of him?"

"If this is the way success is going to be at Copa, we’re in trouble," I thought. "We can’t open up any more.  This is too draining; this is too hard on the team; and this is too hard financially."

In the middle of that conversation, a couple sitting next to us said to my wife, "You’re one of Copa’s founders."

They were missionaries from Ireland and they were sent to San Diego to do a church plant.

The husband says to us, "When we got prayed over before we got sent, [our church] said we would find a coffee shop in San Diego where we could start our ministry."

The pastor added that this would be like an office, a place where they could people to talk and share the Gospel, and they would grow out from there.

He said this East Village Copa Vida turned out to be that place that they felt God led them to.

In fact, the church ended up praying for 6 different people to be either healed or come to know the Lord in that space. And eventually based on the group they were creating they started a living room church and now they’re a 120-member church in San Diego.

I did not design the coffee shop with that in mind. I guarantee that. But it was a moment of clarity for me where God was saying measure profit differently than a normal business would.


A Different Kind of Profit

As a normal business, Copa is not a failure, but it’s not a success either. We’re eking by. But from a spiritual perspective, God has done so much through what we’ve done through the coffee shop. The number of pastors who do sermon prep at the Copy Vida in Pasadena is astounding. What’s also amazing is the number of people who share the Gospel here. We have small group meetings at our coffee shops after our doors close.

There’s all kind of things happening on a spiritual level, so you have to measure profit differently.


Can’t be Measured

On a personal side, there have been so many times that I’ve done this where it doesn’t make any business sense and the decisions I’ve made were more to follow God, not to follow what the P&L (profit and loss) says I should do.

The results of that is that I got to experience God in a real way and to me that’s worth more than what money can provide in my life.

There isn’t a specific thing I can tell you. It’s like church can’t be measured by the number of people who attend or the number of people that have come to know the Lord. You don’t know what part of that harvesting process you’re going to be.

You may be the sower, you may be the grower, you may be the reaper. But somewhere along the line if you’re following God’s path, your measurement of success is going to be very different.


Currently the owner of Copa Vida Café as well as its sister roasting company (True Beans Coffee Roasters) and its parent (HNF & Associates), Steve Chang has been in the Food Service business for over 15 years. Steve’s other passions include his family of 4 (2 daughters), his faith, and baseball. He serves as an Elder at the Vine Church of Eagle Rock.