“When our Father implants a dream or vision within the heart of an individual, we need to recognize that it is highly likely this will result in a great deal of discipline, transition, hardship, loss and discouragement. It will likely take a great deal longer to fulfill than initially imagined. I believe God intentionally leads us into these places so as to create a total dependency on Him in each moment. The resultant transformation is intimacy, brokenness, trust and closeness with the Lord. And it’s not just me. The whole team has been through this together, giving us a greater depth of serving each other and those the Father places in our path.”
The cover story for the August 2016 issue of MinistryTech was my column introducing Josh Bellieu of PrayOut ministry and the Mobile tAPPestry technology startup.
In this article series, we’ve defined a Christian entrepreneur as: a person, driven to glorify God in all he does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture. Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs, some of which may be helpful to your church, ministry, business, or family, but my main intent is to encourage and inspire you to be entrepreneurial in your ministry and career.
This month I’d like to introduce you to Josh Bellieu, who told me that his normal response to technology is wanting to throw it out the window, and yet God now has him as a co-founder of a technology startup that could revolutionize how mobile apps are developed. How could this be?
It Starts With Prayer
Josh spent nearly 20 years as a hair stylist and salon owner. During that time, his prayer life matured and he developed the habit of asking his customers if he could pray for them and began praying publicly for and with them. So, it wasn’t a big surprise when, nineteen years ago, one of his clients called and left a message with the receptionist asking for prayer. Josh later called his customer, but just got their voicemail. Despite Josh’s technology discomfort, he felt led to leave a prayer as a message. Many years later he heard from his customer that they had planned to take their life, but God powerfully used Josh’s prayer. Josh started regularly leaving prayers as voicemails and is amazed by the impact they have had.
Much later, in November 2010, Josh was in the midst of a career transition. He was driving between cities one day, praying to the Lord, asking for direction. Josh says that he was excited and shocked to get the clear sense that God wanted him to start a website where people could request prayer and could leave audible prayers for others.
When he returned home, Josh started writing out the vision for this new venture. He then took it to a partner in a recent business venture who is a talented software architect. Scott Seitz got the vision and together they started putting it together. Over the next few years, the team filled out with Dennis Clark and Mark Krienke joining the team, bringing their deep business and operational experience to serve God’s kingdom. The PrayOut website was built; people showed up; and prayers were being requested and prayed out loud.
Necessity Drives Innovation
But the team knew they really needed a mobile app with access to the smartphone’s microphone and the ability to create push notifications if they were going to serve people when they most needed prayer. They looked at outsourcing development of an app, but to be honest, they simply couldn’t afford it. They tried using existing tools for simplifying app development, with limited success, and kept looking. That’s when, in answer to prayer, Scott had a breakthrough. He found a new and better way to leverage the basic tools available to any full-stack web developer to create a fully functional mobile app. In September 2014, the PrayOut mobile app was finally in the Apple App Store.
Josh shared that he was at the State Fair the night the app was published in the app store. His adult daughter was also there with her family. Early in the evening, Josh got a text from Scott with the news about the app and he downloaded it to his phone. By the end of the evening, he was one of the first to use it, as he requested prayer for his daughter who had been rushed to the hospital after a freak accident. The small PrayOut community ministered powerfully to Josh and his family, and they were blessed that his daughter was released with no injury.
Web Developers ARE App Developers
After solving their own mobile app challenge, the PrayOut team realized that they could help turn the hundreds of thousands of web developers around the world into mobile app developers. They have created Mobile tAPPestry, LLC to provide web developers with a tool and mobile apps-as-a-service so that developers can offer mobile apps to their existing web clients. Because Mobile tAPPestry requires no new coding languages to learn, the web developer now has a rapid and familiar path into the attractive mobile app market.
To see how this could work, they helped Origins Community Church integrate PrayOut into their website and use their patent-pending technology to develop a mobile app, and they helped mainStreetOpen.com develop the MinistryCOM mobile app. Most recently, they have launched a beta program and open source community around the technology. Their full apps-as-a-service offer is now available to remove the complexity of building a mobile app and getting it into the app stores.
I asked Josh what his six-year journey has been like from technology skeptic to technology enabler. He said “When our Father implants a dream or vision within the heart of an individual, we need to recognize that it is highly likely this will result in a great deal of discipline, transition, hardship, loss and discouragement. It will likely take a great deal longer to fulfill than initially imagined. I believe God intentionally leads us into these places so as to create a total dependency on Him in each moment. The resultant transformation is intimacy, brokenness, trust and closeness with the Lord. And it’s not just me. The whole team has been through this together, giving us a greater depth of serving each other and those the Father places in our path.”
Over the years, the team has experienced many ups and downs. They have experienced God providing at just the right time. They have persevered. And now they are excited about how God has brought this new opportunity to them. As I’ve had the chance to interact with them, I do sense the same attitude expressed by David in 1 Chronicles 29 “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”
May we each have that perspective, appreciating how God has blessed us and using what He has given us to be a blessing to others.
Full Disclosure: I have been interacting with the Mobile tAPPistry team for a few months, and as our relationship has progressed, the team has asked me to serve as a strategic advisor to their business.