Nurturing soulful organisations

BeSoulful founder, André Kilian, is a long-standing friend of Mergon whose life work and passion for integrating soulfulness in the workplace has played a pivotal role in nurturing the organisation’s relational culture and shaping our collective story. In this article, we asked him to speak to us about soulful organisations and their potential for true impact. These are his insights.

The Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, once wrote, ‘If you love what you do, you will do it beautifully’. We have all experienced this – that moment of ‘flow’, when passion and purpose converge, and time becomes irrelevant as we engage in work that feels somehow effortless. It’s as if there’s a synchronicity between our inner and outer worlds, and suddenly our work becomes ‘soulful’ – bearing meaning and beauty and carrying the potential for transformation.

Most of us desire to live soulfully, especially in our professional lives. The idea of giving our time and effort to something that resonates with our passions, is deeply appealing. We seek to do this kind of work alongside others who feel equally engaged and inspired to bring their true selves forward.

Sadly, however, this is not often the case in the workplace. We can frequently experience a dissonance between our true selves and the perceived or expressed expectations of others. Ego overrides what we know to be right and true, and we succumb to the pressures of performance. In this disconnect anxiety, fear, pretension and insecurity can often take root, and our interactions tend to become disingenuous.

Nevertheless, we yearn to bridge the gap between our inner and outer worlds and be a part of something that is genuine, transformative and ultimately, beautiful. In essence, we long to be a part of a soulful organisation. But what exactly do soulful organisations look like, and how do we nurture them?

Guiding questions for soulful organisations

Based on my personal insights into Zohar’s theory of spiritual intelligence, I believe soulful living involves continuously asking questions about three themes: God (purpose), ourselves (identity), and the world we live in. Naturally, soulful organisations follow this same line of thinking, shaping their purpose and culture around three fundamental questions that resonate with these principles:

    1. Purpose – why do we do what we do, and what are we a part of?
    2. Identity – who are we as an organisation, and how can we stay true to who we are while doing business?
    3. Impact – How can we make a positive difference in the world we live in?

These organisations value purpose beyond profit, recognising the importance of collective purpose for the organisation as well as the purpose of the individuals within it. Soulful leaders seek to discern the ‘why’ behind their organisation’s existence whilst considering how each contributing member’s ideals and core values are expressed and align to the organisation as a whole. As they ensure the organisation’s purpose is more than a statement on paper, but a lived experience and shared aspiration within the corporate culture, they unlock depth and meaning, and a true sense of soulful integrity within the organisation.

Pushing back the ego

According to author Frédéric Laloux, soulful organisations are those that have moved away from the hierarchical model of predict, control, and command. Instead, they see themselves as being an organism that keenly senses and creatively responds to its unique circumstances. What has catalysed this profound shift in perspective? Laloux would argue it is when its people, and particularly its leaders, learn to displace the ego, the driving force behind our motives and decision making.

He says, ‘By looking at our ego from a distance, we can suddenly see how its fears, ambitions, and desires often run our life. We can learn to minimise our need to control, to look good, to fit in. We are no longer fused with our ego, and we don’t let its fears reflexively control our lives. In the process, we make room to listen to the wisdom of other, deeper parts of ourselves. What replaces fear? A capacity to trust the abundance of life. All wisdom traditions put forward the profound truth that there are two fundamental ways to live life: from fear and scarcity or from trust and abundance.’

Through an abundance mindset, mistakes do not define us but inform our next steps. Rather than aiming to be ‘the best’, Simon Sinek explains in his book ‘The Infinite Game’, ‘we seek to be better every day’. Instead of focusing on winning and dominating, the emphasis shifts to persevering and personal progress in the right direction. Sinek writes, ‘The primary objective in an ‘infinite game’ is to keep playing, with the best outcome possible being that you end your turn happy with your progress in it.’

The power of relationships in soulful organisations

Relationships are the lifeblood of every organisation, a sentiment echoed by Laloux when he writes, ‘The single-most important component of any organisational culture, and of wholeness, is the quality of relationships and authenticity of conversations across your company.’ Trust unlocks a healthy relational culture where it is granted upfront, even before a track record of merit is established. In return, people are more likely to take ownership and hold themselves and one another accountable for their actions. They are inspired to bring their authentic selves to the table, recognising their unique gifts and distinct roles that, if held back, would limit the organisation’s full potential.

Soulful organisations recognise the power of collective intelligence and the beauty that emerges when diverse perspectives are woven together. By embracing this complexity and leaning into our differences, we learn to celebrate the richness of our relationships and harness their full potential.

There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as this – working alongside people whom we genuinely appreciate and respect, inviting them to be a part of our lives. People who share our passion and express it uniquely to the world around us. And above all, what could be greater than being a part of a collective purpose, an invitation to something far bigger than ourselves, where God is making himself known through us? This is the essence of true soulfulness.

BeSoulful is a consultancy that creates spaces for individuals, teams and organisations to explore how to live and work soulfully. Through a dedicated journey, André guides them in discovering what truly brings meaning to their lives and uncovering ways to live with greater authenticity and integration.

Order his book, ‘Water: Live and Lead with Integrity’ on Takealot or on Amazon.

 

Work-life wholeness: How business leaders tackle the challenge

At any given time, there are so many facets of our lives needing attention that knowing where to invest our energy and time is often easier said than done. This is especially true of business people who are passionate about living out their faith in the marketplace and willing to make personal sacrifices along the way. Most entrepreneurs struggle to strike a healthy balance between working long hoursrunning a household, investing in friends and family, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And yet God has called us to work from a place of rest and flourishing. How do we remain whole-hearted and steward these different facets of our lives well?

This was the topic at hand during Ziwani’s latest ‘At the Lake’ on 2 November. We were joined by a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs including Mergon director, Almero Strauss, Abella Bateyunga (founder, Tanzania Bora Initiative), Jacob Zikusooka (regional director, Transformational Business Network), and Phillipa Geard (founder, RecruitMyMom). Here are some highlights from the conversation.

Knowing your season

‘There’s a difference between seeking a work-life balance and seeking wholeness’, Phillipa said. ‘In fact’, she added, ‘I don’t actually believe there’s such a thing as a work-life balance. Balance implies equilibrium at all times. For any one of us who are parents or who hold down multiple roles, it’s almost impossible to keep each one of those elements in perfect balance. I am rather a big proponent of work-life integration. God has given us multiple talents, and these talents can integrate into a beautiful picture of who we are created to be if we don’t strive for perfect balance.’

Jacob reflected on this idea: ‘It’s important that we think of our lives in terms of seasons. In every season of life, we need to be intentional around the question, ‘God, what are you calling me to do or become at this point in time? Where will I have the most impact?’ There are seasons when you need to focus on family, and seasons when your career can take more centre stage. Knowing where to focus will help you step back from other areas. It may feel like God’s pruning at the time, but it will lead to growth and greater clarity around your calling.’ 

Almero noted that pruning has benefits beyond our own personal growth. ‘It’s not just good for the tree being pruned,’ he explained, ‘it’s good for the trees around it. When you cut back, you create more space and sun for other surrounding trees. We always put the emphasis on growing, but what if God wants to make something ‘smaller’ in our lives so that other people can step into those spaces?’

Setting healthy boundaries

It’s a privilege to be passionate about what you do, especially when there’s a great sense of purpose and calling involved. There’s no deeper reward than seeing others grow and flourish – whether through parenting, mentoring, or building successful businesses aligned to biblical principles. Like any good thing, however, our uptake can become our downfall if we lack healthy rhythms and rest to safeguard our lives.

Boundaries are necessary, Abella reiterated. ‘Even compassion – a gift from God – can start to harm you over time if it’s in excess. You quickly move from joy to resentment when you have compassion fatigue. Investing in meaningful relationships will help you create healthy boundaries – friends who can hold you accountable and keep you from burnout.’

Rest and exercise are important, along with a powerful word called ‘no’, the panelists agreed, which guards us from having a saviour mentality and thinking we can be everything to everyone. Almero also recommended using the ’80-20 principle’ to make good decisions that can architect a sustainable lifestyle. He explained, ‘This idea suggests that 20% of the things you do are going to make 80% of the difference – the other 80% is going to make only 20% of a difference. Rather than trying to get everything done, focus on the 20% that will make the most difference in your day.’

Establishing trust

Having established the importance of pursuing work-life wholeness in our own lives, Almero asked the question: ‘So how do our businesses facilitate this kind of ‘wholeness’ for our employees?’

First and foremost, Abella explained, it’s about cultivating a culture that celebrates creativity and nurtures personal growth. ‘We need to be effective and productive, but there should be some ‘play’ involved, and license to ‘tamper’ with ideas to build new, meaningful projects. In our company, we encourage entrepreneurship – meaning that if you have a vision or idea that fits within the vision, bring it in. Let’s see how we can support you in turning that idea into a product or service. In this way, we welcome failure – we make a point of celebrating it – because it’s how we learn.’

Jacob added to this point: ‘One of my biggest revelations is realising that I don’t have to be everything in my job. In certain areas there are other people who are much better than I am. You need to find people who are complementary in their skills and personalities and team up with them. Micromanaging erodes trust. On the other hand, when you release control and trust the team, it’s amazing to see the diversity of ideas and richness of the experience that everyone brings to the table.’

Embracing flexibility

But of course, the organisation’s culture is only as strong as the systems that uphold it. As the founder of RecruitMyMom, a recruitment agency that focuses on women in the workplace, Phillipa shared on the importance of building flexibility into your HR systems and KPIs. ‘We measure on output – something that I think is a key insight for any business owner today,’ she explained. ‘My staff work from home and they know what they’re being measured on. If they need to go and watch a soccer match or their child needs to go to a doctor, that’s okay because they know that they can build it in around their work schedule.’

‘The days of being a stay-at-home mom are fast disappearing’, she said. ‘Providing flexible work hours can help ease the burden and nurture a work-life integration.’

In closing, Phillipa reminded us that systems alone cannot create wholeness – at the end of the day it’s only God who can make us whole. ‘If we want to become more like Him, that responsibility – and privilege – resides with us.’

To watch the full event, click here.

Visit www.ziwani.com to learn more about past At the Lake events.

The art of cross-cultural leadership

A leader’s role is never easy and leading people from different nations and cultures requires extra wisdom, humility and patience. In this episode of the Elevate podcast we hear from Edwin Fillies, co-founder of Nations 2 Nations, a ministry of Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Edwin is part of a team of international leaders of YWAM, which trains more than 25,000 people every year. This experience, combined with the diverse list of countries in which Edwin has resided, has given him exceptional insights into multicultural environments. 

The art of cross-cultural leadership

The Biblical narrative and story of redemption started in Genesis in a garden,’ says Edwin, ‘but it will end in a city, filled with ‘a great multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people and language’ (Revelation 7:9). This means to say, from the beginning, God’s heart has always been for the ‘every’ and the ‘all’’.

‘Even as the world is becoming more global, it is becoming more tribal,’ he continues. ‘People inevitably link their identity to their ethno-linguistic roots. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to understand and honour that which uniquely shapes and makes them who they are.’

The importance of hospitality in leadership

For many of us the word ‘hospitality’ is typically associated with a specific act or moment of receiving and entertaining guests, with kind and generous liberality. Edwin however suggests that hospitality is something far richer:

‘It’s about cultivating a heart that is hospitable and open to others.’ In Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 5, Paul brings this concept to life through the application of a colourful Greek word, xenophilius: a combination of two words, meaning ‘strange’ (xenos) and ‘love’ (phile). Edwin explains that in this context, ‘hospitable’ literally means ‘loving the stranger’ or ‘loving the foreigner’ – in essence ‘loving what is different’.

More than a singular event or practice, he suggests, hospitality is a lifestyle and heart posture. It is an outward response to an inward transformation – a response of deep gratitude for Christ’s undeserved hospitality towards us. ‘As leaders we need to cultivate the same heart that is open for the ‘other’’, says Edwin.

Keeping unity despite differing worldviews 

Edwin encourages leaders to consider the pivotal role that culture plays in shaping the way we see the world and behave accordingly: ‘We all come with our own preferences and personalities. But these differences can be amplified when we engage cross-culturally, thereby creating obstacles to effective relationships.’

‘The mistake we often make is to judge what we don’t understand,’ he continues, ‘to make value judgments that don’t enhance what we want to build.’ All too often, he notes, we see this dynamic at play through the intersection of western and eastern worldviews. Where western cultures tend to emphasise the inherent rights and value of the individual over the collective, eastern cultures predominantly focus on the wellbeing of the community. Without proper understanding and appreciation for one another’s worldviews, these differences can foster a sense of moral superiority and subsequently build divides.

Edwin believes the key to bridge building is in ‘cultivating curiosity in others’ and emphasising the ‘mutuality of our differences’. Both cultures have something to offer, he goes on to explain. Through individualistic cultures we learn about self-ownership and taking initiative; through communal cultures we learn to celebrate the strength of the community. ‘It’s not one or the other,’ says Edwin. ‘There will naturally always be some tension in a multicultural environment but, despite our cultural differences, what allows us to work effectively together is relationship and a common vision.’

‘Instead of making value judgments,’ he adds, ‘we need to take interest in people – ask questions about where they are from…and work through the layers that help us ultimately understand their worldview.’

Knowing your people is key

Leaders need to know their people, including the moral and cultural framework that drives their behaviour, Edwin asserts. To illustrate this point, he contextualises this idea of ‘taking initiative’ – a typically ‘telltale sign’ of natural leadership within the western worldview – against the backdrop of other cultural worldviews.

He notes that people from individualistic cultures are usually high on initiative and therefore regarded as great leaders. In non-western/sharing cultures, however, it is not that simple – your right to take initiative depends on where you rank in the family, your age or your social standing. In essence, initiative is granted, not assumed – invited, not taken.

‘That’s why leaders have to know their people… if someone from a collectivist culture doesn’t take initiative, it doesn’t mean they are not a leader, they just need to be given permission,’ Edwin explains. He notes that he has seen this dynamic on a global scale where great leaders won’t say a word, unless they are invited to speak. If leaders don’t make an effort to get to know and understand their people, they will never get the best out of their teams.

‘People are never supposed to be objects to be used or problems to be solved – but mysteries to be explored,’ says Edwin. ‘Jesus clearly demonstrated this… to Him, people were never a means to an end, they themselves were the end goal. That’s why He said ‘I don’t call you servants, I call you friends’. ‘Understanding this relational dynamic is so important,’ he adds.

Practical tips on leadership

Edwin gives a couple of practical tips for those who lead in multicultural environments:

  1. Use language that people will understand, in their particular setting and context: Jesus demonstrated the effectiveness of using idioms and parables to communicate to people in a way that they could understand. Make an effort to understand the cultural dynamics and use stories and idioms accordingly to teach and train.
  2. Servant leadership transcends culture: Few things are as important as teaching leaders the value of servant leadership. Again, who better demonstrated this than Jesus himself? In addition, using contextual idioms may be very helpful in teaching about servant leadership. Maybe for the Basotho leader from Lesotho the idiom ‘a good prince lights the fire for his people’ hits home, while the same message may need slight tweaking to speak to the heart of a Swiss or South American leader.
  3. Authentic, indigenous leadership is key: Leadership is synonymous with being yourself: being comfortable about who you are, your history, heritage and culture. Leaders need to focus on training and raising up indigenous leaders who will naturally have greater impact in their own cultural context.

When leaders have cultivated hospitable hearts that make an effort to know and understand their people, whilst refraining from making value judgements, their leadership journey might still be challenging, but it will certainly come with great rewards.

To learn more about leading in multicultural environments, listen to the full podcast here.

The Elevate Leadership podcast series is also available on all other major podcasting platforms such as Apple, Google, Overcast and YouTube.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 Mergon Group.

A season of rebuilding

Dick van der Walt is the Executive Director of the Tala Group. He also serves as the Chairman of Mergon’s Investment Forum and a trustee of the Mergon Foundation. Drawing from a distinguished career in law and the commercial sector, Dick has been instrumental in helping establish Mergon and shape its course, from its earliest years until today.  

A season of rebuilding

 

Now that the Covid curtain is lifting, leaders are left to navigate a new and unfamiliar terrain of business. For most leaders, it’s a season of rebuilding; for many it’s a time of significant transition that demands a shift in thinking. These are liminal spaces we lead in, where the disorientation of ending one reality and stepping into another requires more than human wisdom alone.

How do we then build sustainable resilience to repeatedly move from disorientation to inspiration?

Scripture is rich in stories of men and women who, in the fog of indecision and uncertainty, found God’s clarifying perspective to navigate their way to sure footing. The book of Zechariah is a good example of that for me.

Here was a nation who had returned from exile and been given an assignment to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. But adversity seemed to await the Israelites’ every move, resources were limited and progress remained slow. Despondency and demotivation kicked in, the mission seemed increasingly unattainable.

Into this context of despair God spoke:

(Zechariah 4:6) ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zurubbabel, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord. (verse 9) ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.’

In Greek the word ‘might’ speaks to, amongst others, financial strength; ‘power’ to individual ability or talent. God is essentially reminding us not to have misplaced confidence in our own ability and resources. The ‘temple’ that God wants to build in us and through our businesses will not be built by human effort alone or accumulated wealth but God working through us, who is ultimately the source of all wisdom and provision.

In these uncertain times, I believe God is encouraging us to lead with a mindset of abundance. It’s a mindset that is often counter-cultural but foundational to the Biblical perspective, rooted in the confidence of God’s all-sufficiency. And I believe this mindset will serve as a compass when building and operating businesses with purpose and hope in these trying and uncertain times.

Building a Temple  

It’s liberating to know, God is specific in His assignments. We do not have to be all things to all people. There’s an assigned lane for each of our organisations, and only when we stay within these parameters can we expect to enjoy God’s supernatural provision. Having an abundance mindset leads us to be discerning and discretionary around our activities and investments, because we understand we’re merely the stewards of these resources.

Zurubbabel had a specific job to do, and he was obedient to do it.

Likewise, our job is not to create a dominating brand or even to necessarily chase after an ever growing balance sheet. Our job is rather to be faithful to the task that God has specifically assigned to us. This kind of conviction should lead us to pray, earnestly, and to approach our work with great humility, knowing that everything is on heavenly loan. We can measure our success independent of corporate benchmarks or capital gains, but ultimately by how often we hear God’s commendation: ‘well done, good and faithful steward’.

Gaining God’s perspective

Zechariah’s prophecy came at a key time in Israel’s history, when the temple project had been on a two-decade hold. Zerubbabel was encouraged to look beyond his own limited perspective, believe God at His word, and take to the task of building God’s temple. As a result of his obedience, the temple was completed – the same temple that Haggai prophesised ‘would be greater than the former’ because Jesus Himself would worship there.

Although Zerubbabel’s temple wasn’t architecturally as splendid as the former, the Lord’s abiding presence is what gave it significance. In our businesses, we want to forge spaces where Jesus can show up, unhindered. Where the lure of prominence, visibility and brand never overtakes our dedication to be stewards of His provision and servant leaders to a broken world.

For God to show up, it means that we must show up too. Zerubbabel could never have known what he was building or whether he would finish what he set out to do. He simply picked up the trough and began the work. When we cannot see the whole picture, an abundance perspective simply helps us to start with the job that God is calling us to. Similarly in our business endeavours, we cannot predict how today’s actions will impact the future. But if we just keep ‘showing up’ – with joy and integrity, faith and perseverance – who knows how our workmanship will host His presence both now and into the future?

Being the lampstand

To be a ‘temple’, our organisations need to position themselves as ‘people focussed’, creating platforms that foster others’ callings to come to the fore and flourish. Then we can be that lampstand in Zechariah 4, giving light to darkened spaces and evidence of God’s sustaining hope.

In our modern context the encouragement and wisdom found in Zechariah 4 reminds me of the love of the Father, whose desire is to meet us in our unique context of a broken world and be our source of hope and provision. It is the backdrop of God’s desire to continue the rebuilding of His temple in us, and work alongside with us, to create places rich in mercy and redemption.

May God grant us all the grace to learn how to live ‘not by might not by power but by My Spirit’ – and may we be faithful stewards of business that, through His abiding presence, can change a broken world.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 Mergon Group.

When worldviews collide – and how the Gospel reconciles

Everybody has a worldview – we may just not know it. Our worldview shapes how we do things and what we value most in this world. But what happens when differing worldviews collide? How can the gospel help us navigate these differences and build bridges of understanding across cultural and spiritual divides?

This was the topic on discussion on Thursday 10 March during Ziwani’s first online ‘At the Lake’ discussion entitled Where worldviews clash in the business environment – and how the Gospel reconciles.

Led by a panel of 4 seasoned entrepreneurs and leaders, the conversation facilitated a range of rich perspectives rooted in biblical understanding and lived experience across sectors and African cultures. Here’s a bird’s eye view of some ‘big ideas’ to big questions that host Rori Tshabalala asked on the day.

When worldviews collide – and how the Gospel reconciles

 

What would you define as a worldview and how is it different to culture or philosophy or even religion – or are all these just synonyms of one another?

‘’In her book Total Truth,’ said Dr Tongoi, ‘Nancy Pearsey said that every culture has a cultural story of ultimate origins (where do we come from?), the fall (what’s wrong with our world?) and redemption (how do we fix it?) Your answers to those questions inform your culture and largely, your worldview. Everybody has a worldview, but not everybody’s aware they have a worldview. You’re only aware of it when you go into a different culture and it’s challenged.’

‘Is the business environment an appropriate place for people to bring their worldviews into?’

‘We carry our worldviews everywhere we go’, said Adelaide Cupido, ‘whether we speak about it or not. The key is in humanising the workplace, so that people can come as ‘their whole selves’. We’re more often expected to come with our heads to work and park our hearts at the door. This separation is artificial and will inevitably trap creativity and impact performance. When we isolate the head from the heart we don’t connect with God or our creativity.
The challenge, she said, was to create a ‘safe and brave space’ for robust dialogue, where different viewpoints can be expressed without fear of judgment. Irreconcilable conflict arises, Adelaide pointed out, when we don’t prioritise these discussions and allocate time and space to hear one another’s stories and perspectives. Silence is more dangerous than disagreement – ‘when we don’t talk about our differences, we create the fertile ground for conflict to take place,’ she added.

‘Is it necessarily a bad thing for worldviews to clash in the marketplace?’

‘Clashing is not necessarily wrong,’ replied Dr Tongoi. ‘Group think is in fact worse because it creates redundancy. Our purpose as Christians in the marketplace is not to avoid clashes but to find a common language where we can discuss our differences.’ Through scripture, God gives us a universal moral framework that connects our humanity across cultures and provides that common language we seek.

Take bribery as an example, Dr Tongoi continued. In the African worldview this commonplace practice is regarded as not only acceptable but honouring – the ultimate act of sacrifice. Within the biblical worldview, however, bribery implies a fundamental lack of trust in God as your ultimate source and provider. ‘But when we unpack the Proverbs that speak of there being ‘one road that leads to life, and the other to death and foolishness’…then the conversation becomes easy. If we pay this bribe, what will be the consequences of our actions? Will this act lead to life, growth and flourishing – or will it lead to death and diminishing? Does it add life, or is it just a quick fix solution? 

The answer to this question is more often the latter: a quick fix solution with diminishing returns. Because God hardwired us for hope and flourishing, he added, most people will forego the bribe and choose the way of trust– not necessarily because they have subscribed to your faith, but because they see the reasoning in your biblical worldview. In this way, your faith has built a bridge of understanding towards a more redemptive, life-giving societal solution.

In the business environment what needs to change for us to live out our Christian based worldview in a manner that is inspirational and not coercive?

In John’s gospel Jesus incarnated His words – before He preached something, He demonstrated it, Dr Tongoi noted. He raised Lazarus and said that ‘I’m the resurrection’, He fed the 5000 and said, ‘I’m the bread of life’, He gave the woman at the well water and said, ‘I am the living water.’ ‘We have turned that order around – we start preaching before doing,’ he said. ‘But we are called in the marketplace to live out the message firstly, and explain it as people watch our lives.’

Rodger Schmidt added to this idea – noting that inspirational leadership is not automatic but requires a willingness to unlearn and remain humble. ‘I often tell people, I came to Africa to save Africa, but God sent me to Africa to save. When I came from America to Mozambique over 20 years ago, I came with power and all the answers. I was not quick to hear and slow to speak, I was not slow to anger. I realised over the years how much I had to learn from those around me.I’ve come to appreciate the reciprocity of knowledge in our diversity of cultures and worldviews. I’m grateful for my African family and for what they have taught me, and for how they continue to hold me accountable for truth.’

To watch the event in full, click here. 

To stay informed on future ‘At the Lake’ events, follow ziwani_community on Instagram or visit www.ziwani.com.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 Mergon Group.

Building an organisational culture of prayer

The Mergon Foundation recently hosted a morning with Brian Heasley and Nathi Mbuyazi of the 24-7 Prayer Movement. Brian shared from his well of experience on how we can cultivate a culture of prayer in our ministries and workplaces as well as our personal lives. Here are a few nuggets we managed to capture from his inspiring talk with Mergon and friends on the day.

Building an organisational culture of prayer

Ever since the garden, God has desired to walk with his children ‘in the cool of the day’ (Gen 3:8-9). As humans, we have been hardwired for intimacy – everything else just comes up empty compared to the fulfilling pursuit of knowing Christ.

There’s an unspeakable pleasure and privilege in cultivating a lifestyle of prayer. What a relief knowing that God doesn’t rate our performance or outsource our intercession to a selected few. Prayer is designed for all of us to enjoy as an expression of our being, not a state of our doing.

Most of us don’t have a ‘black belt’ in prayer. We find it hard and slow-going. What starts with good intentions to warfare for nations, often fizzles into thoughts of what’s for supper. We’re prone to wander in our thoughts. God knows this about us and enjoys us all the same. Prayer, after all, is a journey of growth – we may not be where we want to be, but we’re better at it than ever before.

We all want to grow – in our churches, businesses, organisations and in our own personal capacity. But true growth only takes place through Christ-centred transformation, gradually and often unwittingly, through the mundane and the miraculous, as we, over time, learn to surrender our will to His.

So how do we grow a culture of prayer in the homes and organisations we lead? Brian suggests we start with the following

Example it

‘None but praying leaders can have praying followers.’ – E.M. Bounds

You can only lead your people in prayer if you yourself are prayerful. Ask yourself as a leader:

–      Am I on a journey towards deeper spirituality? Are my devotions and practices vibrant, active and flexible? Does my private prayer life enhance my relationship with Christ, or am I becoming slick and ‘professional’ in my devotional times?

–        Would my family recognise my spiritual growth? If I am committed to spiritual growth as a leader, that growth should firstly be visible in my own home and recognised by my family.

–        Do I have peace at the centre of my life? With God’s presence comes His peace. Jesus could give peace because He had it Himself. Is peace a hallmark of my ministry?

–        How has my prayer life grown? Are my choices and lifestyle based on prayerful consideration, or impulsive desires and ambitions?

Jesus modelled a life of prayer, rising ‘early in the morning while it was still dark’ (Mark 1). If the Son of God needed to seek wisdom and strength from above, how much more should we?

Teach it

‘Prayer is not everything; but without prayer everything is nothing.’ – Johannes Hartl

Praying isn’t easy or reflexive – but over time, through the repetition of intentional rhythms, it can become a treasured and ingrained part of your culture. Like anything else, you have to work at it. The more creative and innovative your approach to prayer, the more naturally you’ll weave it as a priority into your daily rhythms. Here are some ideas to inspire a more regular praying routine:

–        Set yourself reminders: Whether it’s a boiling kettle, a dedicated object or a post-it note on your laptop, use the everyday things around you to help you pause from your routine and pray.

–        Learn to be nimble: Everyone is different – find what works for you. This could mean setting aside a time of the day and space where you can talk to God, or finding the right app or tool to help you pray.

–        Make it a lifestyle: Billy Graham said the three critical keys for a successful, God-honouring event are ‘prayer, prayer, prayer.’ When you fail, take your failure to God through prayer. But when you succeed, pray even more.

Institutionalise it

Let the fires go out in the boiler room of the church and the place will still look smart and clean, but it will be cold. The Prayer Room is the boiler room for its spiritual life.’  – Leonard Ravenhill

For prayer to become a self-sustaining aspect of your organisational culture, there need to be formal rhythms in place. Brian suggests some (or all) of the following that they have done:

–        Create a space: One that is centrifugal by design (pointing towards God) and not centripetal (pointing towards your organisation). Architect the atmosphere – make it beautiful. Draw people into an experience that reflects the creativity and excellence of Christ.

–        Be seasonal: Relaunch prayer events throughout the year.

–        Reclaim the prayer meeting: Avoid the spectatorship syndrome. Make prayer accessible for everyone – break people into groups, tell them what to pray into. Good framing solves all the niggles and gets people activated.

–        Host a retreat: Once a year, prioritise a time of reflection, prayer, fun and fellowship.

–        Set a prayer budget aside: Like any other area of your organisation or ministry you want to grow, prayer takes investment. Build a budget into your yearly planning.

Celebrate it

If we think we will have joy by praying and singing psalms, we will be disillusioned. But if we fill our lives with simple, good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful. Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience.’ – Richard Foster

Always celebrate what God is doing. As God starts to write extraordinary stories through ordinary people, tell these stories on. ‘The future of the church,’ after all, ‘is in the hands of the storytellers’, Leonard Sweet says. Remind people of their organisational history and unique mission narrative; boast in the ‘simple, good things’ as well as the big moments that fill your daily and yearly rhythms. Get creative in your communication – seek surprising and innovative ways to put the gospel on technicolour display.

Lastly, remember: behind every ‘suddenly of God’ is a backend story – a steady flow of faithful prayers which have preempted the moment of breakthrough. In our ‘microwave culture’ of today that expects immediate gratification, God is more often into ‘marinading’. Breakthroughs will come, but not overnight. Persevere in your prayers, God will be faithful to answer them in His time.

Enjoy the journey of self-surrender – hold the work lightly yet cling to wonder, the more you see unfold, the evidence of that ancient prayer: God, let your Kingdom come.

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