The Rev. Dr. Al Tizon (Ph.D '05) is executive minister of Serve Globally, the international ministries arm of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and affiliate professor of missional and global...
Spirituality x Organizations
As a missiologist, I am not asked very often to reflect on spirituality. It is not inaccurate to understand missiology as activist in nature, but it is (or should be) activism grounded in love for God and God’s diverse world.
As a Christian, I have a particular perspective on what spirituality means. That said, spirituality goes beyond any single religious tradition. For much of my spiritual journey, I was counted among the Pentecostals and Charismatics. In fact, I did my undergraduate and masters level education at what is now called Vanguard University of Southern California, a four-year, Christian, liberal arts college and graduate school in the classical Pentecostal tradition. One of the things I’ve learned from that branch of Christianity is the boundless, unpredictable, and positively wild side of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.
The personality of God who is the Holy Spirit blows where she wills and will not be bound by religious traditions, even the Christian one. There are markers of the Spirit at work, however, in all religions—a passionate pursuit of God, unconditional love for all, inclusivity, gender-ethnic-and-class diversity, advocate of peace and justice. In the Christian tradition, all of these are embodied in the person of Jesus.
As a Christian, and furthermore, as a missiologist, I define spirituality as the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts and in the world; it is the power that enables the church both to experience God and to engage in the mission of God; it serves as the basis of holistic transformation; and it conveys the joy that sustains us in the suffering of mission.
Spirituality enables any organization to transcend the business, the corporation, the ministry machine, or the religious system that it can so easily become. When pragmatism, efficiency, financial stability, and preservation drive an organization, then we know that the Spirit has left the building.
Institutions have a bad habit over time of thinking they’re all that, that they need to be fed and served. Healthy spirituality will keep the institutional nature of an organization in check, constantly reminding it of its place as a servant of others, of a cause greater than itself.
In the global mission organization I recently left, we started everyday in prayer together as a staff. We prayed daily for our global personnel, the international ministries, and global partners. We prayed daily for crises that arise in our community, nation, and world. We prayed for our church, and we prayed for each other. Beyond that, we cultivated friendships amongst ourselves. We sought to practice God’s mission as true friends, beyond being mere professionals working on a task together, as we sought to bear witness to God’s peace, justice, and salvation in the world. It’s so much more fun to “change the world” together as friends! These are just some examples of how we practiced spirituality as a team.
There is a handful of spirituality questions that has guided my leadership experience through the decades. If fellow leaders will find them, then it will have been worth sharing:
- Are the vision and goals bigger than I am? Because they should be! Do they represent an agenda that transcends human agendas? Spirituality enables me to dream beyond myself, beyond reality.
- How do I view my team members and staff? They are more than employees or co-workers, more than business or ministry associates. They are friends, family even, sisters and brothers, made in the image of God, called of God to do their part in our shared work.
- Is the organization remaining true to its original purpose to serve? As I said, spirituality enables us to know its place, that it exists to serve others.
- Do people want to be a part of this organization? I want everyone, including myself, to want to come to work, because we all find fulfillment and joy in our work. Is it characterized by deep conversations, fellowship, genuine caring, and laughter?
- Does the organization bear witness to the love, peace, justice, and righteousness of God? Does it point to and work toward a better world for all to see and experience?