I currently work in a "secular" job for a Fortune 500 company. I put the word secular in quotes because I think a common misconception by Christians is that there is such a thing as secular work. When we think this way, we may be tempted to view pastors or clergy as the only people that do any type of ministry work. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4, this is not the case. Also, I mention that I am Christian because according to my faith in Christ, I am to be a certain kind of employee, which is a part of my overall calling to be a certain kind of citizen and a certain kind of person. The Christian faith calls us to be a certain kind of people, a distinct people. We become a people set apart to live as Christ calls us to live as the Holy Spirit lives in and through us. As the apostle Peter tells us, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). And we are called to be that distinct and chosen people in the world, including our jobs. Before working at my present job, I was a cook for five years at an Italian restaurant. If you have worked in the restaurant industry, you know that it can draw a very interesting and diverse crowd of employees. During that time, I became a Christian. I never thought that I would be in a more challenging work atmosphere to share and live out my faith. While my current work atmosphere is really nothing like the restaurant, I have found an entirely new set of challenges in living out my faith at work. The truth is, there are always challenges to carrying the gospel message in a fallen world, regardless of the context.
Every Good Endeavor
The corporate world presents a unique veneer of professionalism, ethics, and propriety, but the reality is that the guts of the day-to-day in a corporate job can be quite challenging. There are a myriad of moral conundrums that come up in an office. We are faced with temptations to gossip and engage in malicious chatter when others aren’t around. Many are faced with struggles with the opposite sex. We are broken people, and being in the workplace does not make that brokenness go away until we get home.
As a Christian, my integrity is often challenged by the situations in which I am placed. Beyond the personal struggles, I want to reflect the gospel well. My coworkers want to see if what they know about Christianity holds up. It doesn't matter if their perspective of Christianity is correct or not; they will judge for themselves based on what they know. If I am given the privilege and permission to share what I believe – and most importantly who Jesus is – I have an opportunity to add to shape their outlook on Christianity. It is where we can see evangelism and discipleship come together. Living the gospel at work is not some add-on to the Christian life that we can choose if we want; it’s a realization of the fullness of the Christian life. Being in Christ is meant to encompass all of our lives.
Recently, a friend gave me Tim Keller's book, Every Good Endeavor. As he usually does, Keller wonderfully connected work and faith in my own heart. So, I had a conversation with my manager about the book and asked if I could have an optional meeting during lunch with anyone in the department that would like to read together. It was approved, and we had seven people in our group. We met every week to discuss a chapter. The discussions were great, and it was the first time for some to really think about connecting faith and work.
Christian, our job is a ministry, plain and simple. God planted us in our current job for a particular reason. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The apostle Paul is telling us here, that God is working out his will in the lives of his people. At the cross, Jesus has freed us from making our work about us and has given us the gospel to revel in and tell others about.
So, how do we represent the gospel well in the workplace? Here are a five ways to grace your workplace:
1. Be bold, but smart. We can and must think on Paul’s boldness before Felix in Acts 24 or Jesus’s words on being brought before governors and kings in Matthew 10. Just because we are at work does not mean we are no longer a disciple of Jesus. We are never exempt from the call on our lives to make much of him. However, we must be smart and keep in mind passages like 1 Peter 2:13: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” At work, we are subject to our bosses and to the leader or leaders of the company. So be bold, but keep in mind where you are.
2. Take risks. I realize this somewhat contradicts the last point, but the Christian life rests in that tension between risk and prudence. (For this point, I really should tell you to just go listen to anything that John Piper says about risk.) Practically though, take steps in work friendships to bring up Jesus. I am a relational evangelist, meaning I like to establish some type of friendship and then bring up Jesus. I am rarely the “can I tell you about Jesus?” guy. My weakness is to never actually bring up Jesus, or to do so in softened ways. Risk a friendship, risk a promotion, risk not “fitting in,” or maybe even risk your job if God would call you to that. Of course, we don’t want to be reckless just for the sake of being reckless.
3. Pray for your enemies. There will be people who do not like you for any number of reasons. Make it a practice to pray for the people that don’t seem to like you, who you don’t really get along with, or who just always seem to have something snarky to say to or about you. This is incredibly hard, which is why you need to rely on the Spirit in this. You will also discover God ministering to you even as you pray. Pray for them, for their families, their kids. Most importantly, pray for their relationship with Jesus.
4. Use your gift(s). I am a teacher/pastor type. I usually go into a teaching or pastoral mode at some point during my faith encounters with coworkers. The church is still the church both gathered and scattered. While at work we continue to be part of the church scattered and in the church we are called to use our gifts to build up the body. Pray about and find a way to use your gift(s). Start a Bible study, start a prayer group, take people’s prayer requests and pray for them, give of your time, talents, or treasures to those in need. Do whatever it takes to be a reconciling minister of the gospel (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
5. Work hard. Be on time, care about your job, follow the rules, get your work done, and help others. Of course, nonbelievers can be good employees, too. What makes us different is really captured in the household codes contained in many of the epistles. “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust” (1 Pet. 2:18). We should be that “good” employee no matter who we work for, what the conditions are, and/or whether we like the job. It is sharing in these sufferings of Christ, light they may be, that we can make much of Christ by working hard with integrity. Never let laziness or grumbling be your calling card.
May God bless us as we seek to serve and make much of Christ in all areas of our lives.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Col. 1:27-29)
Nick Abraham (DMin student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) lives in Navarre, OH with his wife and daughter. He serves as an Associate Pastor at Alpine Bible Church in Sugarcreek, OH. He is a contributor to Make, Mature, Multiply: Becoming Fully-Formed Disciples of Jesus and blogs at Like Living Stones.