It does not matter where you work or what you do. If you work with and around people your presence, attitude, actions and words are consumed in the social order of your organization. Remember who you are through your relationship with Christ. Remember that you have been set apart for the work of the Holy Spirit. You are different because the very Spirit of God lives in you and your interaction with co-workers, vendors and customers directly impacts their lives. This is where most of us serve. We serve as teachers, truck drivers, salespeople, customer service agents, managers, purchasing agents, schedulers, line workers, designers, welders, machinists, engineers and in every role in every type of company or organization in existence. We practice and live out our Christian faith in the real world. We make decisions, we relate with people and we make mistakes in our professions. The confidence in which we have in the future, the way we treat others, the words we say, and the relationships we make all are part of our life and our calling as disciples of Christ in the world and workplace we practice our trade.
I am going to share a few illustrations from my own experience in hopes that it may give you practical examples of how you can demonstrate characteristics of a Christ follower in the places you work. Keep in mind that there is not one “right” way to live our your Christian faith in the workplace. Your personality, role and calling to share with others and minister is unique to you. Some may have the gift of evangelism and be bold in your ministry. Others may have the gift of counseling or prayer. God has given each of us talents and gifts that we are to use for His glory and to lead others to Him.
How you respond to crisis – In early 2004 I was leading the effort to rebuild a small company following the loss of a big customer and recession of 2002. It was a privately owned family business and the owner had a heat attack. He went in for by-pass surgery and experienced complications that nearly took his life. For months we did not know if he was going to survive. As a family business the employees job security and confidence in the future was connected to the owner, who had led the company for more than 50 years. During that period I would periodically bring in the managers and leaders of the business to give them updates. My job as the one responsible for the company was to provide confidence that the business and their jobs were safe so I would report on the reality of his condition, but give assurance that plans were in place to continue the operation. The people listened to every word to help them understand their future. In my role I had the opportunity to share the source of my confidence. Following the medical update that sometimes looked hopeless, I would say regardless of the circumstances I know that God is in control and that my confidence was in His plan for us. I would conclude by inviting all to pray with me and lead the group in a prayer for his healing and for our business. When faced with a crisis people will watch how you respond. My reaction was only natural and demonstrated my hope and confidence in the future was in our God.
Pray for co-workers – I am not as comfortable with straight evangelism in the workplace. One morning many years ago I was compelled to pray that God would give me the opportunity to share about Jesus that day at work. Several hours went by and I was now in the heat of the work activity and had completely forgotten about my prayer that morning when I heard a knock on my door. A young woman who worked in customer service came in and sat across the desk. What happened next was amazing. She simply asked how to become a Christian? Chills ran through me as I recalled the forgotten prayer of the morning. I told her of the prayer that morning and shared with her and prayed with her to accept Jesus as her lord and savior. Evangelism is not my gift or style, but God gave me the privilege to respond to His work in her life. What a gift for me to participate.
Today in my role of the company I sign the payroll. Each week I am presented with a stack of checks that I sign. I have the privilege to reflect on the personal needs that I know of and recognize the fact that many are in the midst of trials that life brings. Having a weekly schedule allows me to fulfill my commitment to pray for every employee and trust in God to work in their lives so that they can testify to His glory.
Pray with co-workers – For me I am occasionally presented with opportunities to pray with employees. I am very careful not to overstep boundaries or make people feel uncomfortable. There are occasions such as funerals that is natural for me, as the leader of our company to share of God’s grace to His glory. If it is known that someone is going through a particular sickness or trial, I can ask how they are doing and if I can pray for them. When invited, taking the opportunity to pray with them right then can be a great ministry and let them know you are sincere in your concern and recognize that the Bible tells us that God cares for them and is able to heal their illness or carry them through their trial.
Give credit to God for His glory – As we live life and trust God in our personal and business life we see His provision, we experience His healing, and we trust in Him for our future. I Peter 2:5 says that we are to be living stones or living testimonies of the great things God has done in our life. Recognize that God cares for our business life and give Him glory for the difficult pruning that allows us to grow and the success that we enjoy.
Manage our own actions – By my sink I have a poem “Walk a little Plainer Dad” that talks about how our kids watch our every move and that we should be the example that they can follow. It is the same in our workplace. Our peers and co-workers are acutely aware of you actions. Do you come early to work to study the Bible? Do you have a reference Bible handy. Are you different because of the Holy Spirit that lives in you? Do you demonstrate the characteristics of Jesus? Do you serve others? Do you love all people? Do you use your tongue to praise God, lift others up and discipline in love? It is said that I would rather see a sermon any day. Living out your love of God and faith in Christ in the midst of a messy competitive world is a great testimony.
Admit when I am wrong and show grace – It is not uncommon for me to make a mistake or have to bear the consequences of someone else who made a mistake. How we handle these situations is a strong testimony to God’s grace. Recently one of our engineers made a huge mistake in calculating the cost of a job. As a result I had to go back to the customer, admit the mistake and try to work out something that would be satisfactory to both parties. I was fully prepared to take responsibility and accept the loss. Fortunately, our customer agreed to work with us. We accepted a lower margin and they worked to accept a higher price that was not able to be passed on. In this situation no one felt worse than our engineer who was in error. It was not a time for discipline, but a time for grace. We all make mistakes and God gives grace. Sometimes we are spared from our bad choices and sometimes we reap the consequences of our bad choices. In our circumstances we will bear a portion of the lost and am thankful for my customer who is also a friend and fellow believer that abide in grace.
Make right choices – We all have the same amount of time and how, we use this precious resource is a reflection of who we are and what are our priorities. Making it a priority to be involved in a church fellowship, serving the community, and making a commitment to attend every week establishes your trust in God as a priority. The hours you work and the activities that you participate in also represent where you put your priorities. Making right choices that are in line with your faith testify to the reality of your faith and the importance of following Christ. Again, good choices that are rooted in following Christ will minister to others.
Be available – I am a list maker and find satisfaction in checking off the list. The downside of this is that I work like a bee going from flower to flower and don’t waste any time knocking off the next task. The result is that I convey that I am busy and don’t want to be bothered. I have to recognize this characteristic and be disciplined to linger from time to time. I may ask a couple open-ended questions and wait through a sometimes awkward time of silence until they fill the gap. When I take the time to stop and a few extra seconds to listen I then get to “peel back the onion” and see what is below the surface conversations that take place all day. When we are available to listen and let others share we demonstrate another characteristic of Christ. Do you think anyone has ever been busier than Christ? He had a short time to change the world, yet much of his ministry was taking the time to stop in the midst of life to talk to a women caught in the act of adultery, to meet with a woman fetching water at a well, to recognize a tax-gatherer in a tree and take the time to share a meal with him. Taking the time to recognize others and linger a few moments to allow them to open up communicates our concern for them and opens the door for communication.
Respect boundaries – I have been asked a number of times if I would be interested in leading a workplace Bible study. In my role I have not felt that it was appropriate for me to lead a Bible study. I am certain that many may argue with me on this point, but this is an area that I have sought council and decided that this may put me in a conflicted spot as the President of the company. Would it be looked at as a way to get close to me? Would it breed jealousy? Would it be viewed as trying to proselytize the organization? I am called to love others first. If I start with loving others I am free to lead in love, discipline in love, give grace in love, serve in love and celebrate in love. In the spirit of Christ’s love there will be many opportunities that open doors that I can appropriately share the Bible and use the Bible as my reference for decisions that I make and as a foundation that I can stand on. We have many religions in our company and I find it important to balance respect for individual boundaries while being genuine to my own faith and beliefs. I do not feel that I need to hide my beliefs, but be authentic to my faith and respect the faith of others. It is not I that work, but the Holy Spirit that works in the lives of others. When I respect boundaries then I can be able to catch the opportunities that God presents to me.
There are so many more applications that I could share, but will end with the instructions that Jesus gave to his followers in the sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew 5.
Matthew 5:1-16: When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the [a]mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the [d]gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Disciples and the World
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how [e]can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a [f]hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a [g]basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Our relationships, careers, circumstances and culture are evolving. The core beliefs that God has clearly given us in his word are unchanging. How we effectively apply them in our daily lives and exercise our gifts and talents for His glory will change and are unique to each of our environment and circumstances. It is my prayer to be an effective steward of the talents He has given me and give testimony of the great things he has done and is doing in my life in all areas of my life. It is my privilege to share my thoughts and experience with you in hopes to be an inspiration and encouragement in the authentic and genuine exercise of your faith at home, work, recreation and worship.