The question of how to be evangelistic in the marketplace is a continuous, nagging dilemma for most workplace Christians. We’re caught between two opposing forces: On one hand, we know the command:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
On the other hand, we know that being too outspoken about our faith can cause conflict and division among our employees and skepticism from our customers and vendors. It can be a path to business or professional disaster.
Most of us have struggled with this conflict for years. We’ve reacted and responded in a variety of different ways, often inconsistently and unsatisfactorily. We can chart those responses on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are those who pursue an aggressive evangelism strategy, risking their business relationships and the success of the entity for the sake of an almost confrontational approach to every non-Christian within earshot. On the other end of the spectrum are those who opt for the opposite approach. They compartmentalize their Christianity, separating their faith from their work life, voicing the belief that faith has no place in business.
Most Christian businesspeople find themselves someplace in between those two extremes, never fully grasping a coherent approach, and lurching from one fuzzy idea to the next, feeling somewhat guilty and unworthy all the while. They make furtive attempts like leaving tracks laying around and printing scripture verses on the backs of their business cards, hoping to invite people to visit their church.
None of these is very satisfying. The aggressive approach turns people off and sends them away, the compartmentalized approach avoids the issue totally. And those left in between continue to be a bit confused and feeling guilty and unfulfilled.
And thus, the dilemma remains. The question then becomes, “Is there a Biblically-based approach to workplace evangelism that bridges the gap between full-fledged evangelistic efforts and good business practices?”
Here’s a possibility, which encompasses four Biblically-based phases, all of which are within the reach of most business and professional people.
1. Strive for Excellence
There is a relationship between business and professional excellence and one’s ability to influence and impact those around them. As a rule, the better you are at your business or job, the more respect and influence you have. God knows this, of course, and offers this direction to us:
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17
Excellence in our work expands our influence, increases our credibility, and provides us with visibility in our industries. Look at Chick-Fil-A as an example.
2. Gain and Exhibit Biblical Characteristics
Work on developing Christian characteristics that are so pronounced that the people who work with you will notice them. Begin by focusing on the fruits of the spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
And move onto more specific Christian characteristics:
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, Christian love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 5-8
As these Christian characteristics begin to evidence themselves in us, they naturally add to our value in the workplace and stand out from the worldly values on exhibit around us. From time to time, people will notice.
Remember, the Lord wants us to be salt and light to the world. We become salt by taking on the fruits of the spirit, developing a Christian character and then letting that rub off on those around us. As salt only has value when it rubs off on the non-salt around it, so our Christian character influences the people with whom we interact.
Our ‘salty’ characters make our ‘light’ much more effective. We share our light when we point the way to God. Which brings us to the next phase.
3. Give Glory to God
At every opportunity give credit to God.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33
This is probably the greatest challenge for most workplace Christians. We are so used to the secular language and perspectives all around us, then we hesitate to interject a mention of God into the conversation.
It is, however, a necessary step. It interjects God into the conversation in a way that is personal, accurate, and not pushy.
Here’s an example. One of CBIG members had created and implemented a very successful sales campaign. When she was debriefing with her boss, she mentioned that she attributed the success of the campaign to the fact that she had “prayed it up beforehand.”
That was accurate, personal, and not at all pushy or confrontational. She wasn’t imposing her beliefs on anyone, but, instead, was accurately portraying the role of God in her business life. It is at this point that we let our light shine into a dark world and expose our colleague to the possibility of a spiritual reality.
While this shines our light into the dark world around us, we are also promised God’s involvement in our lives and businesses as a result:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6
Our attitude and non-verbal communication can dramatically impact this phase If we appear hesitant and tentative with our comments, we rob our conversation of the power it should have. When we give credit to God, we should do so with confidence and assurance in our voices and non-verbal communication, sending the message that there is no doubt in your mind that God was at the heart of your story.
4. Be Prepared to Respond
Be prepared to answer those who ask
Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4: 4-6
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. I Peter 3:15
If we give glory to God for his involvement in our lives, some people will take notice. The Holy Spirit will prompt some of the people around you, attracted by your Christian character and curious about your faith, to ask you about it. At that point, you’ll need to explain your faith, and what God has done for you, your family, and your business or profession.
This situation – someone asking you about your faith – is so likely to happen that the Lord directs us to prepare for it.
This personal testimony should be something you prepare just for this situation. Some people will write out a page or two of personal testimony in preparation. The act of writing it out forces some precision on your part, give you the opportunity to edit it and embeds it more soundly into your mind – making it easier for you to bring it to the surface and find the words when you need to share them.
It is important that you be transparent and honest with your personal testimony. God has, by his grace, brought you out of difficult circumstances, most likely caused by your sin. Don’t avoid that. It is a universal condition. People will relate to and be drawn to the difficulties in your life as much as the successes.
If this approach makes sense to you, and you decide to build it into your life, here are some specific steps to take:
1. Bath this project in prayer.
Understand the God will answer this prayer, and you will become more adept at it. Ask his involvement in every step of the process, and invite the Holy Spirit to inspire, educate and direct you through it.
2. Work at excellence.
That means, first, to set ‘excellence in your field’ as a goal for yourself and your organization. Then, begin to systematically improve yourself, and your organization. Invest in training and seminars, add metrics to establish your growth, and keep the issue uppermost in your mind and those who you influence.
3. Seek, methodically, to build a Christian character.
Understand that this is a lifetime challenge. Regardless, by just verbalizing your intentions you will move it to the top of your mind. Invest your spiritual energy and resources – not in the programs of the institutional church – but rather in developing a relationship with God and the Christian attributes that necessarily follow.
4. Practice praising God.
For a lot of business and professional people, verbally giving credit to God is a difficult task. Don’t expect to go from ‘never’ doing it to ‘always’ doing it overnight. Gain a little confidence and try on the language by practicing with fellow Christians who are on your side. Practice with your family, or other Christian friends. Gain some confidence and competence in giving credit to God in a safe environment. Then, after a few successful attempts, extend that out to your non-Christian colleagues as the opportunity comes up.
Prepare a written version of your personal testimony. Tell the story of what you were before Christ, how you encountered him, and what you have become after that. Talk about the change in you. Add a Bible verse or two. Keep it under one side of one page. Then, read it several times to yourself to embed it into your brain. You’ll be prepared to be a workplace evangelist.
This simple approach to workplace evangelism is Biblical, and within the scope of everyone reading this. If only a percentage of the people reading this would apply it, we could turn the world upside down!
Outstanding article Dave! Such great actionable tips on driving a positive faith-based workplace. Thanks so much for all you do in advancing these principles! Merry Christmas to you and your family!