Full Version: Celtic Evangelism and the Workplace
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I was on my way home from church on Sunday and had Christian Radio on to accompany me on my journey. Haddon Robinson on Radio Bible Class led the discussion. The premise of the broadcast was looking at one view of evangelism in the workplace. I think we’ve all met someone like the guy portrayed on their program, someone who sees his duty as being to evangelize openly and aggressively at his work place. The roll-play they did reminded me of a couple of people that I’ve known over the years, who are convinced that God has given them their jobs so they could buttonhole each employee and customer about Jesus. Haddon and his discussion group went on to gently correct that view of life and to guide such folks back to a scriptural view which I greatly appreciated.

The one statement that was quoted from a respected, but non-scripture source was a quote alternatively attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther that I’ve loved for years and that still makes me smile whenever I hear it, “Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.” I would have loved for Haddon to have had the time to continue the teaching. Think about some of the phrases from old and new testaments that address the attitudes that we are to have toward those in charge. We have to interpret a bit as there were very few “employers” in Bible days. No one “went to work for the king”, right? You were a servant. That might translate better as slave. You could also be an indentured servant, having sold yourself into the situation for a number of years to pay a debt or to receive some financial benefit. For our purposes, I’m going to talk about employers, since I willingly enter into a pay for work environment with them. A kinder, gentler form of indenture, as it were.

What is my attitude to be toward my boss, my coworkers, and the people with whom I come in contact? How DO I manage to bring Jesus into those situations? In my mind, this is a critical situation. I come in various levels of contact with perhaps hundreds of people each day. Some of those are eye contacts while walking the aisles at work. Some of those are conversations with coworkers about work topics and nonwork stuff, too. Some of the contacts are with supervisory folks, and some are with customers. How can I “preach the gospel always” without violating people’s personal space and turning them OFF to Jesus by pushiness?

A couple of scriptures come quickly to mind. First, there is an O.T. reference that tells us that God hates rigged scales. Honest business dealings with customers, maybe even tilting that scale slightly to the customers’ advantage, will honor the customers, and will present an attitude that will make friends and influence people. There is also one N.T. reference that guides me, referring to servants/slaves or for us, employees, telling us to do our work enthusiastically, as unto the Lord, or in some translations, to the glory of the Lord. To me, that means making sure that we’re giving 100% of energy and focus to the job tasks at hand. In many companies, the prevailing attitude is to do the minimum amount needed to meet expectations or contract agreements. Is that glorifying God? Is it doing “as unto the Lord”?

Romans 1:16 might be seen as in apposition to this: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Anyone who knows me understands that I’ve pushed the last phrase of the verse for a long time, but what about at work? Consider the guy at my workplace who has one of the largest collections of Christian tee shirts that I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure, but I think that I spent 6 months working near him and did not see him wear the same shirt twice! Most of the shirts were pretty low key. Some of them were pretty pointed. I do not recall him every saying a word about Jesus! He made himself a bulletin board and bore witness to what he wore by hard work, a good attitude, and a clean mouth. No cussing, no bad-mouthing of fellow workers, bosses, or the organization. That’s one approach. People notice shirts and bumper stickers, but they also notice when the attitude doesn’t match the message.

Then, there is a guy at work who sees his daily challenge as meeting the eyes of people in the workplace, smiling while walking and greeting those who would be greeted with simple words. The rest of the challenge seems to be how many frowns, grimaces, or neutral faces can be turned into gentle smiles and hellos. His efforts seem to work. Fellow employees watch for him and begin to strike up conversations. The pleasant presence seems to be a welcome change in what can be “the daily grind” kind of environment. His smile welcomes people into his space and reminds folks that it doesn’t have to be a downer, that there are pleasant moments. I’ve also seen that smile gain him entrance into people’s lives with questions like, “Why are you always smiling?!?!” His answer is a quiet explanation of his gratitude to God for His provision, for a good job, for good health, for sun, for rain, in all things, and that he just can’t keep that inside. That answer brings him opportunities for further ministry nearly every day! Prayer, words of comfort or counsel, encouragement to push on and do that good job, even reminders to fellow believers that they need to be giving to their jobs, “as unto the Lord” when they might be slacking just a bit. Pretty cool. Not only that, people started watching for the smiler, looking to greet him before he greeted them! There is an impact for good.

Other believers in the workplace deal with customers. When there is a smile on their faces and an obvious pleasant tone in their voices, customers react positively to the attitudes! How does that fit? AS UNTO THE LORD! Or another little bit of scripture that talks about entertaining angels. We can’t know how our words and attitudes affect others. We can suspect, but we won’t know unless someone asks and we are thus given permission to share the “why”.

Just as the guy at work challenges others with a smile, daring them to smile back, I’d challenge you, the readers, to consider ways to earn the trust and privilege of sharing Christ in your public and work environments through your demeanor, your work ethic, and your words about others in your workplace. These are hard issues, and can be tough habits to break. I’d also encourage you to challenge other believers in your work place to think and respond biblically to the challenges of evangelism in the marketplace.

Will you share your own thoughts?