The point of connection between believers and non-believers has moved. The frontline for sharing Christ is now mostly outside of the church building. Unbelievers are not entering our sanctuary doors. We must increasingly go to them where they are.
One of the most common places of contact between Christians and non-Christians is work. Our jobs allow us repeated contact with non-believers, usually more contact than we have with fellow church members or sometimes, even with our own families. Certain jobs, of course, allow more interaction than others. Nevertheless, one can learn a lot about another person over time, even from general observation and occasional conversation. And once it becomes clear that we are committed Christ followers, the level of scrutiny often increases; if only in subtle ways. People are curious about others who are unabashed Christ followers – What do we believe? Is it true? Are we for real? Are we judgmental? Are we weird? Do our beliefs offer any real help for life?
These are fair, and even wise questions. One would be foolish not to ask them about foundational beliefs for life. This leads to a key issue for us as believers:
How can I be a strong witness for Christ in my job?
1. I can be a strong witness for Christ by doing my job well
How we do our work is a key part of our testimony. If we work hard and do quality work this not only earns respect from those around us, it also sends a message about our inner beliefs. We’re told in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . .” If our faith guides us to work hard and well, this is a pleasing testimony to the Spirit who lives within us. Mediocre work, on the other hand, especially if it’s by our own choice, is a poor testimony.
2. I can be a strong witness for Christ by doing my job with a good attitude
Work is work. It’s not always fun or fair. Yet, if our primary boss is God, we can still come to work with a positive attitude. He’ll reward our faithfulness whether or not the company does. I’m not suggesting that we can’t address problems or inequities when they arise, just that we project a willing, positive focus on the job and those around us. This makes us more winsome to others and draws them toward us. It honors God. As a bonus, it also makes the job more pleasant. Whining and griping, on the other hand, is not appealing and detracts from our spiritual credibility.
3. I can be a strong witness for Christ by being helpful to my co-workers
Do I think about what will make my fellow-workers look good, or what make their job easier? Am I focused on the team? Or is my focus mainly on myself, my performance, and my achievement? Paul tells us, in Philippians 2:4: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Sure, our primary focus is our own job, but there are ways of assisting others at the same time. This earns us credibility and creates more of a bond between us and our co-workers.
4. I can be a strong witness for Christ by showing moral integrity
This one is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if people see that we’re honest, fair, keep our word, and so on, this earns credibility. On the other hand, If we are serious followers of Christ, we’ll sometimes have to set moral limits at work which create difficulties. I remember being told, at the steel mills, to falsify shipping reports and risking my job by refusing. Some of you know what I mean. Your boss is crooked, or your co-workers lie, and they pressure you to join in. Or you make a mistake and are tempted to blame someone else.
5. I can be a strong witness for Christ by taking genuine interest in my co-workers
What do I know about the lives of my co-workers? Their families? Their interests? Joys? Sorrows? Are we willing to listen more and to talk less? There’s an art to doing this. We don’t want to become the Grand Inquisitor. Start with easy questions and let their openness lead the way. It’s a positive, though, for most people, when another person has a genuine interest in them and treats their lives as important. Try to remember at least a few details of what they’ve shared, even if you have to write them down later, and repeat them back. This is proof that you’re paying attention.
These first five actions are critical for building a foundation of trust, credibility, and friendship. And remember that these are done, not just to set up an opportunity for sharing Christ, but because we actually care about the person right now, whether or not we ever get the chance to speak of Christ to them. God loves them right now and so do we.
6. I can be a strong witness for Christ by being open about my faith
By “being open”, I don’t mean preaching sermons or wearing “evangelism T-shirts”. I just mean mentioning God’s role in our lives in natural ways that fit into the conversations and situations that come up at work. Short stories and personal examples are often more interesting and less threatening than declarative statements about absolute truth. Don’t be afraid to mention something interesting that happened at church or how God is helping you to face a particular challenge.
7. I can be strong witness for Christ by learning about my co-workers’ spiritual beliefs
This has to be done carefully. Ask them spiritual questions. If they don’t want to go there, respect that. If they do give an answer, resist the urge to jump in with a quick critique and set them straight where you think them unbiblical. Ask clarifying questions. Be quick to find common ground where you can and express your appreciation of their understanding on those points. If you do express a counter view-point, try expressing it more as, “this is where I’m coming from” than, “this is the way it is!”
8. I can be a strong witness for Christ by patiently planting seeds and giving them time to grow
Some of us were taught, in evangelism, to jump quickly into a gospel presentation and then go for the closing. If they weren’t open, we were to shake the dust off of our feet, and move on to the next person. That’s a short-term strategy which may be the best we can do on an hour bus trip with a stranger, but it doesn’t usually work well in long-term relationships. Research has shown that people seldom change their basic beliefs, and when they do, it’s often done very slowly, piece by piece. Allow time for God’s truth to sink in and to take root.
9. I can be a strong witness for Christ by consistently praying for my co-workers
In ourselves, you and I can’t save anyone from sin. God the Spirit has to
soften hearts and open minds. If we try to do this on our own strength we’ll fail.
Pray and plant and wait with expectation.