Round TWO in our Big Debate about evangelizing in the workplace

Round TWO in our Big Debate about evangelizing in the workplace June 15, 2015


Welcome to Round Two of the Head-to-Head debate thing I’m doing with Bill Peel.

Our topic: Is Sharing Your Faith in the Workplace Ever Appropriate?

I argued “No” to this question via my opening statement, 10 Reasons It’s Wrong to Evangelize in the WorkplaceBill argued “Yes” with his opening statement, Evangelism in the Workplace: Is Sharing Your Faith Ever Appropriate?

Today, as per the format of our debate, Bill offered his rebuttal to my opening statement with his Yes, You Can Talk About Christ Without Being A Jerk in the Workplace.

So this, now, is my rebuttal to Bill’s opening statement—which I’ll effectuate by posting below the entirety of his statement, with my thoughts and responses to it interjected in lovely bracketed blue, like I do.

Evangelism in the Workplace: Is Sharing Your Faith Ever Appropriate?
by Bill Peel
Count me among the growing number of people who believe faith matters at work, and that the more faith falls to our workday margins, the more dehumanizing work becomes. [Anyone who feels that their job is dehumanizing needs should look for another job. Anyone who feels that their job is dehumanizing to the degree that they’re constrained not to evangelize at work needs to look for a good therapist.]

But to speak of faith while at work—that’s a subject about which Christians often butt heads. [Yikes. That is such a … difficult image.]

Many Christians wrongly think evangelism is a verbal message. [On the other hand, it is hard to discuss one’s faith without using actual words.] They forget that to believe a message, you have to trust the messenger. The New Testament consistently reminds us that, as much as our words matter, evangelism always has a context that includes how we live and work. Paul, for one example, advised the Colossians to act first—then speak:

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 4:5-6 NIV) [This is one of my favorite Paul quotes! Except I have no idea how to season shit I say with salt. But still: quality saying.]

In conversations, many Christians, regrettably, fall short of “full of grace.” [No argument there. Then again, how many people do we ever run into who are “full of grace”? Dang few, I’d say. And that is why I, for one, am always more than satisfied to run into someone who is full of common sense, or humor, or manners, or great stories about their past, or … cheer, really. I like cheer best. Being cheerful is being full of grace, isn’t it—Christian or not. But I digress. Sorry.] According to a Barna Group 2013 survey, 51 percent of Christians are more like Pharisees (hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental). Only 14 modeled the actions and attitudes of Jesus (selfless, empathy, love)—and that’s the rub. [To my mind, the real rub is also what a nonsensical “study” that was/is. Still, your good point is made, Bill.]

Modern-day Pharisees, as in Jesus’ day, create more heat than light [why, Bill, are you trying to induce the fantods, you wicked wordsmith, you?]—and that colleague, hostile toward Christianity [wait, what colleague? you’ve lost me], likely has been pounded by some over-zealous Christian. [Oh. Um, so let’s move along, shall we?]

So forced conversations should be forced out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed that “Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; He waited until one of them turned to him.” [You go, Bonhoeffer!] Workplace or no, the Bible’s guideline to talk about faith is:

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 . . . (1 Peter 3:15, NIV) [bolded italics mine.]

Speaking of our faith comes with a qualifier. We answer those who ask. In any setting, especially at work, to faith-ambush a person who has no interest hardly qualifies as gentle, respectful, or appropriate. [Bill! You’re my new best friend!]

Faith fueled by grace [I always get confused by phrases that would make just as much sense were their main words reversed], however, affects the winsomeness of our character [does it? is having a winsome character—as opposed to a winsome personality—a good thing?], the quality of our work [does it? do I need to be full of faith and/or grace to do top-notch work?] and the sincerity of our concern for others. [Does it? Do you really think that religious faith is necessary in order to feel sincere concern for others? If you do, I think it’s worth considering how mistaken you are there.] Those who work around us can’t help but wonder what makes us tick. [I think I must have missed something there; that sentence seemed pretty random. But I’m sure I’m just tired or something.]

In those cases, it’s appropriate to talk [to one of your co-workers, at work, about your faith/belief/religious convictions, I assume you mean here] when:

► a coworker shows interest. [Sure. I’d invite them to continue the conversation with me outside of the workplace, but … sure.]

► the conversation arises naturally out of growing friendships built around work. [Ditto the above for me: I’m never comfortable talking, at work, about anything as deeply personal as my religious sensibilities.]

► it’s not a diversion but fits naturally in a conversation. [Right. No sudden evangelizing in the middle of an otherwise normal conversation.]

► it’s safe to disagree without inviting judgment. [?]

► it takes no time away from what we or our coworkers are paid to do. [Amen to that.]

Christ calls his followers to be his witnesses, but our lives always come before our lips.

[Okay! Well, that was fun! Or … you know. Close enough.]

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