This post is part of a Patheos Head-to-Head on Evangelizing in the Workplace.
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.
But to speak of faith while at work—that’s a subject about which Christians often butt heads.
Many Christians wrongly think evangelism is a verbal message. 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)
In conversations, many Christians, regrettably, fall short of “full of grace.” 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.
Modern-day Pharisees, as in Jesus’ day, create more heat than light—and that colleague, hostile toward Christianity, likely has been pounded by some over-zealous Christian.
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.” 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)
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.
Faith fueled by grace, however, affects the winsomeness of our character, the quality of our work, and the sincerity of our concern for others. Those who work around us can’t help but wonder what makes us tick.
In those cases, it’s appropriate to talk when:
► a coworker shows interest.
► the conversation arises naturally out of growing friendships built around work.
► it’s not a diversion but fits naturally in a conversation.
► it’s safe to disagree without inviting judgment.
► it takes no time away from what we or our coworkers are paid to do.
Christ calls his followers to be his witnesses, but our lives always come before our lips.
Read the opposing viewpoint from John Shore here.