This post is part of a symposium between the Catholic, Evangelical, and Faith and Work Channels on spiritual disciplines for work.
It was 3:30 in the morning and, rather than fighting the sudden insomnia attack, I decided to get up, read my Bible, and pray. I opened to the beginning of I Samuel. The words of the child Samuel rang through my head (and heart), “Here I am Lord, your servant is listening.”
So I prayed. I prayed for a mission field. I asked God if he was going to send me to China, or Africa, or the Amazon. I told God that I wanted to change the world for him, and that I’d go anywhere He wanted to send me.
Have you ever had a conversation with God that didn’t go the way you expected it to go?
“Where do you want me to go, God? I’ll go!” And, in a subtle whisper, I felt as if he said to me, 5205 Fruitville Road.
In my attempt to get God to focus on the conversation, I told Him, “Yeah God, that’s where I work. But where are you going to send me? I’ll go anywhere!”
5205 Fruitville Road.
And so, I spent the next several years working out what it meant to make my workplace my mission field. I had no idea what it would look like, but I dedicated myself to figuring out how to make it happen. Here are a few things I learned:
Be defined as a Christian by what you DO, not by what you DON’T do.
In a short period of time, I was passed over for two promotions. I’ll be honest: it was frustrating. I like to think that if you work hard, you’ll be rewarded, but that’s just not always the case. Even several co-workers, who believed I was the most qualified for the jobs, felt I had been robbed from some promotions that should have been mine. Some even told me that they wouldn’t take that kind of treatment, and would leave the company.
Rather than getting sucked into the negativity, I decided to focus on living according to the fruit of the Spirit. We’d been teaching on it at church, and I figured I should be walking it, not just talking about it. Fear of being a hypocrite ultimately drove me to shift my perspective. And, it paid off! People noticed my attitude being guided by things like love, joy, peace, and patience. In fact, one struggling coworker asked me how I kept such a positive attitude. That opened the door to a conversation that resulted in her leaving her practice of Wicca, and returning to the Christian church.
Too often, Christians are defined by what we don’t do. We’re often identified as the ones who don’t drink at the holiday party, or the ones around whom you can’t tell certain jokes. We should, instead, strive to be defined by the qualities and characteristics that bring strength and hope to others around us.
Pray like there’s no tomorrow.
One day, outside of work, I ran into a co-worker at the Christian bookstore. We both stood there for a moment, and I think we were both thinking, “Hey, I didn’t know you were the kind of person who shops in a place like this!” That encounter led us to deep conversations about faith in the workplace.
Our conversations continued and, eventually, he and I would be joined, once every couple of weeks, by several others for a small, informal lunch, to fellowship and pray together. We would pray for one another, others in the workplace (Christian or not), and for the business as a whole (yes, even in a secular business). We never dominated the break room for prayer meetings, and never made a big show of it. But we did faithfully bring our workplace to the Father.
We saw many prayers answered over the years, and others began to know us as people to whom they could bring their prayer requests.
Lead like Jesus.
I’ve wrestled quite a bit to understand what leadership looks like. It was during a church small group when it really clicked for me. When we examined the model of leadership that Jesus set for us, we didn’t see a man who “lorded” his position over people. We saw something different.
Jesus was a servant.
He taught us how to lead by lowering himself and washing the feet of his disciples—by serving them. So, at work, I did what was needed to serve everyone involved in my projects, doing what I could to set them up for success. For the people who were going to be the recipients of my work, I made sure they were involved in the design process and feedback phases. It’s important to me not only that they feel as if their voice has been heard, but also that they are getting something that actually works for them. I also had developers who wanted to get more work with us. So, rather than being a task master who drives them to complete a task, I worked to make sure they had everything they needed to get noticed in a positive light.
One of my favorite moments over the years is when a peer complimented me on my leadership. The conversation with that peer was a rich one that focused on my views on servant-leadership and how the Bible guided everything I do in life (including my work). No one had ever explained to him (or shown him) how the Bible can truly be a guide for every aspect of our life. He thanked me sincerely for opening his eyes, and walked away from that little chat with a new respect and value for the Word of God.
The goal of evangelism is to move people one-step closer to God. Approaching my workplace as a mission field has resulted in several opportunities to move people closer to Christ. It’s not Bible-thumping, turn-or-burn evangelism. It’s about relationships and living the Word of God in everything we do. I may go on mission trips to foreign countries regularly, but my workplace will always be my favorite mission field.