Witness for Christ in the workplace is one of the hardest things we face as Christians. We know we are called to be witnesses for our Lord wherever we are, yet we struggle with ‘on site’ witnessing.
Somehow, whipping out a gospel tract at the office business meeting – or in the shed with the guys on the building site – just doesn’t seem appropriate. We feel awkward using ‘gospel tracts’, no matter how clear, well thought out and simple they are.
Every so often, perhaps, we attend an evangelistic training seminar. Afterwards we are raring to witness to everyone we come across, and look forward to Monday morning with eager anticipation.
Armed with our new ideas, new methods, and the latest trendy gospel tracts, we head off to work to unload our new techniques on our unsuspecting workmates and colleagues.
But something goes wrong! Perhaps we get frustrated by the rush-hour traffic. Maybe our commuter train is crowded and delayed. So when we get to work we are tense and the atmosphere is all wrong. So the ‘fire’ dies and the day ends with another guilt trip.
What I am about to share with you is not a new ‘planned and canned’, sure-fire method of evangelism but how one Christian brother – we’ll call him Jim – used his occupation to witness for his Lord naturally and without stress. You can do the same.
Reference from the boss
In the four years Jim worked for his new company, he never gave anyone a gospel tract and seldom talked about his church activities. Yet he had many opportunities to share his faith with his workmates.
I have copied part of a reference Jim received from his boss when he left that particular employment. Then we will look at five principles that gave Jim the opportunity for non-threatening ‘on site’ evangelism. Here is the reference.
‘To whom it may concern: I have known Jim for the past four years as an employee … he is a responsible individual whom you can count on at any time. Jim has a warm and pleasant personality: he is thoughtful, open and honest, and with a quick sense of humour. His interactions with others reflect great sensitivity and attention to other’s needs and for this reason Jim is an often sought confidant.
‘Jim is a dedicated and committed individual … he faces his tasks with great energy and enthusiasm and is not daunted by challenges. Jim has always shown that he is capable of coping with the pressures of work and personal life’.
High praise indeed! So let’s look at five principles embodied in the above reference that gave Jim the opportunity to witness ‘on site’.
When Jim began his new job, his prayer was that he would be a faithful and committed employee. So principle number one is be committed to producing the best work you possibly can as unto the Lord.
Commitment and dedication to doing and being the best you can in your occupation is the first ‘plank’ in your ‘on site’ witness strategy. You are not paid to spend your time talking your colleagues through some ‘whiz-bang’ gospel tract.
What you do in your lunch breaks is up to you but not in your paid work hours. Give your full attention to your work, whatever it might be – ‘not with eye service as men pleasers, but as servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service as to the Lord and not to men’ (Ephesians 6:6-7). The principle applies whatever work you do.
Jim’s dedication and commitment to his job – his energy, and enthusiasm in completing the tasks given him – paved the way for a natural, non-programmed witness to those around him.
Tuned in to people
Look at Jim’s reference again. His dedication to doing his best didn’t prevent him from interacting with the people in his work place. Our second principle, therefore, is that as believers in Christ we need to be ‘tuned in’ to how other people are feeling.
Jim didn’t shut people out of his mind, nor was he thinking how he could corner someone with the gospel. He was observant and caring and sensitive towards his fellow workers.
There are a thousand and one ways that Christians can interact in a caring way with those with whom we spend the greater part of our day – without stealing time from our employer in the rest-room or at the coffee machine.
Jim wasn’t ‘hung-up’ about witnessing for Christ, and as a result he was much more aware of how others were feeling. The understanding, care and concern that Jim showed gave him many opportunities to talk about his faith in Christ.
Check Jim’s reference again and note the two words ‘open, honest’. If something needed to be said, he said it. If there was a foul-up and Jim was to blame, he didn’t make excuses. Others could always rely on his word.
Thus our third principle is that in an immoral world we must be ‘open and honest’ in our place of employment – with colleagues, supervisors, employees, customers or clients. You are the light in a dark place. Don’t conceal it (Matthew 5:14-16).
I remember speaking to a young Christian woman who was personal secretary to a CEO. This bright Christian lass was frequently asked to tell visitors, clients and sales reps that the CEO was out of the office – when in actual fact he was sitting at his desk!
As we conversed about Christian ethics in the workplace, she couldn’t see that she was not only lying by saying her boss was away when he was actually there, she was also weakening her witness to her boss and her colleagues.
If she could tell ‘little white lies’ for her boss, then equally she could lie to him and to her workmates. Christian, your honesty in all things is an essential plank in your witness for Christ.
Note how the reference says, ‘for this reason Jim is an often sought confidant’. Jim’s honesty and sensitive interaction with others opened up a natural door for witness. Here lies our fourth principle.
Jim didn’t join in with the usual gossip and slander around the coffee machine. He wouldn’t lambaste the bosses or run-down another workmate. Jim’s colleagues knew they could ask his advice about something and it would stay with him.
Jim listened, prayed inwardly, gave advice or support where he could, but he never gossiped! Gossip will kill your witness at work. If you ‘sound off’ about your supervisors and workmates behind their backs, it is going to be an uphill slog to win back their confidence. Praise God, he will forgive you – but your colleagues may not!
Before we come to the last ‘on site’ witness principle, let’s take a breather.
You must by now be feeling that this Jim is a paragon of virtue, and that there is no way that you could live up to his standard. Well, I know Jim and, believe me, he is no paragon of meekness and virtue!
Jim slips up sometimes and, like all true believers, he still wrestles with the old nature. But the reference Jim received shows how the general tenor of his life was perceived at the place of his employ.
An occasional slip won’t end your witness for Christ in the workplace, as long as your life in Christ in the work-a-day-world displays something that others admire and desire for their own lives. Keep that in mind as we come to the fifth principle.
Coping with life’s pressures
When Jim’s boss said that he was a sought after confidant, it wasn’t all one way. Jim displayed his openness and honesty by sharing some of the difficulties and hassles he was wrestling with as he coped with the ‘pressures of work or personal life’. The fifth principle, therefore, is let others see that you are human!
The people you hope to witness to will be greatly put off if you give the impression that nothing fazes you. Man, have you got it all together! But of course you haven’t – no Christian has.
The difference is that believers are not overwhelmed by the everyday problems that are humanity’s lot. We don’t ‘crash’ when loss or tragedy invades our life. Yes, we hurt, we feel pain. We can let that show, we can tell others. But we can also tell them that we have a great burden-bearer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Your greatest witnessing opportunities come when you are being you!
God calls you to be a witness where he has placed you and has given you his Holy Spirit to be your helper. Ask God to help you live out these five principles in your life – and let him open the door to ‘on site’ witness.