Monday, October 24, 2011

Sharing Jesus with People at Work

Benny Tabalujan explained that there are four types of Christians in workplaces.

  • Isolated Christians, who can't seem to make friends with people at work,

  • Insider Christians, who are friendly but never let on that they are Christians,

  • Inarticulate Christians, who are social and are open about their own faith but don't take the extra step of sharing the Gospel, and

  • Integrated Christians, who are sociable, open about their own faith, and intentional in sharing the Message of Jesus.
Tabalujan argued that far too many Christians are stuck in the third category, and I have to admit that I find myself there as well. I think about the coworker who regularly asked me what I believed, but I could only couch my beliefs in Jesus as one way to see the world, not as The Way, The Truth, and The Life. I think about my discomfort when students bring up their own faith in the classroom--"oh no, I hope other students don't feel pressured to adopt my beliefs."

I'm not proud of these shortcomings, and it's something that I am praying about.

Part of moving from being an inarticulate Christian to an integrated Christian, according to Tabalujan, is to develop new habits. He lists many ideas that are covered in other parts of this blog such as telling the truth and loving coworkers.

In terms of taking that next step and verbalizing the Gospel, Tabalujan notes that it begins with relationships to others and genuine concern for them. He also notes that discussions of faith should never "hijack" conversations, but instead, should come naturally. These conversations are rarely one-shot experiences. Instead, you may start planting seeds day-by-day. You may or may not see the outcome of those seeds (consider 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). But that's not your concern. Just focusing on taking the opportunities that God gives you to share His Good News. And keep praying for more opportunities.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Something's Missing Here

I was reading something a few days ago that made me realize that amid the topics I've blogged about recently, there was something that was noticeably missing. This author was discussing workplace evangelism. When I started this blog, one of my concerns was that people would see being Christian at work as beating people over the head with a Bible. I don't think that's the ideal way to honor God. But in reacting to that, I feel like I've gone the other direction and under-emphasized evangelism.

Part of the issue may be that I find talking about evangelism at work
more than a little uncomfortable. Part of it may also be that I don't feel like I'm very good at it. Nevertheless, an important part of honoring God at work is sharing the Good News of Jesus. Today and for the next several posts, I'm going to think about these ideas and explore what workplace evangelism looks like.

Jesus told us how to start. Look at Matthew 9:36-38. Jesus looked at the crowds of people around Him and realized they were "like sheep without a shepherd." Look at the people around you at work. Don't just see them as supervisors, colleagues, or customers. See them as Jesus would see them. But wait! Don't say anything to them yet. Notice what Jesus tells His disciples. He doesn't say, "go out there and convince them that I'm the Messiah." He doesn't tell His disciples to stand up and tell the people that they're going to hell. Jesus says, "ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." Jesus tells His followers that they need to start by praying about the harvest.

This weekend, think about the people around you at work. See them as Jesus does, as harassed and helpless, sheep without a shepherd. Then, pray. Intercede with God on their behalf. Ask Him to send workers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Needs Grace, Anyway?

Every now and then, I look back on recent posts and realize that my thoughts on Christianity in workplaces has started to resemble lists of do's and don't's. It's easy to think that way, which is why I tend to gravitate to that style. And I don't think I'm alone. For today's post, I wanted to stop and think about God's grace.

Who's your favorite Bible character? Have you ever thought about that person needing God's grace? Abraham told two different rulers that Sarah was his sister because he feared their power more than he trusted God's power. David boldly face Goliath and Saul, but pretended to be insane so as to escape his enemies (not to mention his sin with Bathsheba). Elijah ran away into the desert, convinced God had forsaken him. Peter was right there with Jesus for almost every miracle, every sermon. And yet he denied Jesus three times. Paul called himself the chief of sinners.

They all needed grace, and so do we. There are times when you mess up (in the workplace and everywhere else). Maybe you don't show love to a coworker. Maybe you yell at a subordinate in anger. Maybe you have a habit of telling white lies. Or not using your time effectively. Whatever it is, you need God's grace and so do I. It's not that the do's and don't's aren't important. It's just that you cannot honor God by following them. For that matter, you're never going to do each one perfectly anyway. Instead, focus on God's grace. As you seek to honor Him, the other things become ways of expressing your gratitude for what He's done for you.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thoughts about Firing Employees

I had lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago, and he mentioned a topic that he'd like to see written about on this blog. This person is a Christian and tries to live like Jesus in his workplace. He is also a supervisor. He recently had to fire an employee. My friend asked me to think about and write about one's role as supervisor having to fire someone relates to one's role as Christian.

I'm still working on that post--it's not an easy question. There's the issue of
quality work. The master who gave talents to his servants certainly expected those subordinates to work hard. And you might say he fired the one who did not. But the other side of things is the unmerciful servant. We have been forgiven so much. How can we not forgive others?

In some ways, the analogous situation for me is assigning grades, particularly near the end of the semester when I know that assigning a particular grade will cause a student to fail.

It's a post that I'm still working on. What are your thoughts? If you'd rather not post them as comments, feel free to
email me. Look for the post in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spread the Good News About People

I blogged about positive gossip a few months ago, but it bears repeating. Positive gossip is telling others about the good things that someone else has done, kind of spreading praise behind some one's back. Think about the good that comes from spreading good news about people. There is a lot of emphasis of getting ahead of people. Part of that may be office politics which some times involves gossiping about others. For a Christian, positive gossip involves using your tongue to bless instead of to curse (James 3:9-12). It's being salt and light in the world.

Take some time to encourage others by praising them behind their backs. They may be suspicious at first, particularly if your workplace is very political. But over time, watch how your encouragement spreads to others.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Crushed into Wine

We all have those days that really suck. Those times when it seems like everything goes wrong that could have gone wrong. Maybe those days are frequent in your job, maybe they're rare. But we all have them.

Sometimes, it's comforting to try to make sense of those experiences. What is God trying to teach me? Sometimes we can see a potential purpose. But most of the time, it seems meaningless. It doesn't add up for us.

I read something a few days ago that really speaks to this in Oswalt Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. Chambers notes that God uses every day circumstances to crush us as a vintner crushes grapes. He says that "God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us" (p. 274). Chambers also states that "if we're going to be made into wine, we have to be crushed--you cannot drink grapes."

Sometimes, the crushing doesn't make any sense to us. Try as we might, we cannot find a reason or purpose in our suffering. This isn't a hopeful blog post in that sense. But God uses those circumstances in ways we may never know this side of heaven to shape us, to crush us. He calls us to be faithful in them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Image Building

My wife is in a Bible study, examining the book of Daniel through Beth Moore's Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophesy. She pointed something out to me in one of their lessons that is particularly relevant for this blog. We know Daniel 3 as the story of the fiery furnace. But look at the events that led to that miracle. King Nebuchadnezzar built an image of himself (way beyond lifesize). He summoned the officials who reported to him and commanded them to bow to that image. Moore notes that there is a fine line between "an honest attempt to look or do our best" and building an image of ourselves as an "attempt to make impressions that are bigger than we are" (p. 49).

Moore points out that commoners weren't invited; only the well-to-do were to bow down to the king. That's part of the delusion--that great people think you're even greater than they are. It's a mentality that is rampant in our culture. I have reached the pinnacle of success when great people think I'm the best. I admit that I face that temptation as I think about my own career, wanting to impress the people I respect to the point that they praise me.

God wants you to do quality work. That's part of honoring Him. But the point of quality work is to glorify God, not yourself. That's a focus that is very hard to maintain, but it's one way that you demonstrate your distinctiveness and commitment to Christ.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I'm excited to see the movie Courageous in the near future. It's from the same people who did Facing Giants and Fireproof. Yeah, the acting is horrible--definitely not professionals. But the writing makes up for it.

One thing about these stories is that the main characters really struggle with how their faith and their work interact. At some point in the story, they realize that God wants to be Lord of their lives on Monday through Friday, not just on Sunday. That was a little more true in Facing Giants than in Fireproof, but you certainly saw that in both.

Take the time to see Courageous in theaters. It's worth the cost to support Christian filmmakers. In the meantime, be courageous in your own life--honor God in everything you do, including work.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clothe Yourself with Humility

1 Peter 5:5-7

It's interesting to think about Peter writing on humility. The descriptions of Peter in the gospels are not exactly images of humility. He seemed brash and impulsive. And yet by the time he wrote the letters for which he is known, Peter had changed. He understood that Christians needed to submit to others, to avoid pride, and lively humbly.

Humility is hard in our society. We're taught to "look out for number one." After all, it's a "dog eat dog world." Pride even pervades our thinking about spirituality. I'm sure you've heard that "God helps those who help themselves" (that's not anywhere in the Bible, by the way).

Joni Eareckson Tada notes that Peter, as he wrote these verses, probably had Jesus in mind , wrapped in a towel as He washed the disciples feet. That experience likely helped Peter to picture someone "clothed" in humility.

Is that how people would describe you? If someone asked your coworkers about your behavior, would they comment that you were humble? It's a pretty sobering thought because it's completely counter to what we're told should be our attitude in the workplace. It was probably just as countercultural in the first century as it is in the twenty-first. God doesn't promise that He'll give us promotions, raises, and career success. He just promises us life in Jesus.

But verse 7 explains why we don't have to worry about being prideful--"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." When we're prideful instead of humble, everything is all about us. Peter is telling us that it doesn't have to be. Peter is saying that really, it's all about Jesus.