The Great Opportunity
Evangelism is … Working!
In a world like ours, often the best place for building friendships with non-Christians is our place of work. Work will give most of us unrivalled opportunities for Christian witness.
How can we start to develop a model of Christian witness that will be enduring enough to point those around us to Christ?
The workplace is the key to winning the lost for Christ. It is the key to transforming society for Christ.
This isn’t a new idea, back in 1945 a document was produced called ‘Towards the Conversion of England.’ In that document there was only one sentence in bold type in the section on evangelism. It focused on England but it applies more broadly.
‘We are convinced that England will never be converted until the laity use the opportunities daily afforded by their various professions, crafts and occupations.’
This makes sense. The key to evangelism is relationships. And the place where people have most relationships is the workplace. You don’t have to knock on doors, put on special events, invite people to a mission. In the workplace you don’t have to go out of your way to build bridges to not-yet Christians. The bridges get built as you work with people. In fact, you will probablyknow twenty to thirty times more not-yet Christians in your workplace than you will know in your neighbourhood – and you will spend a great deal more time with them.
This provides significant opportunities for ministry and witness. Through speech, attitudes and actions we communicate the credibility and relevance of Christianity to every area of life.
Ministry is simply love in action – serving someone. We can all do that at work – looking out for our bosses interests, getting a sandwich for someone who has no time for a break, dropping a note to a colleague who’s having a hard time.. Lots of small but telling ways to help people along.
Coming to Christ is a process, not usually a single, sudden, out of the blue event. For most people it happens primarily through relationships. Through a host of small incidents, a word here, an encouragement there, many of which will happen in the workplace.
Here are six levels of witness in the workplace:
1. We witness through Christ’s presence in us.
He’s there and we can’t get him out. ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) And Christ shines through in ways of which we are often unconscious. A magistrate recently told me that a clerk had come up to him after a case and said, “You know you’re the only one who treats us like people; everyone else treats us like staff.” He didn’t know that he had made a difference. But he had.
2. We witness through the work we do.
What shows is not simply how good our work is, but the spirit in which it is done – not boastfully, or out of ambition, but humbly, generously, and for the good of the team. In God’s strength and for his glory. In Titus 2:9-10 Paul even expects slaves in the Roman empire to seek to make the gospel attractive to those they work for, just by the integrity with which they do the job. If you have seen the film Gladiator, you’ll know that this wasn’t always the easiest of lives!
3. We witness through bringing a Biblical perspective to bear on personal issues.
‘Lauren’ works with animals but there are plenty of people around. In her context it is quite hard to witness for Christ directly. On the other hand, people often come and talk to her about their marriage problems. They may not be directly interested in the gospel but they are interested in having happy relationships – something the Bible has much to say about. People crave wisdom on how to lead their lives. It’s obvious from women’s magazines and the plethora of self-help titles in bookshops. The people you will be working with will be dealing with all kinds of issues: anxiety, drug addiction, debt, illness, bereavement, relationships, adultery and, family problems. If you’re looking to pray for someone, you don’t have to look far. You are surrounded by people who will benefit from Biblical wisdom and even if you don’t have the answer on a particular topic, you can find a book or a tape that might be useful.
When you do give people wisdom for a particular issue, you will not only help them but you’ll also be demonstrating that the Bible is relevant to their lives. That might make them more open to Biblical wisdom in other areas of their lives – and in time to the gospel. The same principles apply to general issues in the culture.
4. We witness by bringing a Biblical perspective to bear on general issues.
The things people talk about at the water fountain, the coffee machine, in the canteen from the latest news scandal to court cases and, national disasters.
These sorts of events raise questions in people’s minds: Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Questions like that that surface again and again – as they did during the Bulger trial, after Dunblane, when Princess Diana died. Sometimes these conversations will provide opportunities, we need to be ready with a response, as Peter calls us to be:
‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…’ (1 Peter 3:15)
Beyond the obviously religious questions, our co-workers all have hobbies and enthusiasms.. Of course, we won’t have the time or the inclination to be interested in them all but there are probably one or two that we do share. This also may give us the opportunity to bring a biblical perspective to bear.
5. We witness by bringing a Biblical perspective to bear on business issues.
There will be manyissues we encounter about the way a business is run: integrity, truth-telling, when suppliers are paid racism and sexism.. Many businesses are well run with high standards of operation. Some are not. Sometimes their lapses are accidental, sometimes they are intentional. Either way, one of the roles of the Christian in society is to transform the way things are done. This takes wisdom and courage because we may be ignored or suffer for offering constructive criticism or suggestions. The alternative is to allow evil to flourish.
6. We witness as we take the initiative to share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.
If the key to evangelism is relationships and if many of your relationships are at work, it follows that many of the opportunities you will have to share the gospel directly may well come at work. This probably won’t happen every day or even every month, though you may see many smaller opportunities to ‘break up the ground’ before sowing the seed. But it is likely to happen. Particularly if you pray and particularly if you prepare. In many Christians’ experience there seems to be a strong link between prayer, preparation and opportunity. When we pray and when we are prepared to share the gospel, God gives the opportunity – or perhaps we are given eyes to see opportunities we would otherwise have missed.
"But it is likely to happen. Particularly if you pray and particularly if you prepare."
I met Dan at a Christian conference in Northern Ireland a few months ago. Just beforethe conference, Dan had prayed that God would open up an opportunity to share the gospel with a work colleague. After one of the evening seminars he suddenly saw someone in the book tent whom he recognised vaguely. “Don’t you work in the same place as me?” She did, but in a different area. “Are you a Christian?” he asked. He fully expected the answer “Yes”; which is, after all, the answer you’d expect when you’ve both just been listening to an hour-long exposition of Ephesians at a Christian Conference. “No,” she replied. She’d come with a friend, searching. They agreed to meet the following week.
Things happen when we pray – sometimes very quickly, sometimes slowly – but things happen. God, after all, yearns that human beings would come to know him. The Holy Spirit is at work – where he wills – drawing people to Christ, to the glory of the Father. Why would your co-workers be exempt? Why wouldn’t God want to use you to help them along their way? Billy Graham’s research reveals that the average person going forward to accept Christ at one of his crusades has already had 31 significant exposures to the gospel. In our culture some of those significant exposures will occur in the workplace.
So with your new job you will have a new and glorious ministry – may both be enormously fruitful and both bring great joy to you and glory to God. He will be there with you, seeking to strengthen you in all you do. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Written by Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity