When Johan Lam and Andrew Chen launched their line of men’s clothing in 2003, they named their new brand 3Sixteen, as in John 3:16. The quality of their products has attracted global attention, and today 3Sixteen is one of the fastest growing denim lines on the market. They offer a broad collection of products, from ties to eyewear.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking 3Sixteen clothing and accessories come with a gospel tract. Nothing about the products is overtly evangelistic.The two entrepreneurs want the quality of their brand to quietly say something about their Christian faith. In an interview with Reach Records Chen explained,
Our intention was never to make a Christian product. It was more to be open and honest about what we believed in and, at the same time, to make a really good product. ... And it was always important for us that it existed in a secular context, that it was good enough in and of itself that it could be sold at any type of store not just a Christian store.
Along the way, I think the biggest impact that I’ve been able to have is on young people who are growing up, who want to do something interesting and creative with their lives, but also have a heart for ministry, but they don't necessarily feel called to go to seminary to become a pastor or a minister. I think there's something to be said about earning the right to be heard — doing something that is of really high quality that attracts the attention of people and allows you to have a voice with them.”
Excellence in our work helps to open doors for conversation about our faith. It's a principle throughout the Bible. For example, it was the quality of their work that won a hearing for Daniel and Nehemiah.
Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:3)
If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah ... (Nehemiah 2:5)
Proverbs echoes this sentiment.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29)
Paul believed that the quality of our work could glorify God and attract people to what we believe (Titus 2:9-10). He also believed that our work deserved our best efforts because it was an act of worship of God (Colossians 3:22-24).
Of course, there will always be people at work who are offended by our faith in Christ. But doing excellent work goes a long way toward earning us earn the right to be heard, whether we’re designing denim or preaching a sermon. Quality work opens doors for us to explain the God behind our work.
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)
Stop and consider what your work says about your faith and the God you worship.