Jim wanted to run the other way when a friend urged him to go on a short-term mission trip to Cuba, but he reluctantly agreed to go.
The mission group attended a training session about sharing the gospel, then they divided up into teams of two and walked from house to house with an interpreter. Fascinated by the opportunity to meet Americans, locals crowded into small living quarters to hear what they had to say.
The spiritual vacuum and difficult economic conditions under communism had created a gnawing spiritual hunger in Cuban hearts, so many people trusted Christ on the spot. Jim was thrilled to be used by God to lead people to faith in Christ.
At the end of the trip, the mission leader reminded the group that people back home were hungry for the gospel too. He challenged them to speak boldly about their faith and to expect God to do great things.
Jim returned to work with a new sense of mission. When coworkers asked about his trip, Jim interpreted each inquiry as an open door to share his testimony and the gospel message like he had learned to do on the trip. The response, however, was very different. Some coworkers listened politely, while others began avoiding him. One even asked, “If faith is the most important thing in your life, why are we just now hearing about it?”
Jim felt embarrassed and discouraged. He decided to never speak of his faith at work again.
Like many Christians, Jim did not understand that cultivation is essential to effective evangelism. In Matthew 13, Jesus explained how weeds, rocks and hard-packed heart soil thwart penetration of the gospel. Sometimes God uses difficult circumstances, as He did on Jim's trip, to cultivate and prepare people's hearts to receive seeds of truth. He also uses Christians to cultivate hearts as we reflect Christ’s character, demonstrate His love day after day at work, and trust in God’s timing to draw people to Himself.
Peter offers sage advice about when and how to talk about our faith.
“…In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15).
While we should always be ready and willing to speak up about our faith, note that Peter includes a condition: We are to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks. Ambushing people with the gospel when their hearts are not ready is not productive, nor is it gentle and respectful.
So, when is it appropriate to talk about faith?
1. When opportunities arise out of the authentic relationships built around your work. As you discuss work and life with your coworkers, informal mentions of spiritual truth will happen naturally, just as other topics of personal importance pop into your conversation.
2. When it naturally fits in the conversation. Don’t try to divert a discussion to a spiritual topic unrelated to the conversation. But, for example, if you are talking about a business problem, it could be appropriate to briefly mention how your faith guides your decisions.
3. When coworkers are comfortable with the discussion. It’s never appropriate to press a spiritual discussion if listeners become uncomfortable.
4. When you are asked. Questions open doors to address spiritual topics. Don’t feel you have to be some sort of Bible expert. Show your own personal interest in learning about that topic and simply and humbly provide what you’ve discovered on it so far. Encourage curiosity in order to create a safe environment for additional questions in the future.
5. When it doesn’t take time away from what you or your co-workers are paid to do. Find time over a break, lunch or after work for longer discussions.
Solomon was right: There’s a time to be silent and a time to speak. It takes wisdom to know the difference.
You can take your faith to work in appropriate, engaging ways. Workplace Grace offers a simple, non-threatening approach to evangelism. Whether your work takes you to a construction site, a cramped cubical or the corner office, every Christian plays a significant role in the Great Commission. Between Sundays, you can be a pipeline for God's grace in the most strategic mission field in the world: your workplace. Workplace Grace is for Christians who are not gifted evangelists, yet they want to make a spiritual difference at work and see their coworkers and friends come to faith in Jesus Christ. After adopting Workplace Grace strategies, Christians who once felt awkward sharing their faith now say, "A load of guilt has been taken off my shoulders." "I never knew sharing my faith could be so simple." "I can do this!" Read here for more information.