How do people see us at work? How well do we represent our Lord in the workplace? As representatives of Jesus, it’s important that we realize how much our gospel witness is seen and heard in the context of our competence and character. Just like ambassadors don’t spend all their time at the embassy, we as Christian ambassadors don’t spend all our time in the church. In fact, most of our time is spent at work, interacting with people who see Christianity differently than we do. Each week, we have the opportunity to break down emotional barriers to the gospel by the way we work and the way we treat people at work.
There are two ways our workplace can actually help us begin to break down barriers to spiritual conversations with the people we see the most. First, our work provides opportunities for building authentic relationships with our coworkers. Second, work also provides opportunities to love our neighbors through the ministry of our work.
Build Authentic Relationships
At a recent pastor’s luncheon hosted by the Hendricks Center, Bill Peel explained how being an ambassador for Christ at work relates to breaking down emotional barriers that tend to get in the way of spiritual conversations. He often suggests that developing authentic relationships with co-workers and clients is the best way to remove emotional barriers.
Indeed, earning the right to be heard includes doing good work in our vocation. This is because our spiritual conversations, apologetic arguments, and evangelism do not take place in a vacuum. Rather, our presentations of faith are wrapped up in the kind of person we are perceived to be in the workplace. Walt Larimore, who co-authored Workplace Grace with Peel, observes: “People tend to not want to hear what you say if you are sloppy at work.” But it’s a lot more than job performance that counts. It’s how we treat people as well.
Take Advantage of the Opportunity to Love Our Neighbor
On an episode of the Table podcast, Greg Forster talked about how honoring God with our life includes viewing our work as a ministry—a service to both God and neighbor. This goes beyond the things that we might do outside of our work responsibilities. Although praying for people or leading bible studies after office hours may honor God, we shouldn’t forget that our daily, professional work itself is also a part of our service to the Lord. Indeed, Forster states that work is “how we serve our neighbors in our everyday activities” and it “is one of the main ways we reflect the character of Christ” (Theology That Works, 10).
Both competence and character are important traits of a Christian ambassador at work. It’s no surprise that thoughtful acts of kindness—like sharing the recognition for corporate victories with our staff or verbally appreciating our coworkers for their contributions—can play an important part in representing the gospel. The Lord is pleased by Christian ambassadors who do good, honest work while obeying the Second Greatest Commandant: to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Building authentic relationships and loving our neighbor often paves the way for open spiritual conversations. In a video series on Workplace Grace, Peel explains:
“When actions and words go together in showing appreciation and respect and honor of the value in another person, that speaks volumes. Obviously, if a person doesn’t feel valued by us they’re not going to value what you believe or what you say.”
Indeed, when someone realizes that we respect them and have their best in mind, they may find it easier to open the door to honest conversations about some of the most important things in life. As ambassadors, we must begin to develop a biblical perspective on our work. One of the results of doing so is a better witness for Christ at our places of employment.
At the end of the day, our spiritual conversations are always heard in the context of our lives, including our lives at work. As Christian ambassadors, we must begin to understand the value God sees in our work and the opportunities he has placed for us to represent him well in our current places of employment. Let us more intentionally build relationships with our coworkers, supervisors, customers and clients, genuinely loving them through our work. By God’s grace, these simple acts of kindness can help open the door to spiritual conversations and even break down emotional barriers to the gospel.
© 2001 - 2014 Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership & Cultural Engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from The Hendricks Center. Article by Mikel Del Rosario.