I was asked to engage in an online debate about whether evangelism in the workplace is appropriate as a representative from the evangelical, Faith & Work Channel on the Patheos.com. Arguing that evangelism is never appropriate in the workplace was a representative from the Progressive Christian Chanel. You can read my opening post is below, and find my other two posts by following the links below on our website. But if you are stout of heart, let me encourage you to go to the Patheos site and read the angry comments leveled at Christians below my post.
- It's a sad reminder of how hostile to the Christian faith some non-Christian coworkers have become--much of that based on interaction with Christians.
- It's a solemn reminder of the immerging perspective that biblical Christianity is considered dangerous, not just irrelevant.
- It also raises a significant warning to those of us who want to see work colleagues come to Christ that the starting point is demonstrating that all Christians are not jerks.
Count me among the growing number of people who believe faith matters at work, and that the more faith falls to our workday margins, the more dehumanizing work becomes.
But to speak of faith while at work—that’s a subject about which Christians often butt heads.
Many Christians wrongly think evangelism is a verbal message. They forget that to believe a message, you have to trust the messenger. The New Testament consistently reminds us that, as much as our words matter, evangelism always has a context that includes how we live and work. Paul, for one example, advised the Colossians to act first—then speak:
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 NIV)
In conversations, many Christian’s, regrettably, fall short of “full of grace.” According to a Barna Group 2013 survey, 51 percent of Christians are more like Pharisees (hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental). Only 14 modeled the actions and attitudes of Jesus (selfless, empathy, love)—and that’s the rub.
Modern-day Pharisees, as in Jesus’ day, create more heat than light—and that colleague, hostile toward Christianity, likely has been pounded by some over-zealous Christian.
So forced conversations should be forced out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed that
Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; He waited until one of them turned to him.
Workplace or no, the Bible’s guideline to talk about faith is:
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, NIV)
Speaking of our faith comes with a qualifier. We answer those who ask. In any setting, especially at work, to faith-ambush a person who has no interest hardly qualifies as gentle, respectful, or appropriate.
Faith fueled by grace, however, affects the winsomeness of our character, the quality of our work, and the sincerity of our concern for others. Those who work around us can’t help but wonder what makes us tick.
In those cases, it’s appropriate to talk when:
- a coworker shows interest.
- the conversation arises naturally out of growing friendships built around work.
- it’s not a diversion but fits naturally in a conversation.
- it’s safe to disagree without inviting judgment.
Response to my opponent's "10 Reasons It's Wrong to Evangelize in the Workplace" entitled, "Yes, You Can Talk About Christ Without Being A Jerk in the Workplace"
Concluding response to the debate: "Co-workers Are Not Projects"
© 2001 - 2015 Bill Peel for Mission Work Blog at Patheos.com. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Mission Work Blog at Patheos.com. Article by Bill Peel.