Like many other people, you might spend most of your waking hours at work. And you've likely built ongoing relationships with your coworkers, customers, and others in your organization. But the prospect of sharing your faith there could seem daunting. After all, the wrong approach to evangelism could land you in trouble in the workplace.
Yet all around you at work, people are looking for spiritual answers. And it's no accident that God has placed you in your particular job, alongside them. God wants you to share your faith at work as He gives you opportunities, and He will help you do it.
Here are some ways you can naturally and effectively share your faith with people you interact with at work:
- Strive to live out your faith in every part of your life, so it becomes an integral part of every ordinary encounter you have with people. Remember that this is how the first Christians lived. It was natural for them to share their faith with people in their marketplaces and other places of work.
- Realize that the simple can be profound. Know that simple activities such as listening compassionately to a customer or sharing lunch with a colleague can be powerful ways to plant seeds of faith in their lives. Understand that God uses everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you.
- View evangelism as a process, rather than an event. Realize that people make many small, incremental decisions about spirituality that can ultimately lead them to faith in Christ. Know that each step in the process is important.
- Forget formulas. Understand that there is no "one-size-fits-all" formula for evangelism, but that each person requires a different approach that's based on his or her unique situation.
- Work to please your ultimate boss. If you want people to pay attention to your faith, first pay attention to your work. No matter what your work circumstances, give your best to your job, knowing that God is your ultimate boss. Seek to honor God and empower other people. Value an eternal reward more than your paycheck. Let your work performance always be excellent. Discover, develop, and use your God-given talents in your work.
- Don't discriminate between sacred and secular jobs. Realize that God can use you just as powerfully in a secular job as He can in a formal ministry position. Know that if God has placed you in your current job, it is part of your intended ministry in the world.
- Show, don't just tell. Pray that God will help you reflect some of His character in your life, so others can get a glimpse of Him by interacting with you. Let people know there's something different about you without even having to tell them why. Strive to live a life that's filled with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
- Treat other people with consideration. Realize that people won't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Consistently show your caring by avoiding gossip, pursuing honesty in all situations, and genuinely listening to others' concerns. Practice common courtesies on a regular basis.
- Never force discussions about faith. Doing so does more harm than good. Keep in mind that mentioning faith is only appropriate when it arises naturally out of your relationships at work, when it naturally fits into the topic of conversation, or when someone asks you about your faith.
- Don't try to do God's job. Don't try to take on the burden of convicting people of spiritual truths. Realize that only the Holy Spirit can transform someone's heart. Instead, seek simply to show others how God has made a difference in your life and can make a difference in theirs.
- Use "faith flags." When natural opportunities arise, give people "faith flags" - brief statements that identify you as someone who is serious about faith. This could involve briefly mentioning prayer, the Bible, or God as they naturally relate to a particular topic. Be sure not to mention a particular church or denomination, as that might raise a barrier for the person listening. And avoid pointing to your faith as a reason for not doing something, so you don't bolster the mistaken idea among some non-Christians that Christianity is just a set of rules.
- Share "faith stories." When someone at work expresses a need in their life and you sense a natural opportunity, ask if you can share a story from your own life that tells how God helped you with a similar need. You can also share a faith story about any other way God has worked in your life at a specific time in a specific way, as long as it relates well to the other person's situation. In your stories, use conversational language, don't preach, avoid using too many specific details (so people can more easily relate to what you say), include human interest or a humorous touch, use word pictures, illustrate the basics of the gospel, and explain how God is meeting your deepest inner needs.
- Don't overload people. Stop discussing faith when you sense that they aren't interested in going further for now. Be patient, giving them the time and space they need to think about what you've said so far. Seek to stimulate their curiosity to know more whenever they're ready.
- Don't be afraid to show your own flaws. Too many Christians try to seem perfect, only to come across as arrogant and phony. Remember that non-Christians will be attracted not by your victories, but by God's grace. Know that they need to see not just who you are today, but where you've come from.
- Avoid Christian jargon. Keep in mind that many people are biblically illiterate today. Explain things in words that non-Christians can understand.
- Build strategic alliances. Network with others to share your faith. Pray for people together, encourage each other, and refer seekers to each other for specific needs they have.
- Invite people from work to share non-work activities with you. Make time in your schedule to spend with non-Christians as well as Christians, remembering that doing so was important to Jesus Himself. Pursue common interests with people from work - from playing on a sports team together to seeing a movie you both want to see. Let common needs draw you together, such as by forming a carpool. Share your common gifts and talents; for instance, weekend musicians could start a band together. Connect with each other through your common concerns, such as parenting.
- Deal with sinful behavior gracefully. When you encounter offensive behavior in non-Christian friends, don't be shocked. Remember that all people sin, yet God still loves them and will help them overcome sin. Trust the Holy Spirit to convince the person that his or her behavior is wrong; don't lecture them about it, but pray for them. If your friend asks you to participate in an activity you know is wrong, decline gracefully without giving an explanation - or with as little explanation as possible. Then offer an acceptable alternative.
- Ask people questions. Allow people to discover the truth for themselves by stimulating their thinking through questions, which is much more powerful than having them simply listen to your thoughts.
- Don't react negatively to objections. Realize that expressing doubt is actually a good thing because it means that someone is genuinely thinking about an issue. Expect emotions such as anger and hostility to surface during an exploration of faith as people wrestle with the most important issues in life. Don't take objections personally as people go through this process. Express your disagreements with respect, affirming the value of the people with whom you speak and leaving the door open for further discussions.
- If God gives you an open door to present the gospel message in full to someone, help that person answer seven questions. The questions are: "Who is God?," "Who are We?," "Who is Jesus?," "What Did Jesus Do?," "What Can We Not Do?," "What Do We Have to Do?," and "What Does God Promise to Those Who Believe?." Practice your presentation with a trusted friend and get that friend's feedback before delivering the actual presentation.
- Don't discount the beliefs or experiences of others. Show respect for them. Simply ask people to evaluate how their current belief system is working in their lives.
- If you don't know the answer to a particular question, admit it, and offer to do research with the person who asks you. Be humble, and look to the Bible directly whenever you can.
- Pray! Pray that God will help you share your faith effectively, pray for other people's needs, and pray with others as well. Know that your prayers have great power.
- After people receive salvation, help them grow in their faith. Help them worship God, study the Bible, serve others, plug into a community of faith, and share their faith with others just as you have.
Adapted from Going Public with Your Faith: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work, copyright 2003 by William Carr Peel, Th.M. and Walt Larrimore, M.D. Published by Zondervan, 1-800-9-BOOK-IT, www.zondervan.com.
William Carr Peel, Th.M., is the pastor of leadership development at Fellowship Bible Church in Dallas, Texas, and the author of five books, including What God Does When Men Pray. He has an active speaking schedule, has consulted with many organizations, including Promise Keepers, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs. Walter Larrimore, M.D., is Vice President of Medical Outreach at Focus on the Family and the best-selling author of Alternative Medicine, Bryson City Tales, and 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People. He coauthored and teaches the course "The Saline Solution: Sharing Your Faith in Your Practice" for the Paul Tournier Institute of the Christian Medical Association.