At Work & Public Square

The Challenges of Representing Christ in the Workplace

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Over the last couple of months we have been exploring the ancient rhythms of work inherited from centuries of Christians living out their faith in the workplace.

We have covered four of these five major rhythms: purpose, stewardship, justice, and modesty/generosity.

Today we’ll discuss representing Christ as the final rhythm in this series.

Representing Christ in the Workplace

Representing Christ means we are committed to the task of bringing or presenting Christ to others (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

Over the last few years my wife has planned to get our car “wrapped.” When a car is wrapped, it means driving a car with corporate advertising covering every inch of the car’s surface – a driving billboard.

I envision one day coming home to our car being drenched in a logo. For me this means having to drive the car while wearing dark sunglasses and a wig.

My wife keeps running into one major problem, though. She hasn’t found a company she wants to represent. Every time she gets close to committing, she discovers something about the company that makes her say “no.”

Those desiring to represent Christ in the workplace face a similar problem.

Representing Christ in the workplace typically takes either a verbal or nonverbal expression.

Verbal representatives are not afraid of incorporating their faith into conversations when appropriate. Nonverbal expressions range from wearing religious jewelry to having religious signs up or performing charitable acts of justice.

Along with Dr. David Miller, my research colleague at Princeton University’s Faith and Work Initiative, I have studied 8,000 employees at numerous organizations. We’ve found that Protestant Christians are the most likely to verbally express their faith, while Orthodox Christians are most likely to non-verbally express their faith (a book on this research is coming soon).

The major finding is that this ancient Christian rhythm of work is almost absent from the workplace today. Very few people are willing to “wrap their life” in the person of Christ.


A Bumper-Sticker Approach to Representing Christ

For many people, the image they project of themselves is vital. Personal branding is an emerging trend. It’s highlighting your best skills to make yourself more marketable and successful.

Promoting your talents is important for career advancement. As Christians, it’s also vital that we recognize our talents as God-given. But for some, Christ doesn’t fit the way they want to be known by others. He’s bad branding.

Other Christians avoid wrapping their life with the person of Christ because they consider this relationship to be personal. For them, representing Christ in their work can be risky and awkward. It may also cause shame.

As a result, these Christians opt for a bumper-sticker approach to representing Christ. Based on our research, almost everyone takes this approach.

Wrapping Our Lives in Jesus

Here is the good news. Jesus commissioned us to go out into the world, and while we take a risk when we share something so personal, and maybe do feel a little shamed, Jesus says that he is present with us. We are not alone (Matthew 28:20).

We believe in a risen Lord. Jesus is present among us. When we represent him, verbally or non-verbally, we introduce someone to the risen Christ.

For years my wife and I lived in Seattle, and would drive over to the mountains to enjoy the dry heat of Eastern Washington. Each year we vowed not to buy more fruit than we needed. We always bought too much because of one little sales tactic: the producers gave us samples. All it took was one bite, and we were heading home with too many boxes of fruit.

In much the same way, when we tactfully represent Christ, we must never forget that he, the risen Lord, is present and can be tasted. The message, really, has nothing to do with us or our image. Just point to Jesus. He still meets people.

You may need to start with a bumper sticker, but do not be afraid to wrap Christ around your entire life. He is risen!

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