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.
Relationships are an integral part of most jobs. Whether the job specifically requires interacting with people or not, most jobs involve working as part of a team. How we as Christians conduct ourselves in our relationships, and how we steward them, can be an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel.
Work: Part of God’s Plan
Our work is important to God both in itself and because of the people it involves. Christ came to earth to reconcile the earth and everyone in it to God. Paul explains this in Ephesians 1:9-10:
And this is [Christ’s] plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth.
The framework of the four-chapter gospel tells us that our work is intended to be part of this redemptive, restorative plan.
Furthermore, as Christians we are called through the Great Commission to “…go and make disciples of all nations…”. This is a distinct ministry to people. God loves people and we need to transmit that love to those around us.
Our everyday work is tied to the Great Commission, as Hugh Whelchel points out in How Then Should We Work? Discussing theologian John Frame’s treatment of the Great Commission, Whelchel writes,
Frame suggests that as the Cultural Mandate sent Adam and Eve to take dominion over the whole earth in God’s name, so Christ calls his disciples to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ …When people through faith embrace Christ, they should also be led to embrace the Cultural Mandate. They can then bring their new faith and desire to obey Christ into their daily work.
Once we come to faith in Christ, we are called to fulfill the Cultural Mandate, to fill the earth and exercise dominion over it.
Fulfilling both the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate while at work involves more than sharing Christ at the water cooler. There are two basic components to spiritual ministry in the workplace:
1. Doing your work well.
2. Being intentional in your relationships with those around you.
Let’s look at both of these in turn.
Doing Your Work Well
Doing your work well speaks volumes about your character. Do you act with integrity? Do you complete your tasks as expected? Failing on those counts and the many other basic components of doing your job can undermine your witness as a Christian.
Christian hypocrisy is one of the main things that keeps people from investigating Christianity and a relationship with Christ. Christians and their behavior are often scrutinized. Of course, the basic message of Christianity is that no one is perfect, which is why we need Jesus.
Yet how others view our actions is important. Jesus’ ministry was one of both word and deed. From this we understand that having our actions back up our words, and vice versa, is core to Christian outreach.
We do this not only by doing our work well, but also by taking initiative. If we’re seeking to be entrepreneurial in our jobs, we’ll be looking for ways to advance, grow, create, and innovate as well. This mindset and the flourishing it produces can bring glory to God and serve as a witness, a foretaste of the coming Kingdom.
Doing our work well also serves others. Anne Bradley has often discussed how our different gifts and talents are used to provide help and services others may not have the ability or time to provide for themselves. We use our time and talent on behalf of others as we seek to carry out our vocations.
Being Intentional In Relationships
Intentionality in relationships can speak volumes. Like Jesus, love people for who they are. Listening and spending time with co-workers outside of normal, day-to-day tasks sends the message that you care about who they are. Acknowledging birthdays, jobs well done, grabbing lunch – these are all simple things you can think of that you might like having done to you (the Golden Rule).
Not every work culture is amenable to these kinds of interactions, whether because of job constraints or requirements, office social culture, or some other reason. It’s important to act wisely and prayerfully.
Ask God to open doors to conversations about spiritual things. He cares and loves those around us more than we can fully comprehend, so we can trust these prayers will be heard.
For many Christians, coming to know Christ is a process unfolding over the course of their lives, rather than happening over the course of one single instance. We should not expect our behavior and witness to affect immediate change, or even any perceptible change while we are in one particular workplace.
Trust God for the results. God’s work in our lives and the lives of our co-workers transcends our timelines. We ultimately have to trust his perfect timing. It’s a gift from God that we are able to show up and participate in His reconciliation of the world, both through our work and our relationships.
How do you think you can carry out ministry in the workplace?