Bethany Jenkins from the Redeemer Centre for Faith and Work posted this excellent reflection on the sharing faith in the marketplace. ?Following is a summary but you are encouraged to read the full article here.
How easy do you find it to let your colleagues know that you are a Christian let alone speak to them about Jesus? ?As Jenkins points out, for many of the people we work with, “…??believing in a God-man who was raised from the dead is tantamount in some people?s minds to believing in Santa?it maybe an innocent delusion for children, but it?s a foolish, or even dangerous, conviction for adults. Such a perspective often makes it hard for Christians in … to be open about their faith.”
Drawing on the experience of Israel and the exile to Babylon, Jenkins argues that we need to develop an ‘exilic mindset’ – citizens of Babylon, aliens and strangers rather than living in Jerusalem with all its comforts and familiarity. ?This means:
- We are in the minority, not the majority
- Our identities are challenged, not assumed
- We?cultivate servant hearts, not triumphalistic spirits
In ‘Babylon’ we can easily?become quite reluctant about sharing our faith altogether for fear of adverse ramifications. ?In these circumstances, Daniel is a fine example – the public servant who for nearly 70 years under a series of different rulers managed to walk the fine line between not sharing his faith with everyone he met and at every opportunity but not shying away from the fact that his primary allegiance was not to the King of Babylon. ?
Jenkins provides five helpful guidelines for finding the right balance as Christians in ‘Babylon’:
- Be patient.?“Unlike many contexts, work is a place we go to every day and?for the most part?with the same people. We don?t have to talk about our faith every time it comes up because the context of work gives us the ability to take a long-view, relationship-building approach. I think of Jesus and the three years he spent in public ministry?sometimes he spoke (e.g., John 4:7-26), but other times he didn?t (e.g., Matthew 14:1-23; 27:11-14).”
- Do my work. And do it well. “Some Christians view work primarily as a means of personal evangelism; it?s not. Work matters. God doesn?t just love lawyers; he loves justice, too (Psalm 33:5). He doesn?t just care about florists; he delights in flowers, too (Luke 12:27). The content of our work?not just our relationships at work?matters. What we do expresses the fullness of God?s character to the world.”
- Serve my boss.?“Most employees report to someone else?even CEOs report to investors. Not only does the Lord call us to prefer others in all of life (Philippians 2:3), he also calls us to serve our bosses in the context of work (Ephesians 6:5-8). If there comes a point where the will of our boss directly conflicts with the will of the Lord, then Daniel offers another good example?he and his employer found a creative solution that didn?t compromise his faith or his work (Daniel 1:12-14).”
- Acknowledge the Lord. “Yet there came a time when Daniel?s will and his employer?s will were impossible to reconcile, and Daniel chose to acknowledge the Lord no matter the consequences (Daniel 6).?My friend Mark, too, believed in God?s promise that, if he acknowledged the Lord before others, then the Lord would acknowledge him before the Father. He took God at his word. Indeed, the time for us to use words to share the gospel will come for all of us. And when it comes, those words will be far better received when I?ve been patient, done my work well, and served my boss.””
- Trust the Spirit.?“No act of evangelism has ever saved anyone. It is God who initiates and saves, not us. We cultivate faith; we don?t create it. God uses us to draw out the Spirit that he has already sent in the hearts of others. Trusting the Spirit enables us to be patient, do our work well, serve our boss, and know when and how to acknowledge the Lord.”
- In my own experience (which will be different from the New York context that Jenkins writes from), I have always found it quite straightforward to share the fact that I am a person of faith usually be mentioning how I have spent the weekend. ?Letting people know that joining other Christians at a church building on Sunday is a priority for you fits naturally into the classic Australian conversation starter, “What are you doing on the weekend?”
- I also resonate with Jenkins first guidelines – be patient. It is only since I retired from my last position that I have started being asked about my faith by some former colleagues. ?I make a point of catching up regularly so that (a) I can keep up the relationship with people I respect, and (b) so that there will continue to be opportunities for questions of faith to be explored. ?
How have you found it best to ‘go public’ in your workplace?
Murray Wright 12 April 2014.
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