While I realize that this post is long overdue, I suppose it is better late than never.
I want to take a moment to share with you a strategy or paradigm of sorts that I have used in seeking to invest myself in the mission God has given me in my workplace. Recognizing that this is something I have been developing in recent months, I know that there are some aspects to be challenged, critiqued, or contributed to, so feel free to share your thoughts.
There are four areas or facets of work that I would like to elaborate in this post. They are: the work of the mind (exegesis), the work of the heart (prayer), the work of the hands (service), and the work of the lips (gospel).
1. Work of the Mind – Exegeting Culture
Wherever you work, there is a culture to exegete (interpret and understand). There are worldviews, values, patterns of life, and beliefs that constitute the personhood of unbelievers you work with. Exegeting culture is hard work; it takes time and a willingness to listen and learn from others as a student and inquirer. Whether they are young or old, city or rural, black or white–people need to be understood. They might be nominally Catholic, devoutly atheistic, confusedly new age or syncretistic, or they might have no readily presentable religious construct. Why is all this important in the workplace? Because we are presenting a Christian message and worldview that is antithetical to the post-Christian, post-modern world in which we live, and we cannot naively assume that four spiritual laws or five points will effectively communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are going to be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within us, then we must have our minds always at work.
So as I work, I take notes–literally. With each co-worker, for instance, I would have a separate page in my notebook where I would write down things we talked about, new information I gleaned, beliefs that rose to the surface, and other stuff such as friends, music, and relevant factors. This is incredibly helpful as I will end up remembering stuff they said in the past and use as a topic for future conversation and transitioning into the gospel.
2. Work of the Heart – Prayerful Participation
I regard prayerful participation the work of the heart for two reasons: God gives us a heart for the lost when we pray, and second, prayer opens us up to see how God is working and makes us sensitive to opportunities that come our way. I can say with almost certainly that those who are not praying for unbelievers have never wept for unbelievers. Their heart is just not in it. They also are not open to what God is doing in their world.
There are times when at work you will not have opportunity to be a student and do cultural exegesis. The times when you are busy or by yourself is an excellent time to pray to God while at work. Don’t give away those moments to listening to gossip or entertaining trivial thoughts! Participate in the heavenly work of praying and interceding for those who need Jesus as God has promised to bless the means of prayer in bringing sinners to repentance and faith.
3. Work of the Hands – Service to Others
Perhaps this is the most common or practical work; and yet, I often hear of Christians doing shoddy work when it comes to the work of their hands. A lazy, slothful, and undisciplined Christian worker does considerable harm to the cause of Christ–more harm than we sometimes realize. The work of the hands often opens the door for the work of the lips, while the lack of service to others never lends you the right to be heard.
I am not merely talking about doing your job well and working diligently; rather, I am talking about working well to the point that you can not only do your job with excellence but also allow opportunity to work for others above and beyond what is expected of you. Where I work at UPS, these folks are called “internal customers.” When I do my job well and seek to help others when I have opportunity, I am serving my fellow coworker and letting them know that I care about them and want to help shoulder the burden of their work. The result is that they come to know that I care about them and desire to step in and serve them with the work of my hands.
4. Work of the Lips – Gospel Proclamation
The work of the lips in gospel proclamation is last for a reason. It is very hard to be effective here if you are not faithful in the first three mentioned above. In fact, I doubt that there would be much “work” available in this regard if the work above goes unattended and unaccounted for. And yet this is the most important part of our work, because this is where the life-changing power of the gospel goes forth. It is God’s intention that we share the message of Jesus Christ at work, but we cannot do that in an irresponsible and immature manner. In fact, I have come to learn that if you are respected and appreciated the work of your hands, your employer will have less of an issue with the work of your lips, even if they do not agree with the message your are sharing.
The greatest joys I have ever had, and the greatest times of heartache have come through sharing the gospel at work. I have seen co-workers saved, discipled, and growing in their faith, and I have also seen sinners trample over the glorious message of Jesus Christ as though it was junk mail. Scripture calls us ambassadors for Christ whereby God is passionately making his appeal for reconciliation to hell-deserving sinners through our lives and our messages. As such, our mission (work) is to represent God faithfully by declaring boldly and yet humbling, truthfully and yet gracefully the good news that He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
So that’s my working paradigm for missional work. Let me make some final thoughts.
There will be times or days where you will be able to do all four areas of work, but that is not often. Rather, one day you will find yourself given more to the work of the mind in cultural exegesis as you are surrounded by other coworkers; other days, you will be given considerable time alone where you can do the work of the heart in prayerful participation; hopefully, there will be days were you will have opportunity to do the work of the lips in gospel proclamation. But we are to do all four of them and do them well. Do you see the difference between simply showing up for work, doing what is minimally expected of you, collecting a paycheck, and going home–as compared to what I have mentioned above? That is the difference between work and missional work. The former is meaningless; the latter is missional; the former is wasted; the latter is worshipful; the former is ritualistic; the latter is redemptive; the former is self-centered; the latter is God-centered and others-directed.
This isn’t easy work. I am not a perfect model of it in action. But it is something I have put together over the past four years as a way of helping me seek to make a difference and seek first the kingdom of God at work. I just imagined that if I were to spend so many hours in one place with so many people, then certainly God could do something with me. I pray God does great things with all of us at work as we seek to participate in His mission of bringing worshipers to the throne of King Jesus!