As followers of Christ in today's marketplace, we often let opportunities to share our faith with co-workers slip by without saying a word.
The missed chances might come during a water-cooler conversation with someone who is concerned about a relative's terminal illness, or during a break-room discussion about a shooting at an abortion clinic. We don't know what to say, so we say nothing at all.
Or maybe we fail to mention how our relationship with Jesus impacts the way we view personal tragedies or current events because we are afraid – of being rejected, of not having all the answers, of being dubbed a religious fanatic.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Erik Rees, president of Life Impact Ministries International in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., recently completed a book titled Going Public with Confidence (Life Impact Ministries International, 1999) that is designed to help believers "go public" with their faith.
"Sharing your faith is not a cookie-cutter experience – what works for me might not work for you," he said. "But we all have one thing in common – we once were blind and now we see. And we need to be able to share that in a way that is not confrontational, that is comfortable, that exalts Christ."
Spending time in prayer and Bible reading is the antidote to the fear that keeps many people from talking about Christ, Rees said. "The more time people spend in the Word, the more confident they're going to be to go public," he said. "If I were to summarize the Bible, I would summarize it in the word `relationship' – love God and love others. We need to keep that vertical connection so we can go horizontal with confidence."
Besides the fear factor, people also fail to share their faith at work because they have not made it a priority. They let paperwork and projects crowd out relationships, and they focus more on the risks – like rejection – that accompany sharing their faith than on rewards such as the joy of helping someone receive the gift of eternal life.
Before you open your mouth to say one word about Christ, however, you must make sure your work habits and lifestyle match what you're about to say, Rees said. If, for example, you're consistently late to the office and you get upset every time your boss gives you more work, anything you say about Jesus will fall on cynical ears. But if you are conscientious in your work and handle stress graciously, your words will be credible.
Once your actions match your message, you can begin "raising the flag" about your faith, Rees said. This includes things like praying before a meal with a co-worker; telling the woman in the next office that you have peace about a serious illness because you know God is in control; or displaying a plaque of your favorite Bible verse on your desk.
These "flags" show your co-workers that your faith is important to you. They also open doors that could lead to your personal testimony. Rees recommends that all believers prepare a brief testimony that includes three key points – their lifestyle before they met Christ, how they found Jesus, and what it means to have Christ in their life today. "People can debate religion all they want, but they can't debate your personal testimony," he said.
Before he launched Life Impact Ministries International, Rees worked in corporate real estate. He was in charge of the office where he worked, and he and a co-worker once led another co-worker to Christ. But the conversion didn't happen overnight. Rees spent several months getting to know the person and learning about his personal struggles. He occasionally raised the flag by giving him sermon tapes that would apply to his life. Realizing his co-worker was scared to cross the line and accept Christ, Rees eventually shared – through his testimony – that he also had been afraid to make that step. "It released from him some anxiety – I affirmed that what he was going through was OK," Rees said.
Although the co-worker prayed to receive Christ in Rees's office, the relationship building also took place elsewhere – at the gym and during early-morning meetings over coffee, for example. In other words, it doesn't have to happen at work. If you have a fast-paced job or if your boss frowns on deep spiritual conversations during work hours, you can always talk at a ball game or a restaurant.
The following tips also could help as you go public at work:
1. Develop a top 10 list of people with whom you want to share your faith.
Identify people who are hurting, those who need to learn more about Jesus, and those who need to receive love from you. Try to meet those needs as you build relationships. "When people sense that you care about them, they're more apt to talk," Rees said.
2. Look for common ground.
You and a co-worker may have the same favorite restaurant, belong to the same health club, have children in the same grade at school, or enjoy the same professional sport. Finding common interests will help you build a friendship, which could lead to opportunities to share your faith.
3. Wait for God to open doors.
If you're trying to force Scripture into every conversation, you're not relying on the "faith factor," Rees said. "You're trying to do it on your own instead of realizing that God's going to do it through you."
4. Encourage people to consider the risks and rewards of a personal relationship with Christ, rather than focusing on do's and don'ts.
As you build bridges to Jesus, don't worry about sounding too religious. "You may think to yourself that you're sounding preachy, but you've got to believe the Holy Spirit is working in you," Rees said. "Sure, you're going to blunder, but all of those things work out in God's plan."
5. Don't pretend to have all the answers.
"If someone says, `Where does the Bible say this?' I just say, `I don't know but I'd love to find out,' " Rees said.
6. Remember that you may be a seed-planter.
You may be out of the picture by the time your co-worker comes to Christ, but don't give up. Remember what the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 3:6: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."
7. Immerse yourself in prayer and Bible study.
"Like the parable about the wise and foolish builders, you have to be anchored on a strong foundation," Rees said. "If people are being faithful in having a daily quiet time and being plugged into the Word, when that time [to share your faith] comes it's not going to be that scary."
Written by Lois Flowers, assistant editor for The Life@Work Journal. Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.