Serve Where God Plants You (Matthew 28:19)
Do you ever feel like a second-class Christian when missionaries visit your church and tell of their service in far-off and sometimes hostile lands? I am occasionally approached by fellow believers who feel this way. These are good, consistent Christians who want to follow the admonition in Matthew 28:19 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” However, God's plans for them don’t include working on the mission field in foreign lands.
One such individual approached me recently. I will call him Gary. Gary admires missionaries and would like to serve on the mission field himself, but has obligations that prevent this choice. He has a growing family to support, a small business to run, and an aging mother he takes care of. Although he is a church deacon who supports several mission programs sponsored by his church and a Sunday School teacher, Gary feels he isn’t doing enough.
My message to Gary and anyone else who feels this way is simple. Serve where God plants you. Opportunities abound to be a missionary for Christ and they are right in front of you every day. One of the best places to serve as a missionary for Christ is where you work. Every day at work you interact with people who don’t know Christ. You can be a missionary for these people, but you have to be smart in how you go about it. You have to heed the advice in Matthew 10:16: “…I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Sometimes the mission field can be a hostile place for Christians. In the same way, the workplace can be hostile to Christians, especially those who want to be good witnesses for Christ. Anti-Christian bias coupled with the suppressive rules of political correctness are making living one’s faith at work a challenge. This is why it’s important for Christians to become adept at witnessing without words or, said another way, witnessing by example. 2 Corinthians 5:20 makes clear that we are to be “…ambassadors for Christ…” This means we are to serve where God plants us. If he planted you in the workplace, be a workplace missionary.
Employers might discourage open displays of Christianity on the job, but they aren’t likely to discourage a Christ-like example. Why? Because setting a Christ-like example at work means being honest, dependable, diligent, prompt, resourceful, and a good team player. It also means preventing conflict instead of instigating it, solving problems instead of causing them, maintaining a positive attitude instead of complaining, treating coworkers with respect instead of indifference, seeking to please customers instead of ignoring them, being selfless instead of selfish, and persevering instead of giving up when the job becomes difficult.
Witnessing without words or witnessing by example is an approach to being a workplace missionary that is both Biblically sound and workplace appropriate. It is the approach I recommend to Christians I counsel concerning how to be missionaries for Christ at work. After all, the best way to display your Christian beliefs has always been by example. To be a good workplace missionary—an effective witness for Christ on the job—learn to witness without words. Practice witnessing by example. Over time your good example might lead unbelieving coworkers to approach you for wise counsel or advice. When this happens, be ready to explain the Gospel to them.
To grasp the concept of the workplace missionary, it is necessary to understand three key truths I often share with Christians in the workplace:
You do not have to serve in faraway lands to be a missionary for the Lord. As Christians, we are called to serve wherever there are people who don’t know God or, worse yet, deny him. This is the message in Matthew 28:19. The workplace is fertile ground for Satan’s nefarious schemes. Consequently, it is critical that you provide the leavening influence of a Christ-like example for your coworkers. The Lord put you in the workplace. Therefore, approach it as a mission field and serve where God planted you.
Believers who consistently exemplify a Christ-like example coupled with professional competence are the best witnesses at work. Unbelievers in the workplace need to be exposed to the Gospel just as badly as those in faraway lands. Setting a Christ-like example in every aspect of your work is a powerful way to spread the Gospel among unbelieving coworkers. Developing professional competence is an effective way to gain the credibility needed to influence coworkers for Christ. This credibility will make it more likely that unbelieving coworkers will pay attention to your Christ-like example. Further, Christians who set a consistent example of personifying the Christian work ethic will be assets to any employer.
Setting a Christ-like example in the workplace means working with integrity, displaying a positive work ethic, treating your coworkers with Christian love, maintaining a positive attitude, being a good steward, and exemplifying servant leadership. Setting this kind of example every day in your work will personify the Gospel for unbelieving coworkers. Combining it with professional competence will advance your career by making you the kind of employee organizations dream of having. The more effective you are at doing your job, the more effective you will be at witnessing to unbelieving coworkers.
God wants all of His children to spread the Gospel. He does not limit this charge to missionaries, pastors, and priests. Those who effectively pursue careers in secular fields while consistently setting a Christ-like example are doing missionary work. They are workplace missionaries. This is what the noted theologian, Charles Spurgeon, meant when he said words to the effect that all Christians are either missionaries or imposters.
Spurgeon did not mean that we should all travel to faraway lands to spread the Gospel or that we are imposters if we don’t. Rather, he meant that we are to be missionaries wherever God plants us. If God planted you in the workplace, be a workplace missionary. Let your example be a daily sermon for coworkers. It might be the only sermon they ever hear.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.