David L. Goetsch
Workplace Evangelism: Reflecting the Image of Christ in a Setting That Rejects Him
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
Counseling clients often bring work-related problems involving their faith to me. The specifics surrounding their problems differ from client to client, but the fundamental problem is typically the same: How can I live out my faith in a work setting that is unfriendly to Christianity without damaging my career? This was the problem confronting Marie when she approached me for counseling. Marie knew she owed her life to Christ. Upon losing her husband to cancer, she suddenly found herself a widow and the sole breadwinner for a family of three young boys. Paralyzed by grief and despair, she didn’t know what to do or how to cope.
Six months after her husband’s death, Marie hit rock bottom emotionally. In despair, she contemplated suicide. At this low point in her life, she had nothing left to hold onto but her faith in Christ, so Marie held onto that with every ounce of strength she could muster. With the help of prayer and the support of her church, she finally turned a corner and started rebuilding her life. This is when she approached me for counseling.
Just before the life insurance money ran out, Marie was able to find a job. To her surprise Marie found she was good at her new job. What’s more, she liked it. Things began to look up for her, but there was one fly in the ointment: the environment she worked in was not
friendly toward Christianity; in fact, just the opposite. Her supervisor’s often repeated motto was, “Check your religion at the door—it has no place in my department.” There were to be no framed Bible verses on the walls of offices, no Bibles on desks, no prayer meetings in the break room, and no evangelizing during work hours.
Through quiet inquiry, Marie learned that there had been a blow-up involving religion in the office just months before she was hired. Several members of the department participated in a bible study before work. They met in the company’s breakroom. The number of participants grew steadily and before long most members of the department were involved. Over time the Bible study grew longer and longer such that eventually it was eating into company time.
Employees became so intensely involved in the Bible study that it began to run over into the work day several times a week. To make matters worse, participants spent an inordinate amount of time during the work day talking about that week’s Scripture lesson instead of doing their jobs. When several projects were late in being completed, the supervisor was chastised by higher management for letting the Bible study “get out of hand.” Concerned for his own job security, the supervisor called a halt to the Bible study and instituted his “check-your-religion-at-the-door policy.” This is the environment Marie walked into when she was hired.
Marie was torn. Her faith was important to her, but so was her job. She needed the job to support her family. When Marie distributed a flyer among her coworkers about an upcoming event at her church, the supervisor exploded. Marie felt certain her job was in jeopardy. The supervisor had also noticed that Marie spent her lunch hours praying with
coworkers who were hurting. This usually took place in her office. His message to Marie was blunt and to the point: “Check your religion at the door or find another job somewhere else.”
Before long Marie found herself hiding her Christianity at work. She stopped praying with coworkers and stopped inviting them to join her for church activities, all the while feeling guilty about compromising her beliefs. When the double life she had begun to live became too much of a burden, Marie scheduled a meeting with me for counseling. She told me frankly, “I want to shine my light at work, but can’t afford to lose this job or to run the risk of not getting future raises or promotions. I am barely making ends meet as it is.”
I assured Marie that her dilemma was one faced by a lot of Christians in the workplace, but that she need not despair. The problem had a solution; one that the Lord would bless. Before getting into the details of the solution, I made an important point that Marie and all Christians who work need to understand. When you go to work, your goal must be to do the best job possible for your employer. You do not honor the Lord by spending the time you are being paid to work engaged in other activities, even if those activities are well-intended. Yes, you are supposed to reach out to the unsaved, but how you go about it at work is important. Evangelizing by example is the approach I recommend.
Setting an example for coworkers of working hard and working smart is what I call “workplace evangelism.” You reflect the image of Christ for coworkers by personifying the Christian work ethic. This means you are prompt, dependable, honesty, industrious, positive, and willing to persevere when the job is difficult. It means you commit to getting the job done right, on time, and within budget every time and all the time.
Companies might get away with passing “no-religion” policies at work, but they can’t pass policies against setting a good Christian example. Why would they even want to? What employer doesn’t want personnel who get the job done right, on time, and within budget? When you reflect the image of Christ by how you do your work, treat coworkers and customers, solve problems, respond to crises, and persevere over time, you are being a workplace evangelist, you are reflecting the image of Christ, and you are pleasing Christ without violating corporate policies or neglecting your work. Remember what is written in 1 Peter 2:12: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may see your good deeds and Glorify God on the day of visitation.”
Reflect the image of Christ by how you do your work, comport yourself on the job, and interact with coworkers and customers, and before long people will begin to approach you for advice because of your example. Meet with them before or after work, or take them out to lunch. Be prepared to explain the Christian work ethic to them and its origins in the Bible. You might begin with the following verses: Colossians 3:23, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Proverbs 10:4, and Proverbs 16:3.
I shared all of this with Marie, and she put it to good use immediately. Marie is now an effective workplace evangelist whose consistent example of applying the Christian work ethic has led to a big promotion at work and a solid following of coworkers who join her after work for a Bible study at her church. She is being true to her faith and true to the employer who pays her.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com