Okay. The first thing you should know is I’m in a lot of psychic pain right now, and my stomach feels like it’s about to explode. Serious stuff has befallen two people I care about, and I am—to quote Anne Lamott—“like everyone else, suffering like a sonofab—-.”
Not to mention it’s Lent, and I haven’t had chocolate or sweets in over three weeks. My soul is athirst—not just for the living God, and not just for a milkshake, but for music, which I also unofficially gave up, both in my car and in my apartment. What was I thinking? The iPod in my head is suffering from a low battery, not much volume, and no charger.
So if this column comes off a little crabby, you’ll know why. I wanted to write about how to bring Christ into the workplace, and I think I’ve just hit on my first point.
1. Be real. If we want to draw others to Christ—at work or anywhere else—reality is a great place to start. I don’t mean we should conform to the world—I mean we should cop to our own brokenness and fallibility. Have you ever been around Christians who could never admit to hardship or struggle—or who could never, ever admit being wrong? It’s pretty alienating. How can others trust us with their doubts and vulnerabilities if we won’t acknowledge our own?
2. Be ethical and outstanding at what you do. One of my friends and former co-workers, Tom, says, “I try to by a good representative of my faith very subtly: no (or very little) cursing, showing up for work on time, no crude jokes, trying to be positive, refraining from caustic attitudes and gossip, and trying to be as smart as I can be with the job that I am tasked with, and giving my employer good value for what they pay me to do.”
Tom, incidentally, works for the government—not exactly a Jesus-friendly place. Still, over time he has earned his co-workers’ respect, and engaged at least one senior colleague—an atheist/agnostic with hostile views toward Christianity—in intelligent discussions about the biblical worldview.
3. Respect others’ boundaries. This generally means not saying things like, “I’ll pray for you.” Even to fellow believers, such statements can come off as, “You need help, and I don’t,” or “Wow, it really sucks to be you.” Nobody was ever brought to Christ through condescension.
If a boss or co-worker is going through a tough time, maybe start by finding a way to lighten the load. At some point, assuming the two of you have mutual respect, you could gently ask permission to include this person in your prayers. I have done this countless times in the workplace, and by the grace of God, nobody has ever refused.
4. Cultivate a rich interior prayer life. This comes from the Catholic classic, The Soul of the Apostolate, which I just bought on Amazon. I don’t believe in book- or Bible-dipping, to use Augusten Burroughs’ phrase, but the so-called random page on which my eyes just fell contain this headline: “The Interior Life Is the Condition on Which the Fruitfulness of Active Works Depends.” Without a deep connection to the Vine, our best evangelization efforts shrivel and die, or otherwise lack power.
5. Do your part, and let the Holy Spirit do His. Or to quote my friend Annie, who allows me my Christian faith but doesn’t identify with it, “Just be it.” Meaning, just live your faith, and trust others to see it.
Sometimes the understanding of our part changes. For example, as a young adult, my friend Rick went through the I’ll-just-be-a-good-kind-person phase, where theoretically, others would be drawn to the Christ in him, and when they asked about his good, kind disposition, he would tell them about Christ.
Then a close friend of his—an in-your-face Christian—challenged Rick to be more demonstrative. This led to what he calls the Promise Keepers phase, which included rallies, the Promise Keepers bracelet, the Jesus fish on the car, participating in a men’s group (which included the in-your-face-Christian friend), and regular mentioning of Christ in the workplace.
“It wasn’t sustainable,” Rick says, “and I began to feel like a multi-level marketing person.”
He is now in the spiritual gifts phase, after completing an intensive five-week course on the subject, through his church.
“Through this class I began to realize that there is not necessarily one right way to be Christlike in the workplace,” Rick says. “My in-your-face friend is called to be a sort of modern-day prophet. He ticks off some people, but I’m also convinced that God has convicted many people’s hearts through him.”
Key phrase: “God has convicted …” Again, this is primarily His work, not ours.
“I have been given the spiritual gift of walking alongside people when they are hurting,” Rick adds. “Therefore, I am called to do a whole bunch of listening and just ‘being there’ for others. I don’t do a whole lot of ‘sharing of the Gospel’ in the formal sense. And at long last, I am okay with that.”
I can’t help thinking of one of the final lines from The Color of Fear, a documentary about racism: “And study. Always study.” As Christ-followers, we must always be growing in our faith, always growing in our capacity to hear His voice and to share Him in whatever way we’re called—both on the job and off.
Gina DeLapa is the president of Maestro Consulting Group, specializing in helping Gen Y succeed at work. She invites you to follow her on Twitter (@ginadelapa) and to visit her forthcoming website, http://www.maestroconsultinggroup.com.