What makes a Christian’s witness compelling in the workplace? Also, how do you navigate potential compromise while participating in the democratic political process?

Hi Max, thank you for your availability this week.

I once heard a pastor comment that he regularly heard from church members how grateful they were that he was doing evangelism (as they felt unqualified) and he replied - ‘no one wants to talk to a pastor about Jesus - you’re the evangelists!’ It was a humorous but perhaps accurate summary of how we can all talk ourselves out of evangelism.

Could you share a few comments/insights on what makes a Christian’s witness compelling in the workplace?

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Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute Carson, and thank you for your question.

I agree with the pastor to mention. All followers of Jesus are evangelists. It’s not something we get to outsource. Our only choice is whether we are committed evangelists or uncommitted evangelists. As we search for guidance in our approach to effective and obedient evangelism in the workplace – as ever – it is the Word of God itself that gives us our starting point. In Acts 17, Paul goes to Athens and begins by speaking at a Jewish synagogue. He then goes and shares the gospel in the marketplace. He then goes and does the same at the Areopagus. In every instance, we see the following:

(i) Paul speaks to the people where they are, physically
(ii) Paul peaks to the people where they are, intellectually
(iii) He is neither judgmental nor condescending
(iv) He finds common-ground for the Gospel in their worldview and channels the Gospel through that common ground.

Of course, these principles are not confined to evangelism in the workplace. They are arguably, universal guides for sharing our faith anywhere and with anyone. However, the workplace offers a unique setting through which authentic friendships can be built and invested in. These relationships can then form the backdrop against which all four of Paul’s principles can be brought into practical effect. This backdrop is underpinned by the fifth – and arguably most important – principle:

(v) Our demonstration of the love of Christ in how we behave in our workplaces is our most powerful platform apologetic platform for evangelism (John 13:35).

Our workplaces offer us the unique opportunity to bring all five of these principles together. To engage with people where they are, we must actively and genuinely engage with who they are – their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their questions. We must also be patient and responsive – never in a hurry. A believer who thinks of their colleagues and friends as ‘evangelism projects’ is about as obvious as a door-to-door salesman and as likely to succeed as a salad bar in a KFC restaurant.

Of course, evangelism in the workplace needs to be done sensitively and with respect to regulations and guidelines of your employing organisation and any other relevant laws and ethical boundaries. While it is up to each of us to be appraised of these, the conversations I have alluded to thus far are best done ‘in the margins’ – at work social events, a beer at the pub, a dinner-party, a weekend brunch – and we must especially be respectful of any perceived or actual impropriety that may arise when we share our faith with those whom we directly manage or lead professionally.

That being said, all five principles need not be watered down in how they are made real in our working lives. As Paul was, we must be strategic and yet genuine, tactical and yet authentic, intentional and yet loving.

As a great preacher said, the Gospel is like a beautiful diamond and it shines in different ways depending on the angle at which you hold it. The workplace offers us the opportunity to share our faith-story, answer questions and invite people to Christ – all the while praying for the Spirit to lead us in how best to hold up the Gospel so its unstoppable light shines into people’s lives in a relevant way.

Yes, being carefully vocal with our faith in the workplace may seem difficult. And yes, we may come up against social, emotional and professional adversity. However, we know what Shakespeare’s Duke Senior said about adversity: It’s ugly and venomous like a toad but holds a precious jewel in its head! The only place that our colleagues can find the fulfilment, the satisfaction, the peace and flourishing they have always looked for, is in the love of Jesus Christ So let us build authentic relationships at work. Let us channel the Gospel graciously, respectfully (1 Peter 3:15), strategically and thoughtfully (Acts 17). Let our workplaces be a place where our faith is lived out – where God’s glory is proclaimed and where His Kingdom is advanced.

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Hi Max,

I have a follow-up question for you based on these comments:

The Kingdom of God is necessarily epi-political. That is to say, it is not aligned with any political party, movement or tradition. It’s always interesting and sad to see both Christians and non-Christians try and squeeze the Gospel into man-made political paradigms or political party documents, Ultimately, it doesn’t work. The Gospel is too big, too transcendant and far too important to be reduced to something as temporal as human politics. Accordingly, no political party perfectly reflects the Kingdom of God.

It seems to me that politics is often described as ‘the art of compromise.’

For instance, often large legislative bills bundle together many different priorities. Some of them may be ones that a Christian politician can vote for in good conscience. Others may be ones that a Christian must oppose.

Likewise, from the voter perspective, a candidate for political office may have a platform that combines that which is commendable with agenda items that are to be resisted. Or their character and leadership may have certain flaws that do not reflect the virtues of a disciple of Jesus.

How do you navigate the inevitable nature of at least the appearance - and possibly the reality- of ethical compromise when participating in a democratic political process? Is it best to be political mavericks or independents, shut out of the options for power that come with loyalty to a particular party?

Thanks for your follow-up Carson.

You’re absolutely right in identifying the reality that in politics, there are often aspects of a politician’s or political party’s policies that we might struggle with as Christians. Irritatingly, that is an inescapable reality of the brokenness of humankind and the fact that politics invariably involves people - both as politicians and as voters.

It’s a cliche but it’s a useful starting point: ‘We are called to live in the world but not to be of the world.’ It is clear from the words of Jesus and the teaching of Paul that civil authority is there for a reason and we are called on to be engaged in political discourse but to remember that our ultimate allegiance is to the government of God, not to governments of man. Accordingly, discipleship in a political context includes but is not limited to the following:

  1. Praying for our politicians and our civic leaders (regardless of whether we voted for them or not).
  2. Being prayerful, thoughtful and gracious about deciding whom we support and explaining why we support them.
  3. Acknowledging that - because of the intrinsic brokenness of all people - sometimes this means that we will feel led to vote for people and for political parties who are not perfect.

In reality there is never a perfect choice when it comes to voting. Ultimately, if we are looking for the perfect political candidate, we won’t find one. The fleas always come with the dog. This is because people are imperfect and the reality of civil government and public policy in a free society of diverse beliefs is such that there will always be aspects of our political institutions and players that do not cohere with Christian principles. Furthermore we will also encounter situations in which we disagree with other Christians about the desirability of certain political parties and political candidates. Once again, this is ok and to be expected. Civil governments are not God’s priority. While He wants us to live out our discipleship and advocate for Christian principles, the Bible is not written as a public policy textbook. What’s important is that not just the way we vote but the way we engage in political discussion, defend our positions, advocate for public policy positions and run for office, reflects our ultimate status as citizens of God’s kingdom.

Hope this is useful for anyone out there with an interest in politics or perhaps even a calling from God to run for office.

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