Monthly Archives: February 2014

Note from the editor: This blog post by Greg Gilbert originally appeared here at The Gospel Partnerships blog on January 16, 2014.


Workplace Evangelism

Don’t you wish telling people about Jesus were as easy as the stories make it sound sometimes?  I mean, it would be fantastic if people would just walk up to you at work and say, “There’s something different about you.  Tell me why!”  Sadly, though, occurrences like that aren’t very common. Most of the time, we can be as kind, gentle, loving, caring, humble, patient, good, and downright wonderful as we want.  And still our co-workers will just assume that we especially enjoyed our breakfast that morning.  There’s an old saying often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:  “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.”  That sounds nice, but it’s nonsense.  You simply can’t preach the Gospel without words.  After all, the Gospel is good news, and that means that sharing it requires saying something!  If the people around you—in your neighborhood, in your workplace—are ever going to know the Gospel message, they’re not going to learn it just from watching your life well-lived; you’re going to have to tell them.

But how do you do that, especially in an environment where taking time out to talk about “religion” is probably not well received?  Happily, being a Christian—and talking about Jesus—at work doesn’t have to be an awkward, obnoxious affair.  Simply by remaining aware that even on the job you are an ambassador for the King, you can both create and take advantage of opportunities to introduce people to Jesus.  Here are some suggestions for how we as Christians—as Christians who work—can share the Gospel with people at work.

1.  Just do good work as a Christian.  When you get a chance to speak the Gospel to one of your co-workers, make sure you’ve already been backing that up by being a good and faithful worker yourself.  After all: whatever you do for your job, the fact is that you are ultimately doing it for the King!  In light of that, build a reputation as a person who works with purpose, creativity, kindness, and encouragement.  Then when you do find an opportunity to have a Gospel conversation, people will see reflections in you of the character of your great King.

2.  Learn to put God on the table.  Yep, just throw Him out there in your conversations!  Let people know in natural, easygoing, confident ways that you are a Christian.  When somebody asks you what you did over the weekend, for crying out loud, mention that you went to church!  When someone invites you to do something outside the office and you can’t make it because of an engagement with your church, don’t just mumble, “Sorry, I can’t come. I’m already engaged.”  Say, “Sorry I can’t come because I’m scheduled to work at my church’s event this weekend.”  You don’t have to be irresponsible or obnoxious about it.  Just make sure you identify yourself publicly with Jesus.

3.  Build relationships beyond the office.  Strive to break through the personal/professional boundaries that can form between you and your co-workers.  Of course, you shouldn’t let your relationships become inappropriate in any way.  But if you’re going to share the Gospel with someone, eventually you have to be able to talk to them about something other than work.  So break the barrier and just ask someone to grab a cup of coffee after work.  Ask questions that go beyond the shallow chitchat that can mark the workplace.  Show people that you care about them as people, and not merely as workers.

4.  Use the witness of the church.  As you build relationships with people, look for ways to involve other Christians from your church as well.  One of the greatest witnesses to the Gospel on the planet is the love that Christians have for one another.  If you and some friends from church are going to spend time together, invite one of your co-workers along.  Invite them to worship services or Bible studies.  Let people see what it’s like for a group of Christians to gather together and take their faith seriously.  Many non-Christians have never seen anything like that before, and experiencing it can raise all kinds of good questions in their minds.

Workplace evangelism gets a bad rap sometimes.  People assume that it has to be a tactless, awkward disruption.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can do good work, make your faith known, talk to your co-workers about their lives, and invite them to meet other Christians—and it can be as natural as simply becoming friends with someone.  As an ambassador of the Kingdom of Jesus, you should always be wise and winsome.  Look for opportunities to make it known that you’re a follower of Jesus, but don’t be arrogant or obnoxious about it.  Take advantage of openings in conversations and be willing to defend your faith when necessary, but do so in a way that attracts people rather than repelling them.

Will conversations about spiritual things sometimes be awkward?  Yes, of course, and Christians have to be ready for that.  But think about it.  God may have deployed you in your particular job, with all its potential for awkward conversations, precisely because He wants you to handle those kinds of conversations.  So be wise and winsome, but don’t let that morph into worried and wimpy.  Speak about the King, even at work.  After all, He’s already promised to be with us to the very end of the age!


Greg (@greggilbert) is the Senior Pastor of Third  Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He earned his B.A. from Yale University and his M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of What is the Gospel?, co-author of Preach: Theology Meets Practice, co-author of What Is the Mission of the Church?, and most recently, author of The Gospel at Work. He also often writes for  9Marks Ministries.


Note from the editor: This blog post by Mike McKinley originally appeared here in the November-December 2013 issue of the 9Marks Journal. HT: The Gospel Coalition


Let’s be honest. When churches talk about “reaching out across socioeconomic boundaries,” they are talking about middle class (and wealthier) people reaching out to poorer folks. You don’t see many rundown churches in economically depressed areas starting outreach programs for Volvo-driving soccer moms who live in housing developments with names like “The Pines at Oakbrooke Gables.” I don’t know, maybe they should.

In any case, a lot of churches find the socioeconomic barrier to be the most difficult one to overcome in their evangelism. Ethnic barriers, by contrast, are more obvious, and mature congregations will sensitively work to ensure they don’t create division in the church. But so-called class differences can be more subtle. People from different socioeconomic backgrounds might look the same and speak the same language but still have a very difference experience of daily life.

Few LessonsSoup_Kitchen

Here are a few things I’ve learned from leading a church that’s trying to reach out to folks from different backgrounds.

1. We’re not all that different.

It’s often intimidating to try and build relationships with people who experience life differently, especially in things that can seem so important: clothing, work, education, expectations, living arrangements. But in reality, such matters are a tiny fraction of what makes us who we are.

You probably have a tremendous amount in common even with people who seem very different from you. Everyone—perhaps with the exception of a few Brits I’ve known—wants to be loved, known, and accepted. We all love our children and are grateful to people who are kind to them. We are all prone to worry about what the future holds. But most importantly, we are all “in Adam” and in desperate need of a Savior (1 Cor. 15:22).

Churches who want to reach out across socioeconomic boundaries need to make their first step toward others on the basis of these commonalities. It’s fairly simple: treat other people with unfeigned sympathy and respect, as fellow travelers to the grave (to steal a phrase from Dickens). This approach will help prevent the sense of condescension that spoils a lot of well-meaning attempts to reach across class lines.

2. It helps to be a blessing.

You really don’t want to build your outreach solely on the basis of giving people things—food, money, gas cards. Those things can be helpful, but if that’s all you do, you’re giving people the chance to come for just the handout and remain unchallenged by the source of the love behind the handout. Still, you can use resources the Lord has given you to help build connections with others. A few examples:

  • Christianity Explored course for people from the local homeless shelter begins with a home-cooked meal in a church member’s home. For some people living in a shelter, it’s real blessing to eat a home-cooked meal in someone’s dining room. It feels normal; it feels good. It’s much easier to start conversations and build relationships over a good meal.
  • A grandmother is opposed to her child participating in our youth outreach because she’s suspicious of Americans. When we dropped her granddaughter off after a meeting, we sent her with a couple of bags of groceries from our food pantry. After that, we were greeted with smiles when we dropped by to pick up her granddaughter.
  • A local restaurant closed down for an evening and asked us to invite poor and needy people in for a meal. About 75 people enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner, an experience they’d never have been able to afford. Members of the church built relationships over laughter and good food. The gospel was presented, and an evangelistic Bible study grew out of that dinner.

In each of these cases, we leveraged our resources to bless people, connect with them, and eventually share the gospel.

3. Environment matters.

If you want to reach out to people less affluent and privileged than you, look around at your church and your everyday life. Try to imagine how someone less fortunate than you (sorry, I’m running out of euphemisms) might perceive them.

Do your sermon illustrations assume everyone has been to college? Or owns a car? Or has access to a computer or cable TV or designer clothing? These things speak volumes to people about whether or not they’re truly welcome to be part of your congregation.

Is your house—its size, neighborhood, furnishings—intimidating to someone with few resources? Would it immediately make them feel uncomfortable or shabby? If so, you will probably have to work through extra layers of defensiveness in order to reach people.

Is your home in a location where poorer people (who may not have a car) can walk or take public transportation? If not, it will be more difficult to be hospitable.

4. Know who you are talking to when explaining the gospel.

Finally, if you want to reach out to people with different backgrounds, consider how you’re explaining the gospel. To be clear, the message must remain unaltered. All men, women, and children need to hear of their sin, God’s holiness, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the need for repentance and faith. But you may need to find new methods of delivering that message for people who aren’t comfortable with the English language or with reading as a way of gaining information.

If I’m sharing the gospel with an educated professional, I may well invite him to read a book with me in order to help him investigate the claims of Christ. And some poorer folks with education also enjoy reading. But we need other ways of communicating for people who aren’t readers. Two examples: use videos (like Christianity Explored) or stories (I like the ones being used at Soma Church) to communicate the movements and themes of Scripture.


Mike McKinley is the author of Church Planting is for Wimps (Crossway, 2010) and Am I Really a Christian? (Crossway, 2011).

JD GreearNote from the editor: This blog post by J. D. Greear originally appeared here at Christianity Today on January 13, 2014


We need to equip people to live out Christian discipleship in the workplace. Small-group leaders are especially suited for this because they minister to laypeople every week in their groups. Most think about Christian discipleship as something that happens inside the church. Committing to Jesus means volunteering in the church nursery, attending a small group, being a greeter, going on a mission trip, serving at the soup kitchen, or giving money to the church. Work, on the other hand, is simply a necessity that must be endured to put bread on the table. God’s primary interest in our jobs, it seems, is that we tithe our salaries.

Is it possible, though, to make our work “Christian”? Unfortunately, when we think about people who try to do this, all kinds of disturbing images come to mind:

  • Opening a beauty salon called “A Cut Above” or a coffee shop called “He Brews”
  • Defiantly saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” in the checkout line
  • Sneaking “Have a blessed day” into a salutation or in our e-mail signature

Perhaps you remember the 2004 incident of an American Airlines pilot who, in his pre-flight announcements, asked all the Christians on board the plane to raise their hands. He then suggested that during the flight the other passengers talk to those people about their faith. Understandably, it freaked a lot of people out. The pilot of your airplane probably shouldn’t be talking about whether you’re ready to meet Jesus just before takeoff.

While we might think it’s a nice idea to combine our work and faith, we have a hard time believing we could do it and keep our jobs. But the Bible actually has a lot to say about our work. For instance, the majority of the parables that Jesus told had a workplace context. And of the 40 miracles recorded in the book of Acts, 39 of them occurred outside of a church setting. God seems as concerned with displaying his power outside the walls of the church as he does within it.

Five Qualities that Make Work “Christian”

As I’ve studied what the Bible says about this, I’ve found five qualities that make work “Christian.” These five qualities are only possible if our work is done as a response to God through Christ.

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, he told him “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). And that was before the curse. Work was not a punishment inflicted on Adam for his sin. It was part of God’s original design. The Hebrew word abad, translated “work,” means to prepare or develop. It shares the same root word as “worship.” Adam was put in the Garden to be a co-creator. He was to take the raw materials of the earth and develop them for the glory of God and the benefit of humans. Just like contractors take the raw materials of sand and cement and use them to create buildings, and artists take color or music and arrange them into art, we are called to take God’s good creation and make something even better with it. When we do this, God is himself at work through us.

If our work is done for God, it should be done according to the highest standards of excellence. Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24). In other words, we serve a higher boss than our employer; we work for a greater reward than our salary. In everything we do, we put on display the worthiness of our God.

This is one of the things that should set Christians apart. We do our work for the glory of God and how we do it points to an unseen kingdom better than recognition and salaries. The quality of our work should point to the glory of the God. Whether we teach or mop floors or write contracts, we do all to the glory of God.

Work that is Christian will conform to the highest standards of ethics, because it seeks to demonstrate the justice and integrity of God. Business ethics really do matter because in them we are displaying the character of God in whose image we are made and according to whose pattern we create. Proverbs 11:1 says that unjust balances—cut corners, fudged balance sheets, skimped time cards, and so on—are an abomination to God.

If Christians were to act in their jobs with equity and fairness, that alone would set us apart. But the gospel takes us even further. Those who have experienced the gospel become like Christ. We begin to leverage our places of strength to bless and serve others, like Jesus leveraged his for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). A difficult question you must consider is: Where would I be if Jesus had approached his potential and his assets in the way I am approaching mine? We must follow in Jesus’ example to leverage our lives for the kingdom of God. It isn’t a special assignment for a sacred few. It’s a call for all disciples of Jesus.

I recently heard a story about a young college graduate who landed a job on Madison Avenue in one of the advertising world’s most prestigious firms. Shortly after she got there, she made a mistake that cost the company nearly $25,000. Madison Avenue is not a world defined by grace, and she expected to be fired by the end of the day. Her boss, however, went before his board of directors and convinced them to allow the blame for her mistake to fall on him instead. When this young woman heard what her boss had done, she came to him in tears. She asked him why, in that cutthroat atmosphere, he would choose to cut his own throat for her. He answered by sharing that because of the great grace that Jesus had shown him, he wanted to display a similar mercy to others when he could.

That’s what redemption-displaying means for individuals within the workplace, for those who are living by kingdom principles. You think about blessing and lifting up the poor in your business. And that doesn’t mean you have to be anti-capitalism or anti-profit. It simply means you think not just about personal profits in your business, but the blessing of everyone involved.

Work done by disciples of Jesus should be done with a view toward the Great Commission—both in the workplace and around the world. Billy Graham says the next Great Awakening will likely take place in the workplace. Here’s why: less and less people in our culture have the church as part of their lives. Steve Timmis, a pastor friend in London, said that 70 percent of British people say they have no intention of ever attending a church service. Not at Easter. Not for marriages. Not for funerals or Christmas Eve services. 70 percent. He writes,

That means new styles of worship will not reach them. Fresh expressions of church will not reach them. Alpha and Christianity Explored courses will not reach them. Great first impressions will not reach them. Churches meeting in pubs will not reach them … . The vast majority of unchurched and de-churched people would not turn to the church, even if faced with difficult personal circumstances or in the event of national tragedies. It is not a question of “improving the product” of church meetings and evangelistic events. It means reaching people apart from meetings and events.

We have to equip our people to share their faith in the marketplace because it’s the only place we’re going to encounter the unchurched! To empower people to share their faith, we must take away their excuses. We must help people see that they are equipped—by God himself—and that it doesn’t have to add something extra to their schedules. Tim Chester says, “Evangelism is doing normal life with gospel intentionality.” Instead of asking people to do something extra, we must help people look for opportunities to incorporate their faith into their current work. A great place to start is asking people to pray for the people they encounter regularly. It might be praying for the people in your company, the teachers and students at your school, the construction workers on your team, or the children and parents at the soccer game. Pray in general and pray specifically when the opportunity arises. My dad used to get to work early and walk the floor of his plant, memorizing each person’s name, and asking people how he could pray for them.

Beyond empowering people to share their relationship with God in their workplaces, we have to give them a vision to use their business to carry the gospel around the world. I believe the next wave of missions will be on the wings of business. Most of the countries in the world in most need of a gospel presence are also those in the greatest need of business development. If you lay out a map of world poverty and overlay it with one showing the places in the world that are the most unreached, you’ll see an incredible amount of overlap.

The nation of Iran is one example. Iran is an unreached area in desperate need of the gospel. There are 10 million seeking employment in Iran, a number that could eclipse 20 million within the next 15 years. Iran can be reached through the efforts of average Christian businesspeople taking their skills and expertise overseas, and there is huge biblical support for this.

In Acts, Luke seems to go out of his way to demonstrate that the gospel got around the world faster on the wings of businesspeople than it did even with the Apostles! Luke notes that the first time the church went everywhere, the Apostles were not included (Acts 8:1). Additionally, the longest sermon with the most powerful effect (the conversion of Saul) was preached by a layman, Stephen. Steven Neill, in History of Christian Missions, notes that of the three great church-planting centers in the ancient world (Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome), not one was founded by an Apostle.

Globalization, revolutions in technology, and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access to the peoples of the world. Maybe God made you good at a specific skill so you could take it to places where he is not yet known. And maybe it won’t be the most lucrative bottom line for you, but it will open up a whole nation to the gospel and give you an inheritance in an eternal kingdom. One man in our church was involved in a growing sports marketing firm. When he found out his firm had a branch in the Middle East, he asked to be transferred. He got to go as a missionary on the company’s dime and spreads the gospel as he trains others to do meaningful jobs.

Not every Christian, of course, will be led to perform their business in an unreached area. But disciples of Jesus should always do their work with a missional vision. That requires two things:

  • Do what you do well for the glory of God.
  • Do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.

Isn’t that a missional vision we should all adopt? If we care about discipling our group members, we must equip them to make their faith part of their work. They must learn to see all things through the lens of following Jesus. Even—perhaps especially—their work.


J. D. Greear (@jdgreear) is the lead pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina and the co-author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary; copyright 2014 by Christianity Today and the author.