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.