I’m a little troubled to realise I’ve been full time work for 26 years – how did that happen? I’ve been in retail & direct sales, recruitment and employee relations, fraud prevention and leadership coaching – an odd assortment with a few changes of direction. These are some things I’ve learned along the way…
It might sound obvious, but I haven’t always done it, especially when I was younger. There’s no point in being a parody of someone else. If you are going to have influence at work it will be because people like and respect you. There may be aspects of your personality that you wish were different – more confident, less gobby, less sensitive, more understanding. People relate to real people. We are all flawed, don’t use it as an excuse to not represent Jesus.
I find it really helpful to let people know I’m a Christian early days. I don’t mean that my introduction is “Hi, I’m Stuart and I’m a Christian”. But more, in the Monday morning chat about what folks did at the weekend, I’d mention that I’d been at church or community and that I’d enjoyed it and why. I’ve found it helpful and I think my colleagues did as well that early on they knew that about me. I then had to live up to it and my colleagues found me a person they could confide in and trust.
Every so often conversations at work will get onto ground where our morals come to the fore. In the Bible people come to Jesus first and then Holy Spirit changes their lives. So, I don’t put people down for having very different morals to me, I simply say what I do and why.
Go out with work colleagues, get to know them, enjoy their company, become friends. Two of my closest friends now are people I worked with years ago. Over the years we have supported each other through bereavements, health issues, wedding celebrations and sadly for one a divorce. They’ve been to church, are really respectful of my faith but one remains agnostic and the other an ardent atheist. My life is better because they are my friends and they are both more appreciative of God and faith because of our friendship.
In the workplace you very rarely (if ever) get to explain the whole Jesus story from start to finish. Your conversations are unlikely to last that long, because, well there’s work to be done. I find that I only get to share a few sentences at that time. I’ve learned to be content with that and trust that God has the bigger picture. I’ve also learned to be ready. If I only get to share the gospel a few sentences at a time then as 1 Peter 3:15 says I wanted to be ready with something authentic and clear.
Yes, we pray for our work colleagues to come to know Jesus, but also… there will be times when colleagues are going through something difficult. I tell people I will pray for them and occasionally I’ll also ask them what they would like me to pray for them. I’ve been able to celebrate answered prayers with colleagues. One answer was a boss’s spouse’s cancer going into remission and that was part of a return to Jesus for my boss. Amazing!
You will occasionally get to share something of the gospel in conversation. And you always get to share the gospel with how you act. Bring the kingdom to work. Live out fairness, integrity, love, forgiveness, grace, inclusiveness. Celebrate good when you see it. If the office conversation that day is speaking ill of someone behind their back, don’t just stop at not getting involved. Be the voice of positivity, say what you appreciate about them – others will follow. If you are managing others and you have a difficult conversation to hold or have to take someone through performance improvement, do it with compassion. Yes, you have to be more vulnerable and yes, that will be harder for you. But it brings Jesus kingdom to those difficult situations.