This excerpt is adapted from Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger’s new book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Lives (Zondervan) [interview | free study guide | website | Twitter].
As a Christian, you are a fully credentialed ambassador of the empire of Jesus, High King of the universe. God has entrusted to you the message of reconciliation, the good news that Jesus reconciles rebels to God. That’s as true from 9-5 Monday through Friday as it is for any other hour of your life. When you go to church, you’re an ambassador for the King. When you hang out with friends, you’re an ambassador for the King. When you go to work, meet with a client, participate in a meeting, work on a project, drive a nail, create a blueprint, welcome a customer, or write a white paper, you’re still an ambassador for the King.
Evangelism isn’t the primary purpose for our work. Scripture reveals to us all kinds of purposes and motivations for our work. However, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. One of the purposes is evangelism. We’re ambassadors for our King always, including the time we’re at our jobs.
So how can we faithfully share the gospel with people at work? Here are five suggestions.
1. Just do good work as a Christian.
When you get a chance to speak the gospel to one of your coworkers, make sure you’ve already been backing it up by being a good worker yourself. Build a reputation as a person who works with purpose, creativity, kindness, and encouragement. Then, when you get to share the gospel, people will see how you reflect the character of your King.
Practically, you can hold up your vocational challenges to the light of the gospel and ponder how you can approach them “as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:23). Would Jesus have you cut corners on that project? Would he have you defraud that client by doing that job on the cheap? Would he have you rip into your employees when they make mistakes, even stupid ones? Would he have you mope through the day in a spirit of resentment and anger? No. He’d have you confront your challenges with faith that, ultimately, they’re all coming from his hand. Amid it all, he’d have you “shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). Then the gospel you speak will be confirmed in the eyes of those watching you.
2. Learn to put God on the table.
Yes, just throw him out there! Let people know in natural, easygoing, confident ways that you’re a Christian. Why do so many believers try to keep their Christianity a secret? We all want someone to approach us and ask about Christianity (since that saves us the awkward experience of having to start that conversation ourselves), but often we go out of our way not to give them any opportunity to do so.
When someone asks what you did over the weekend, tell them you went to church. Mention the Bible study you attend on Tuesday nights. Don’t just mumble, “I’m sorry I can’t come to your birthday party; I’m busy.” Say, “I can’t come because I’m scheduled to work at my church’s clothes closet this weekend.” You don’t have to be obnoxious or irresponsible about it. Just make sure you identify yourself publicly with Jesus. Let people know somehow you’re a Christian and don’t mentally censor your Christianity out of your interactions and conversations. You’ll be amazed at how often people will take the opportunity to press in on the little piece of information you’ve just offered. People are often more interested in spiritual things than you think. They just need a bit of permission from you to feel free to talk about it.
3. Build relationships beyond the office.
Strive to break through the personal/professional boundaries that can form between you and your coworkers. Of course, you shouldn’t let your relationships become inappropriate in any way. However, if you’re going to share the gospel with someone, you’ll eventually have to talk to them about something other than the job.
Really, it’s not too difficult to do. Grab a cup of coffee after work. Ask questions that go beyond the shallow chitchat that often marks offices. Give some information about yourself that encourages the other person to open up as well. Talk about your family. Be honest about some of the struggles in your life or talk about some of your hopes for the future. In time, by your questions, your openness, and your interest in their life, you’ll communicate you care far more deeply about them than just the talents they contribute to the company. You care about them for them. They’ll be much more likely to listen to you discuss the gospel if they know they’re not just another cog in your professional machine.
4. Use the witness of the church.
As you build relationships with people, look for ways to involve other believers from your church as well. One of the greatest witnesses to the gospel on the planet is the love Christians have for one another (John 13:34-35). If you and some friends from church are going to be hanging out together, invite one of your coworkers to come along. The conversation doesn’t have to be explicitly spiritual. Sometimes interactions between a group of normal, interesting, fun, intelligent Christians will change a person’s entire perspective about Christianity. Also invite coworkers to your church’s worship services. Let them see what it’s like for a group of Christians to gather and take their faith seriously. Many have never seen anything like that, and experiencing it can raise all kinds of good questions in their minds. Jesus called his followers to gather together into churches for a reason. Your church family can be an enormous evangelistic resource. Let them be coworkers with you as you hold firmly to the word of life in your workplace.
5. Have a “mission field” mindset about your work.
Have you considered one of the reasons God may have deployed you to your job is so you can break into a particular subculture with gospel grace? Throughout our society there are countless groups of people who share much in common simply because they work in the same field. They speak the same jargon; they struggle with the same issues; they ask many of the same questions. And sadly, in many of those subcultures the truth of the gospel is a rarity. For example, I imagine I (Sebastian) am one of only a tiny number of Christians working in the creative internet space today. That means I have the privilege of helping to break into that subculture with the good news. What specific group has the King deployed you to work among each day? Architects? Teachers? Auto salespeople? Thinking about the mission that way helps us not get discouraged by the thought of the millions who need salvation. Rather, we’re energized by the thought that our King has deployed us to a specific network of friends and relationships into which we can speak truths seldom heard.
You could also consider taking your job to another part of the world, even places where it may be difficult for career missionaries to go. The globalization of the business world is one of the most important developments in the history of missions. Companies are expanding internationally and looking for professionals, experts, and entrepreneurs to open up new markets where none has existed. Why not consider being an engineer in Shanghai? Why not do your business in Dubai, Istanbul, or Moscow, where millions of persons from hundreds of nationalities live and work each day? These places need a strong gospel witness. Career missionaries already in these cities will be deeply encouraged by other Christians moving there and putting their hands to the plow.