It’s hard to forget just how nervous I was reaching into my bag to reveal, of all things, a Bible. As a follower of Jesus, a leader in my local church, and a general manager of a large and profitable “big box” retailer, it shouldn’t have been so difficult, but it certainly was.
Just weeks before, the weight of my leaving Jesus out of my professional life came crushing down on me. I knew something had to change, and so I did the only thing I knew to do: I brought my Bible to work. I would lay my Bible on my desk throughout the day, and then read it during my lunch break. It wasn’t long before others began to notice my new routine. It initiated new relationships, changed other relationships, and sparked several conversations.
A Better Witness?
There was nothing wrong in doing this. Sometimes we just do all we know to do, and in this case, Bible-reading-as-witness at work made sense to me. But with that said, the “me now” would have some advice for the “me then.”
We spend half of our awake life working. Let that sink in. Most of us spend more time with those at work than we do with our wives and children. “Authentic” and “organic” — the buzzwords abounding in today’s relational world — are typically applied to those places in our life like our churches and communities, but what about our workplaces?
We must begin to see work as one of the places that deserves the best of who we are, not just in our job performances, but also in our relational investments. We mustn’t leave Jesus waiting and wanting outside the walls of our career. Jesus is the one who brings the greatest joy in our lives, and that includes the times between 9 to 5. Living as a witness for him in the workplace means more than a few religious rituals scattered throughout the day. It means getting to know the people around you, and then being known by them.
One of the reasons we don’t talk more about our faith at work might be because we think that “sharing our faith” looks and sounds a lot like unpacking a suitcase — a suitcase that, if we cannot unpack it all, we’d rather leave it all inside. Sometimes we’re so terrified about explaining the “Roman Road” that we can’t even get out of the driveway with our faith.
But if it really is ourselves that form the first step in our witness at work, where do we start? Here are three tips for building a faithful witness to Jesus in your workplace.
1. Work hard.
I know this is the age of the “knowledge” worker and “job” is being redefined, but hard work is still critical — and always will be. No doubt, we all have those days when it feels like we’re moving in slow motion, but the pattern of the Christian’s life, fueled by God’s grace, should be one marked by hard work.
Work with purpose on purpose. Let joy invade your work in such a way that diligent, sacrificial, hard work is what you’re known for. If you truly do hate your job, continue to work hard where you are as you take steps to transition to another one. And when you build a reputation as a hard worker, you are paving the way for opportunities to tell others the good news of Jesus.
2. Trust openly.
Change is inevitable. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat in meetings covering how things are changing, will change, or need to change. Embrace change and redirection at work with a deep and open trust in the sovereignty of God. He’s lovingly in control of everything, including that new policy. When you trust God at work, especially in the midst of change, your positive outlook will be seen by your colleagues and the leaders of your organization. Trust me, the skeptical, negative team members don’t get promoted — they don’t help the work environment. If someone asks why things don’t seem to affect you like others, there’s your open door to tell them about the unchanging love of Jesus and the joy found in him that transcends circumstances.
3. Be all in.
Before I was a general manager and a regional marketing manager for a “big box” retailer, I worked in their tire department. I was a college kid mounting tires and began to grow in my love for leadership. I loved to lead because I love making life easier for those around me — and that’s something you don’t need a title for. It simply starts with embracing the reality that we will spend half of our adult life at work, and when something takes up that much of our time, it’s worth us being all in. Resolve to give it your best.
If Jesus is the greatest joy in our lives, that will certainly spill over into our work. As we get to know those around us, and they know us, we will naturally talk about the things that matter most to us. By investing our lives in our work — working hard, trusting openly, and giving our best — we’ll build the kind of reputation that demands explanation. We’ll glorify God in our work and have opportunity to share his gospel with our words.