Monday, March 09, 2009

I wasn't Hired to Preach the Gospel?

I was talking with a friend today about being a Christian in the work world. He said something that really teed me off:

“I didn’t get hired to preach the gospel.”

That was his way of saying that he really didn’t talk about his faith, Jesus, or religious matters at work.

I recognize that some jobs lend themselves better than others to sharing one’s faith. I also recognize that sometimes you need to be careful. But I really can’t agree with my friend in the end.

Wherever you are, God did hire you, and He hired you to preach the gospel. The Great Commission was not just given for “professional” missionaries and ministers. It was a command given for every believer no matter who they are and where they work. You are a missionary, and wherever you find yourself daily, that is your mission field.

Again, you have to be careful in some jobs. I’m a teacher in a public school, so I know that all too well. Especially if you have a family, you wouldn’t want to rashly say something that could have consequences for your whole family. However, there are tactful ways to bring up spirituality, and you’d be surprised by what you can get away with. Most of the things we tend to think will happen to us if we speak up are basically mythical.

Last year I did a 4 week lunch discussion on a few spiritual questions. It was geared towards non-Christians, and I invited the whole faculty. This was done in a very secular public school. When I would tell people about the event (teachers, non-teachers, Christians and non-Christians), most would respond with something like, “doesn’t that violate the Separation of Church and State?” or “are you sure you can do that?”

Answers, respectively: no, and yes.

There is profound misunderstanding on that point, and it keeps us cowering in fear.

There is a common perception out there that spirituality and religion are irrelevant and talk about them should be relegated to the closet and the Sunday school house. Most of the time that is not explicitly spoken, but it is felt. That is felt very accutely by most Christians I know. We feel that cultural more impinging on our hearts with increased intensity.

This is not good. We need to combat this perception. If we don’t talk of Christ and the gospel in our jobs, this perception will only continue to spread. Our irrelevance will continue to rise.

Also, if you don’t actually, you know, share your faith, how will people hear the gospel? Some like to quote St. Francis: “preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”

Most don’t realize that St. Francis was an itinerant preacher, and he could get away with saying something like that. Not so for most of us. We live in a very, very, very biblically ignorant culture. If you never bring it up, most will assume you are just a nice religious guy. They’ll get that you have integrity, and that you probably go to church on Sunday, and that you are a very moral person. But that’s about where it will end. They won’t “get the gospel” just by looking at your actions.

This doesn’t mean that actions aren’t important. Quite the contrary. This does mean that we can’t expect our actions alone to do the sharing our mouths should be doing. There is a content to the gospel that can’t be gleaned from a good work ethic and a friendly demeanor. Both actions and words are necessary in this radically secularized culture.

And you know what? If something bad does happen, oh well. Count it blessing. God is writing it all down, and He’s your real boss.

Apologists are fond of quoting 1 Peter 3:15. We should also be fond of quoting 4:12-16:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

This was given in the context of severe suffering. The overwhelming majority of people who are sanctioned for speaking of Christ in the workplace will not experience this type of severe suffering. However, I think the verses still can apply.

So, step out today. You were hired to preach the gospel.


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