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February 5, 2007

Witnessing from Weakness at Work



conversation.jpgOne of the greatest shames of my life is that never once during my first job out of college did I share the Gospel with any of the people I worked with. While my friends there certainly knew I graduated from a Christian college, went to church, and believed in God, in several years of working together that was all they knew about faith in my life. At the time, my focus was so much on learning the ins and outs of magazine publishing and meeting my earthly achievement goals (after all, this was my dream!), that I failed to see the people around me as lost souls in need of a Savior and instead saw them as people to laugh with and learn from.

Though I know I'm forgiven for this sin, to this day I can't think of certain colleagues without wincing - and praying that they are surrounded by Christians, who, unlike me, dare share their faith at work.

While my self-centered career goals certainly kept the focus off of other people's eternal welfare, it was also that I totally misunderstood what sharing my faith at work would look like. I didn't learn this until I started working at Christianity Today International (GiftedForLeadership.com's parent company) years ago. While suddenly I was surrounded by once-lost people who had found their Savior, the sharing of faith was everywhere. The distinction was that we shared personal faith, rather than the faith. We talked of mighty ways God had moved, of huge disappointments, of doubts, of praise, of unanswered prayers, of our own often rocky journeys through a life of faith.

In my earlier job, I imagined sharing my faith at work would mean I had John 3:16 printed on business cards or had a huge "Repent or Burn" placard posted on my cubical wall. Maybe I'd have to invite a different co-worker to lunch every day and ask - immediately after saying grace loudly - if she knew where she would go if she were to die right now. Any image I'd conjure up just didn't jive with my working environment - or my personality - so I passed.

If only I'd have had the wisdom of John Nunes, a professor at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois. I heard him speak recently on "witnessing out of weakness." I love this premise - especially for the workplace. It means that you aren't standing on soapboxes telling co-workers they're going to burn in hell (this may get you burning in the HR department!), but instead puts you in the drivers seat of conversations with co-workers that are less about personal righteousness and more about how Jesus has worked through your weaknesses.

Especially in a culture that so roundly attacks Christians - not always without good reason - it's important for the world to see Christians as we really are, not as we often pretend to be. They need to see us as messed up, wounded, and hurting people who have found the great Hope and their ever-present source of strength.

If you were to share with your co-workers the ways in which God has walked with you through difficult, stressful times at work and in life, it might offer glimpses of how God could embolden their own lives. If they knew that you too went through seasons of doubt - wondering if all this stuff about the Son of God rising from the dead could possibly be true - but were sustained by experiencing the Holy Spirit's work in your life, imagine the impact. And of course there's no better way to shine the irresistible grace that has saved wretches like us than to be willing to open up areas of struggle - and mercy - in our own lives.

Now, I'm not fool enough to suggest you need to bare your deepest sins to co-workers who may or may not use them against you. But I have come to realize that the strongest witnesses - much like the strongest leaders - are the ones willing to give glory where glory is due.

Comments

To witness to others is not as easy as it appears, but to lead by example is even harder. I am a member of a 12 step program that is made up of many different personalities. One thing that I have noticed are members who profess the love for Jesus, yet live such a contradictory life. Now, I believe in the "taking the log out of my eye" first, but new members in these programs listen and watch. Many new members enter these programs with a distaste for religion and the bible. I have heard so many stories where "man" has prejudiced them against God; plus they are unable to separate God's word from man's interpretation. In this program, I watched people preach Jesus Christ and the M-F word in the same breath. Therefore, it is necessary to lead by example. To state that I believe in Christ is one thing, but to live his word (or to strive for perfection in our actions) is key.

Am I a walking example? Not really. I swear, am judgemental, and harbor resentments all the time. Lately, I ask God for forgiveness and whether he still wants me around in his life-almost like the neediness that I felt for my parents, more like my step-father. Isn't that odd? All I know is that my love for God is intense and all consuming sometimes, but most my self-will is running the show.

I am so glad that the way we witness is changing and becoming more about building relationships with people rather than brow beating them. I agree that we have to tell people what God is doing in our lives both good and bad. And I think our daily actions far outweigh our words as well.

Shawna R. B. Atteberry

Today, as I was getting ready for the office I took time out to watch the news. A young mother of two was shot to death in her car as she left a night club. My heart and the tears swole up inside me because I realized that this young lady would probably spend an eternity in hell. More than anything, I am convinced that we should find ways to witness effectively to the unbeliever around us. God's word says we are not promised tomorrow, but how ironically we always want to wait until tomorrow to share our faith. I agree that we all share personal struggles that the unbeliever should know about, but I have chosen to take an opposite approach to sharing my faith. My co workers know the issues I have faced, uprooted from my home due to Hurricane Katrina, husband's health, sister's death and I can go on and on. But each day I make it a point of responding to "How are you today?" with these words, "I'm awesome". If asked why always awesome, opportunity to share John 3:16. Because God loves me, His son died for me, I will not perish in hell and I will spend eternity with him. My problems are real, but what He did for me makes my life awesome.

Lenda Jones

An insightful article. I agree with many of the points made here. However, talking about ourselves and our faith will never take the place of asking about someone's else's. I agree that we should make ourselves vulnerable by not pretending to "have it all together", however, the purpose in sharing the gospel is to share with someone who doesn't know Christ that He came to bind up THEIR wounds, and to heal THEIR hurts, and to deliver THEM from a life without God. Not just to talk about ourselves. That can only happen if we open ourselves up to the kind of friendships that invite people to share their lives with us.

I look upon the periods of struggle in my own Christian walk, and my experiences in my life before I even knew Christ, as my "toolbox" for witnessing. If God has placed someone in my life that He wants me to share Christ with, I find that if I listen carefully, and be patient, that eventually there will be a common link between my own experiences and something they have going on or have been through.

No one wants to hear someone going on about themselves whether it's about their faith, or their struggles, or how "real" they are. People like to be listened to - especially those who are hurting or searching for an answer. I find one of the best attributes I can cultivate as a Christian is the art of listening - listening with a genuine concern not just for someone's salvation, but for the things that they are struggling with and the things that are close to their hearts. When I got really honest with myself about why I wasn't witnessing more, I had to admit that my only concern for people was whether or not they were going to hell. God's concern for them is profoundly more than that. He loves them and wants their lives to be full and beautiful - for His own glory and for their own good. That is what needs to be modeled to those who don't know him - the presence of a God who cares about their right now as much as He cares about their eternity. I think many women would like to be more effective at sharing their faith - that will only be possible when we are willing to invite others who don't know Christ to be real friends. We don't need to be afraid of those in the world - "...because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." 1 John 4:4

When I Say "I Am A Christian"

by Carol Wimmer
When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I am saved"
I'm whispering "I get lost!"
"That is why I chose this way."

When I say..."I am a Christian"
don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need someone to be my guide.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
and pray for strength to carry on.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
and cannot ever pay the debt.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
my flaws are too visible
but God believes I'm worth it.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartaches
which is why I seek His name.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I do not wish to judge.
I have no authority.
I only know I'm loved.

When witnessing to others...what we should remember is that it is not about us...it is about them. Christ's method will give true success in reaching the lost. Jesus mingled with men & women as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He said, "Follow Me." There is a real need to come close to people. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. The power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of Gods love...this will be effective. The information age has ushered in a society of lonely people who are longing for the forgiveness, mercy, love and acceptance that only God can give.

Thank you Carole Wimmer for your poem. I found it said a lot in an easy to read style.
Ger

I usually witness to people on my job when they approach me with their problems. I do feel that there are other ways that I could witness to them. I could be more proactive and approach them sometimes. My coworkers knows my flaws much more than I would like them to. I do believe that my reactions to certain situations could be reflected in a more godly way which would serve as an instrument of sharing Christ to them. Just by being more helpful in certain areas would show them that Jesus is at work in my life.

This conversation is something that I feel passionate about.

Recently my brothers finance asked me if all the Christians in my church were as "real" as my husband and I am. Her previous experiences with Christians had been either "Bible bashers" or "Sunday only" Christians. I felt flatterd but frustrated for all the lost people who never meet any Christians they can relate to.

I feel that people will almost always argue with your theology, but they won't argue with your testimony.

Recently my brothers finance asked me if all the Christians at my church were as "real" as my husband and I. Her previous experience of Christians had been either "Bible bashers" or "Sunday only" Christians. I was flattered but concerned about the people like her who may never meet a Christian they will listen to. Before and since this conversation I have been able to talk to her about Jesus many times and straighten out some misconceptions about the nature of Christianity.

I believe that people will almost always argue with your theology but won't argue with your testimony.

We have an ongoing discussion about workplace effectiveness. It is found here at the redletterbelievers blog

http://redletterbelievers.blogspot.com/2007/04/what-language-are-we-speaking.html

Its a tough thing -- many of us just shy away, thinking that our silence is good enough.

I think for many, they are just no longer satisfied with this way of living. Good post.

I found it very useful.

Great post. Very inspiring indeed. There are times that we tend to get so busy with our work that we forget to talk to God. And when we encounter bad situations, we tend to ask God why we were given such problems. But that is not the way we should think. We should think that these problems would help strengthen us. I would love to be an inspiration to my co-workers and vice-versa. If your co-workers shared something to you, you need to respect that and appreciate the fact that s/he entrusted you with that information about him/her.

Interesting and very inspiring post. Some challenges/trials/problems may be hard to overcome, but these things would help strengthen us and these would make us learn a lot. When someone at work feels like giving up, we should help them overcome these problems.

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