I was thinking about how, a long time ago, I deliberately chose to work in secular settings rather than cloister myself in church or religious settings. I’d hear sermons and stories about how Christians and church staff members would lose touch with unsaved people by surrounding themselves completely with believers, and rarely have an opportunity to share the gospel.
I’d think, I don’t want to get like that! So I started working in purely secular situations. However, I found myself at times guarding my soul in the workplace in ways that are not necessary or helpful. So I have, in some ways, become what I didn’t want!
I have to remind myself (and sometimes others) in the workplace nearly every day that my—and our—primary identity is not as an employee or a co-worker. It’s not our careers or our titles or our statuses in the office. It’s not our personalities, our possessions, or our accomplishments. Our primary identity in the workplace—and my primary identity in the workplace—is as a child of God, a follower of Jesus Christ.
As followers of Christ, we aren’t just employees and colleagues; we are Christ’s ambassadors. We represent Christ’s kingdom in the workplace. That means we are to represent His mission, His message, His values, His love, His peace, His boundaries, and most of all, His character. Not ours. Reminding ourselves Whose we are and Who we represent every day will help keep us out of a world of trouble when confronted with opportunities to mess up really bad.
I must admit, I don’t represent Him well at times. Seems like I’m asking for forgiveness more often than I want. I’m a mess in progress, but Thank You Jesus, He works with all our messes and turns our mess into a message (Philippians 1:6)!
The Ultimate Daily Work Challenge is not meeting deadlines, pressing quotas, producing reports and presentations, improving morale, and increasing productivity and sales. It is living out our messy lives through an invisible spiritual reality in a visible, physical world (Ephesians 3:10 & 6:12, Colossians 1:16). We are living and breathing and working in two parallel universes, the spiritual one and the physical one. As we go through our work day and our work week, it is so easy to forget this.
The physical world is easy to see, to relate to, to live in. Our flesh, our emotions, our minds are all socialized and trained from birth to focus on living in this visible world. “Walking by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) is socialized out of us in most secular work settings.
Often our colleagues and supervisors do not want to be reminded of Jesus, sometimes to the point of their being hostile. Sometimes this aloofness or reactivity comes from coworkers who claim to be Christians. All this just adds fuel to the fire of hell’s challenges to make us back down from our identity in Christ. Yet “we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29)” and not veil the presence of Christ within us, or our identities in Christ. We must walk as spiritual men and women into a physical, secular workplace and work according to spiritual principles from spiritual power.
As a follower of Jesus in a secular work setting, how can you walk through your work day in 2 parallel universes?
1. The preparation starts before you even get to work, as many of you may know.
Spending quality time with the Lord before you leave for work is key to setting your attitude for the day. This means time spent studying and meditating on the Word, worshiping the Lord, praying and often reading other Christian materials such as devotionals, biographies, autobiographies, and practical Christian living articles and books (Psalm 5:3, 55:17 & 90:14).
Listening to positive, Christian music and messages on the way to work will also redirect your thoughts and emotions to the Lord. Starting each day with such a focus will fortify your soul with the tools and weapons that the Holy Spirit will need to seal inside your soul so that you can continue fighting the good fight of faith into the workplace (1 Timothy 6:12). This is part of how you practice the presence of God in the workplace.
2. Once you get to work, you can put small reminders of the Lord around your office space if anyone is allowed to put up personal philosophical and other religion’s messages (Deuteronomy 6:9). I have 2 sticky notes stuck to my computer monitor that I review from time to time. If no one is allowed to put up personal spiritual reflections in your workplace, or you do not have office space, it may be time for you to start reading and memorizing scripture during your lunches and breaks, if you’ve never done so.
3. If there are other followers of Christ in your workplace who are walking with the Lord and you trust them, be sure to connect with them as often as possible. Meet regularly to go walking during your breaks so you both can vent and pray. Meet regularly to pray or have a Bible or Christian book study. Invite believers from other parts of your workplace (Acts 2:42-47).
Be prepared for resistance if none of this is happening and you try to start something like a Bible study. The enemy of our souls hates these tactics because they increase light, love, faith, and obedience in a workplace that he’s had control of for a long time. In the parallel universe of spiritual realities, it has been spiritually dark in your workplace, and bringing the light of Christ infuriates the keepers of the strongholds.
In one place where I was working, it took several weeks for the few of us Christian employees available to figure out a time when we could meet regularly for prayer. As soon as we figured it out, everyone’s schedules and the level of busyness suddenly changed. We never did get that prayer meeting started.
4. When suddenly faced with the unexpected—demands, deadlines, changes, unprofessional attitudes and words, flesh-driven and possibly even demon-energized personalities, pray quickly and listen to the other person thoroughly before responding (Proverbs 21:23). The enemy smirks and repeats the offense as often as possible when we forget those quick prayers in those short pivotal moments. “Jesus, help me shut up” is a prayer I used to have to pray often!
5. If an appropriate opportunity presents itself (AKA “divine orchestrations”) where you can offer to pray for someone’s situation, take it and run with it (1 Thessalonians 5:17)! Be sure to follow up with them. Don’t forget to pray for your supervisor, if you’re not in the habit of doing so. If they won’t take offense, let him or her know once in a great while that you are praying for them (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
6. As difficult as it is, try to make a friend out of an enemy. Be relentless and lavish in your love, grace, sincere compliments, praise, prayer, and forgiveness toward this person (Romans 12:17-21).
7. However, don’t be afraid to maintain integrity and set firm limits when opportunities present themselves (as they inevitably will) for you to indulge in sin or unethical, unprofessional practices (Ephesians 5:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:22). Examples: Don’t steal company items for personal use (Exodus 20:15). Don’t complain, murmur, and whine like everyone else might about your jobs or the company (Philippians 2:14-15). Do arrive on time for your shift and from lunches and breaks (Colossians 3:22). Do treat everyone with kindness and respect no matter what you’ve heard (Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 2:17).
These are things I have found useful in thriving in all the humanistic, atheistic environments I’ve had to work in, and which things I have to continue to work on.
I am highly aware that I carry about in my body the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7-11), and that His presence brings conviction (John 16:7-11). For that reason, I try as much as possible to couch my words and actions with love, but at the end of the day, I realize each person is responsible directly to God for his or her actions and reactions. I have seen it happen that my colleagues get their lives right with the Lord or even get saved.
I want as many of my coworkers as possible to go to heaven, so I continue praying for them. When I pray in the office, it’s like a collision, a brief intersection, occurs between the 2 parallel universes, and the Lord infuses my awareness and my workplace with His presence. I love that. If you want those collisions, those moments when eternity intersects with your world, be sure to have as much of a prayerful attitude about your workplace as possible and remind yourself Whose you are. You might see some very interesting things happen this month!