I've had the privilege lately of seeing an increasing number of people at all stages of life express interest in joining the global mission of God through the International Mission Board. Many wonder how they can be preparing to go.
On one level, it's very simple: faithfulness in your current assignments is the greatest predictor of future fruitfulness. So, faithfully serve where you are.
One critical arena of faithfulness is your evangelistic witness. Being a faithful evangelist in the workplace doesn't mean having Bible verses at your desk or preaching in the break room. Some Christians seem to think they're not being a faithful witness at work unless they're sharing the Gospel all the time. But that's not true. Being faithful starts with performing your job to the best of your ability to the glory of God.
That said, work can open doors to sharing the Gospel, and we should be ready for opportunities when they happen.
Evangelism can be really hard. But it's helpful to remember that we're not the first generation to encounter challenges with it. When has it ever been easy to tell people about a guy named Jesus ... who really was fully God and fully man ... who really did live a perfect life ... who really was crucified ... and who really did rise from the grave and ascend into heaven?
It may be difficult, but it's important for every Christian to participate in God's plan for making disciples.
God has placed each of us in the location where we are and He has given us the relationships we have for a specific reason. We need to consider how to be good stewards of these gifts. Our jobs represent assignments given by the King. In these assignments, we are Christ's ambassadors, entrusted with the good news of the Gospel.
Here are four ways to provoke Gospel conversations with people at work:
1. How we speak
The easiest way to identify yourself as a Christian is with your words.
The people you work with should know you are a Christian, that your faith is central to you, and that you attend church gatherings regularly.
Don't operate in stealth mode. When someone asks how your weekend was, go beyond the standard response of "Good, how about you?" Tell them about church or how you shared life with church friends. It is increasingly rare to meet Christians in the workplace. Letting others know you're a Christian makes you available to weaker believers and sets an example to non-believers.
We should also use words to encourage and build up. Go out of your way to compliment people on the work they're doing. Let them know you appreciate them. Be specific and thoughtful.
Conversely, we must be conscious of the temptation to join in grumbling and gossiping. These patterns of speech are often normal in the workplace. As Christians, we are not normal—our citizenship is with another world. You may feel the magnetic pull daily to unload all of your cynical thoughts, but don't give in.
Finally, use questions well. Questions are a great way to condition yourself not to be self-focused and self-absorbed. They draw people out, and they tend to cause people to ask you questions back. Something as simple as, "What are you reading?" can give great insight into a coworker's life and worldview.
2. How we work
Work with excellence. When you make your faith known, you're effectively volunteering to hold a giant microscope up over your head. Expect to be quietly scrutinized.
Our work should be done in a way that reflects the creativity, purpose and goodness of God. We should take pride in our work as image bearers and representatives of our King. But we need to expand the definition of doing good beyond just the notion of job performance and skill to include words like faithful, honest and servant-hearted. The content of our lives at work should reinforce, not undermine, the content of the Gospel message we share.
3. How we relate
Although we don't want our co-workers to be "projects," we do want to be proactive and strategic about the relationships we build with coworkers in order to break through the professional boundaries that can form.
You can do this by using meals—particularly lunch—strategically. Getting away from the office and the usual office banter is very helpful.
Along the same lines, consider having a colleague and his or her family over to your home for a meal. In helpful ways, people are different outside the office and often more open to sharing their backgrounds, history, and life story. In addition, it's a powerful gesture of friendship that provides a window into another aspect of your life.
In Thom Rainer's book, "The Unchurched Next Door," he shares the following statistic: 82 percent of the unchurched are at least "somewhat likely" to attend church if they are invited. In other words, more than eight out of 10 of the unchurched said they would come to church if they were invited. When was the last time you invited a colleague to church?
4. How we live
Our life patterns can commend the Gospel by:
• Being someone who speaks in ways that honor your spouse and your family.
• Being a faithful, conscientious parent.
• Being the one to take the lead to serve a colleague in need and perhaps organizing others to do the same.
• Visiting a colleague in the hospital.
• Learning the names of a colleague's spouse and children and asking about them.
These kinds of actions should be the pattern of our lives. They can powerfully provoke others to ask questions and open doors for us to share the good news of Christ.
Evangelism equals proclamation of the Gospel
While these four suggestions may provoke Gospel interactions, we must ultimately proclaim the Gospel if we are to go from being a Christian to an evangelist. A faithful witness commends the Gospel, and God's Word saves.
Ultimately, it's not you or your ability to answer questions in the most dazzling, persuasive way that will bring about new life in Christ. It's the Gospel and the Holy Spirit breathing new life into your coworker who hears its message. Clearly speak the Gospel and leave it to God to do the work. Make it clear the Gospel requires a response, and Christ is the only way to salvation.
Developing these patterns of faithfulness will grow your love for the lost. This is the heart of the missionary—to meet them at their point of need with the hope of the Gospel.
For more information and articles go to imb.org.
Sebastian Traeger is IMB's executive vice president. He previously worked in business and technology where he started, led, and built several companies. He is the co-author of "The Gospel at Work," which unpacks the powerful way the Gospel can transform a person's work.