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ON MISSION AT WORK - LLOYD'S STORY - #3 DEPENDING ON THE HOLY SPIRIT

ON MISSION AT WORK is a series of stories by individuals on how they are living out their faith in their workplace. You can read Part 1 of Lloyd’s journey HERE.


LLOYD’S STORY - Lloyd is a very close friend who I went to secondary school with in Zimbabwe. He has been based in and around Edinburgh and works in the financial sector. We recently holidayed together and when he told me his story of workplace mission I knew it would be a blessing and provocation.

I hope it blesses and encourages you to do similar,

Hugh.


Depending on the Holy Spirit, not methods or techniques


The inconsistency in results… On one occasion, I was commuting on the train and talking to a colleague about the bigger questions and meaning of life. We arrived at an opportunity to discuss the Gospel and faith in Christ. The conversation went back and forth and was heading for what I sensed was a glorious finale. I honestly expected to hear this individual ask, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

So, it was a great shock that we ended the conversation with no outcome, no heart change and a largely indifferent final response from the individual. I walked away heartbroken that after such a seemingly fruitful discussion, things could end so flat. I felt powerless to carry out the great commission. I walked away with tears in my eyes calling on the Lord to break out and come in power into my life to fulfil this great commission he had sent me on. I needed something more, something like what powered the early church, giving them boldness, powerful signs and wonders that left many amazed resulting in thousands turning to Christ and cities turned upside down. I felt the powerlessness of being unable to even save one person or even open a single heart to the love of Christ. If the Gospel was to spread, surely some power outside of me was desperately needed.


On a separate occasion, God opened a colleague’s heart to embrace Jesus after a very short, and what I thought meaningless email conversation, with a brief follow up chat. Through tears they explained that God had called them from darkness to light and helped them leave behind decades of walking away from the Lord. In this case no powerful words were exchanged, no preaching performed, and no techniques or logical steps were followed. There was barely any effort made with such a significant result so easily obtained.
So, what is one to say about these vastly different stories with extremely different outcomes? How should we do our outreach to bring the Gospel to bear in every area that the Lord calls us into?


The ‘approach’ of Jesus… When we look at how Jesus operated and preached the Gospel, there were no techniques or methods to master and repeat. He spoke in parables, to great crowds and engaged with individuals at the temple, from boats and in the fields and homes of friends; in each situation it was varied and hard to repeat or copy and get similar results.


For instance, some of the more varied methods in his healing ministry; “Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So, he went and washed and came back seeing.” John 9:6-7 “And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spat on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see people, but they look like trees, walking."

Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” Mark 8:22-25 “Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Luke 7:14-15

If a list had been created, it would be hard to find a pattern, apart from there being no pattern. John Spoke concerning Jesus; “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11


Jesus emphasised the need for his disciples to wait to receive the Holy Spirit before giving the great commission a go; “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:48-49


Jesus spoke of how it was better that he went away, so that the Holy Spirit could be poured out; “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7 I need the Holy Spirit daily, not methods..
Considering my own approach to evangelism or attempting to operate in any spiritual gifts of healing and how many attempts I made that ended in failure, I was convinced that I was simply a blunt axe striking multiple times with no effect when a razor-sharp blade would fell trees on the first strike. [“If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength…” Ecclesiastes 10:10] Each evangelistic encounter sapping all my strength with average to negligible effect. I was trying to copy and perfect the methods others had mastered. Jesus wanted to empower me, not give me a list to follow or a technique I could perfect. I needed to keep coming back to him to be filled for each new situation I faced. I was to have a relationship, a dependence on the Holy Spirit, not a list to follow and so I would not need him anymore. I could not store a bucket of Holy Spirit and no longer need to come back to be filled and empowered daily. The power was not in me, my methods or those techniques others used – it was to be given by the Holy Spirit as I stepped out, as I had need, in the moment as my mouth opened to declare the Gospel or to bring life and healing into a situation.


I saw that the Spirit had been promised to give power and boldness to those who hear the call of Christ to carry out the great commission. This was a gift that I needed to receive and be empowered in the moment by moment, each day. I saw the transformation that had come upon the disciples, who were initially simple fishermen or tax collectors minding their own business who became world-changing apostles who fearlessly faced death for the name of Jesus. They had not learnt to copy Jesus well as a mere good example. No, they had been with Jesus and then he was in them by his Spirit to such great effect.


So – I pleaded with God to pour his Spirit afresh. I was thirsty and wanted to receive this power to be truly effective in sharing the life-changing Gospel with whoever I found myself with. If the Gospel is to be extended in this generation, there needs to be a compassion, a power, a resolve that is not born of mere techniques, programs or decisions made by committees – but a move of the Spirit. This will be evident because the outcome of the Spirit’s work will be disproportionate to the skills and abilities of those who he works through.


I began to daily come before God and ask for His Spirit to speak more openly to colleagues and in situations without the fear that I once had. I began to instead rely on the Holy Spirit to engineer the situations and cause the conversations to turn to things of eternal significance. There was no longer a pressure on me to perform and create the perfect conditions for salvation, a perfectly scripted conversation to heal or save people by my own power. No; the power and responsibility were with the Spirit. He would provide words, circumstances and soft hearts.


ON MISSION AT WORK - LLOYD'S STORY - #2 WHERE JESUS HAS SOWN YOU, HE WILL GROW YOU

ON MISSION AT WORK is a series of stories by individuals on how they are living out their faith in their workplace. You can read Part 1 of Lloyd’s journey HERE.


LLOYD’S STORY - Lloyd is a very close friend who I went to secondary school with in Zimbabwe. He has been based in and around Edinburgh and works in the financial sector. We recently holidayed together and when he told me his story of workplace mission I knew it would be a blessing and provocation.

I hope it blesses and encourages you to do similar,

Hugh.


In 2017 at the New Ground conference held at Ashburnham, Dave Devenish spoke powerfully on how the kingdom of God needs to invade the world. He spoke of the church being like wheat sown amongst weeds and gave examples of how the Ukrainian Church in the midst of a war had provided a sanctuary between the two warring sides for the community to shower, cook and do their washing. The church brought significant blessing in a terrible situation and whilst others left the area for safety, God’s people remained and gave everything they had in the service of love. This illustration altered my thoughts on kingdom mission and how the kingdom needs to invade every area of life, expanding my view of what it meant to proclaim the Kingdom of God in every arena possible even at great personal cost.

Matthew 13:37-38: “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.”

We as God’s people and his church are sown and sent into the world by Jesus. We are not sown into the church but the church as a body is instead sent and sown out into the world. This is where you live, and also, significantly, where you work wherever you are placed for the glory of God to spread the Gospel. If you ever doubt a situation remember the one who sent you – his name is Jesus.

Matthew 13:30 “Let both grow together until the harvest..”. We are to grow together in the world. We must eat so we need to work and live somewhere. There needs to be something normal about us. Just as the weeds need the soil to grow, so the wheat survives in the very same soil. Wheat can’t uproot itself, it needs to grow until the harvest time when it is picked. God spoke to my heart about having faith to take the gospel to whatever setting I was sown into and allow him to speak through me into the busy office environment.

Doing a decent if not good job at work, provides the license to operate and keeps you in the situation you were sown in. Show yourself faithful in the office and let God use you to bless the team of individuals around you. By so doing, you are faithfully extending the kingdom of God to everywhere that he has not been named previously, proclaiming the Gospel to a people who do not yet know God through your actions and conduct which allows you the space to speak about the one who made you that way.

For the gospel to spread in our generation it needs to break out from the boundaries of the confines of a Sunday setting and overflow into every place possible. Imagine the rule and reign of our God extended in every work place throughout the week by a delightful workforce of diligent employees who also talk of the Gospel and the person of Jesus. Imagine a church equipped to be effective, vibrant and constant demonstration of who Jesus is, declaring the Gospel in every walk of life. This is how the people of God ‘fills all in all’.

“[God] put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:23

Don’t regret where God has sown you. You are bringing the kingdom to a situation that maybe no one else can or will given the chance. Don’t move jobs too quickly for a promotion or greener pastures when the going gets rough, consider what God would want you to do – maybe he is using you to reach a situation for his glory, which moving away could hamper. Don’t consider too easily giving up your job and going into ‘full time’ ministry. You are already in full time ministry - open your eyes and see the vast harvest before you. If you need fresh grace to remain in a situation long enough to see God working out his purposes through you, gather with godly and wise friends and pray into your situation that God would open any closed doors or situations. If you seek first his kingdom, he will take care of your promotion and future.

Matt 6:32-34 “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

In this way you are to be distinct from all those around you. Whilst those around you seek their career progression first, you are to follow Jesus and be the best employee in the place he sows you and serve instead the cause of Christ, trusting that he will prosper you.

I began to see that the kingdom mainly needed to be proclaimed throughout the week to those who had no idea about what the Bible was about or who Jesus was not just on a Sunday to a mostly already believing audience. This was the place we all spent the largest proportion of our time in. The people who we are with at the office comprise a group of individuals who God Almighty has sown at the same time and place as he has sown us. As wheat and weeds grow together, it is the wheat that needs to reach out to the weeds with such compelling and genuine love that their hearts will long to belong to God.

ON MISSION AT WORK - LLOYD'S STORY - #1 HOW IT ALL STARTED


ON MISSION AT WORK is a series of stories by individuals on how they are living out their faith in their workplace.


LLOYD’S STORY - Lloyd is a very close friend who I went to secondary school with in Zimbabwe. He has been based in and around Edinburgh and works in the financial sector. We recently holidayed together and when he told me his story of workplace mission I knew it would be a blessing and provocation.

I hope it blesses and encourages you to do similar,

Hugh.


LIVING FOR SUNDAY…I always thought as a young Christian that I only had a tiny, two-hour slot on a Sunday where I prayed, sang and worshiped Jesus, but never seriously considered the rest of the week as being available as a form of full time worship. So I would return to normal life between church activities and wait for the next Sunday to be a Christian again. Preaching and speaking about Jesus were reserved for the eloquent and professional church leader. My evangelism was merely to try to invite my friends to a church gathering so that the expert could speak to them and impress them with a flawless Gospel presentation so that they might (if it was perfect) return again. But I never considered that I should obey Jesus and actually start to tell people about the Gospel myself. The week, I thought, was dead time between the real excitement of church services, prayer meetings and times of worship. I also wanted to be entertained on a Sunday by a gifted speaker, consuming the teaching each week and then go back home only to do the same the next week but never living it out. I noticed that if everyone thought this way, only one person was spreading the Gospel and everyone else never actually ‘did’ the things so eloquently taught about. How wrong I was and what a surprise God had in store for me as he patiently led me on a journey to discover that right where I was, he could use me!

Imagine if every member of a local church was spreading the Gospel in their neighbourhoods and places of work in an engaging and authentic manner that was real and sincere? God impressed on me the need for people to be able to talk about their faith and be equipped to respond to enquiring individuals and to do so naturally in conversations that happen throughout the work day in the places we spend most of our lives. Preaching is not just in front of a crowd or a Church on a Sunday; it is simply declaring that the Kingdom has come in whichever situation God plants you.

THERE MUST BE MORE…So I began to consider my own ‘nine to five’ situation. I had been working now for about fifteen years with the basic premise that the purpose was to ‘pay the bills’ just like everyone else around me who did not know Jesus. Work was not to be enjoyed as a gift from God or a mission he sent me on.  I did not see it as a means by which God could both bless me and at the same time, use me to bless others through the way in which I worked by loving and serving the people I worked alongside and spent most of my awake time with. I had never thought of sharing my faith at work, it was just a private thing after all. Something for God and me to know about, but not something I needed to act on, or do anything practical with.

The people I worked alongside observed how I responded to the strain and stress of work and there were so many opportunities for discussions every day. They saw the real me not the ‘Sunday’ me. I lived and belonged to another, King and was a citizen of his Kingdom, but if I kept this news to myself it would be a very well concealed secret that was perfectly wonderful yet never known about or joyfully declared as available to all who would come.

There was a dawning that began to occur in my heart: the exact job I was doing was not as vital as whether I was engaged, productive, faithful and fruitfully giving glory to my Father in heaven.

PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING…In a conversation I had once at my desk, a staunch atheist colleague of mine ended up declaring; “If Jesus and Christianity are real then why does no one ever talk about him, why am I not warned, if all you say is true, then why is no one desperately begging me to know the truth?” and furthermore; “If people were so convinced about Jesus and what the Bible said about him, then why were Christians not telling people about this Jesus they loved and trusted so much?” It was a shock to my quiet and hesitant evangelism. 

Amazingly, this colleague who I had been too scared to talk to about Christ, actually wanted me, as the Christian, to take the initiative by kick starting the conversation about faith and Jesus. I always also thought I would rather spend ages doing ‘friendship’ evangelism until they finally hinted they wanted to know my secret. It now came to me: the not -yet believer does not always know the questions to ask, so Christians need to lovingly and gently do the asking and probing to help them find those questions that they so want to ask. People often don’t mind being asked questions as it shows an interest and concern in their lives. And who does not like talking about themselves? 

SMALL STEPS…So I began to be more deliberate in my endeavours. I started to pray for a door to open, something to happen that was of God’s making and not just me having a go as best I could. After all, where do you start in a huge corporate setting except by asking God for help and his direction? Then it happened. One day in the office, I was walking past someone’s desk; someone who I had worked with on a variety of projects, but never spoken to about Jesus or even knew was a Christian. I noticed a Bible, visible on their desk, almost asking to be opened or spoken about and I discovered that he was also a brother in Christ. We decided to meet and pray for the company and read the Bible every so often to encourage each other. We invited a third individual and kept this going for months. Finally, I decided to open up these discussions to anyone and everyone. I set up a page on the company intranet (getting all the necessary permissions) with a very simple invitation to anyone considering Christ or indeed about faith and life generally.

The intranet site started getting dozens of viewings and numerous individuals started following our discussions and asked what we were up to. We had started meet informally to conversationally discuss the Gospel and issues affecting us at work. This progressed as we began to discuss simple biblical truths and included times of heartfelt prayer about things going on at work or our personal lives outside of work. A small community began to take shape. As the interest grew I felt the need to host discussions over lunch in which, similar to Alpha, individuals could come along and ask any questions that needed to. As a group we started going through some material on the basic truths of the Gospel in a format that was beneficial to both seasoned believers and nonbelievers who were looking in or inquisitive about faith. I began to tentatively speak about what we were doing more widely both within my own team to individuals in one-to-one conversations and by encouraging others in the group to also start having conversations in their teams and various friendship situations.

God often opens doors that are otherwise impossible to see even exist, let alone open; At this time, my daughter was injured at her gymnastics class with a kick to her eye that smashed her glasses and cut open her eyelid. As a parent I thought the worst that she had lost the sight in that eye (her one good eye!). That same week another member of the team had a very similar circumstance; their teenage child had a soccer ball kicked directly into their eye, damaging it with significant sight loss. My colleague was really worried and anxious about it. When the team was away and it was just the two of us sitting at our desks, we got chatting about our children’s injuries and I offered to pray there and then for their situation. I called a few people from the group I had gathered and we went to a meeting room and prayed for the individual’s child with them. The individual was overwhelmed by our genuine concern and that we would actually prayer and not just say we would pray. We were in faith for the individual’s child to have their sight restored which it was over time - Praise God! Through this encounter, this individual began coming along to our regular discussions and encountered the love of Jesus. My daughter’s eye returned to normal as well, thankfully. God had redeemed two nasty situations into his eternal story and for his glory.

TEAMWORK…At this stage I was considering moving jobs so I made sure that a team of individuals were available to continue to meet together and encourage one another whilst being deliberately open and inviting to colleagues considering the person of Jesus and issues of faith. The intranet site was just a tool so that anyone could connect in the workplace and encounter God through his people in the market place, the real strength was the individuals who had come together from different church backgrounds; their experiences, friendships and love for Jesus and the realisation that they were on mission too.

As I moved jobs, I continued to set up similar groups. In each situation we gathered a small core group who then would speak to their colleagues and friends in the workplace about the Gospel. We had become missionaries without having to leave for India, China or Africa. God had called us to share the Gospel right at our desks and in the corridors at work, on buses or trains on the way to and from work, and in our neighbourhoods. We did not need to wait for the experts; the Gospel had broken out in power from the Sunday slot. Jesus was on the move and we were beginning to obey the great commission rather than simply expecting the preacher on a Sunday to fulfil it all on his own.

There were several key moments when God spoke decisively and challenged me along the way. I will discuss these pivotal moments in due course. I will also share practical techniques that have helped on the journey along with mistakes I have made. But, underneath all of those methods, planning and being deliberate has been the unstoppable power of the Holy Spirit who has supplied humble courage to start things and keep them going in every season of work pressure or night of dark despair. Whilst those around me work purely for money, I have been called to work in the place I am and serve the King of Kings whilst I am at it, spreading the Good News of the coming Kingdom along the way. It is a commissioning from Almighty God that I am where I am for as long as He will sustain me and grant his favour so that many might come to know his name too.

It had taken me almost two decades to realise that God had a great purpose for my ‘nine to five’ and that rather than something to be endured or a hindrance to the Gospel, it was to be a wide open door of opportunity that He would use to bless those around me so that I could share the Gospel. I have been called to be a mouth piece in the very place that I had been in all along without realising it. God has indeed commissioned a great and mighty army who are already in position but asleep or consider themselves off-duty. Let the Spirit awaken this army whose weapon is love to see that the harvest is plentiful and that no waiting is necessary for the ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ circumstances. No, the day is now, the time is short, the message is powerful and the price is fully paid so that all who would preach the earth shattering Gospel will get courage and see it burst out into the streets and pathways, fields and hills, schools and offices and any place that they are right now.


“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.” John 4:34 - 38