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,
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.