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,
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