Monday, April 1, 2013

Christ in the Corporate World

I currently work in a "secular" job for a Fortune 500 company and I'm a Christian. I put secular in quotes because I think a common misconception by Christians is that there is such a thing as secular work. People that think this way usually view their pastors or clergy, as they may call them, as the only people that do any type of ministry work. I mention that I am Christian because according to my faith in Christ I am to be a certain type of employee, which is a part of my overall calling to be a certain type of citizen and a certain type of person. The Christian faith calls us to be a certain type of people; a distinct people. Yet, we are obviously not so distinct that we do not have normal jobs or associate with anyone.

Before I worked where I currently do, I was a cook for about five years at an Italian restaurant. If you have worked or do work in the restaurant industry, you know that it can draw a very interesting and diverse crowd of employees. It was while I was in that job that I became a Christian and at that time I never thought that I would be in a more challenging work atmosphere to share and live out my faith. While my current work atmosphere is really nothing like the restaurant, I have found an entirely new set of challenges in sharing and living out my faith at work. The corporate world presents a veneer of professionalism, ethics and propriety, but the reality is that the guts of the day-to-day in a corporate job can be quite challenging. There are a myriad of moral conundrums that come your way in an office. A conversation about an employee's development can quickly turn to gossip. What is commonly referred to as "office politics" is really just a nice way of saying sinful backbiting and malicious chatter. For many, there are the struggles regarding the opposite sex from either direction. Single people try to navigate the dating scene while at work, which often ends in some unfortunate, awkward position to be forced to work with an ex. Married people can unfortunately fail at upholding their covenants of marriage while at the office. Let us not forget that just because it is a corporate job, that does not mean that the workplace is not filled with people. Those people of course have lives outside of work and usually those lives can be quite messy. It is in this mix of challenges and struggles that people find themselves in a corporate job.

I have sought to try to understand how to live out my faith among the people with whom I work. I have found that it really all comes back to integrity. You can have the Christian flag up and once people are aware of that, the way they watch what you do and say is now through a certain lens. They want to see if what they know of Christianity holds up with how you live and work. It doesn't matter if what they know of Christianity is completely correct or not, they will judge for themselves based on what they know. If you are given the privilege of having their permission to speak up a bit on what it is you believe and most importantly on who Jesus is, you are given an opportunity to add to and potentially correct their outlook on Christianity. The great thing about seeking to truly live out your faith at work is that it is true picture of what discipleship is all about. Soul winning and getting decisions for Jesus flies out the window and the long haul of walking through all the elements of life with other people begins. It is where evangelism and discipleship comes together and it is where you learn that those two things were never and should never be separate. It is where you can come to understand that the Great Commission wasn't and isn't about making converts, but about making disciples.  Living out your faith at work is not some add-on to the Christian life that you can choose if you would like, but a realization of the fullness that the Christian life actually is. It is meant to encompass all of your life.

As I have come to understand what it is to be a Christian at work in a deeper way particularly over the last year or more, it has changed the way I have also understood why God has me where He does. In that journey, a friend gave me Tim Keller's new book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work. I read it in a little over a week and found this great collection of so many themes and concepts that I had only started to discover, only Keller of course as he usually does had thought through and connected all these themes together wonderfully. Soon after I had a conversation with my manager about the book and asked if I could have an optional meeting during lunch with anyone in the department that would like to read through and discuss the book. It was approved and our group consists of about seven people. The conversations have been great and I think there is future potential to dig into some other books and discuss those together.

The lesson here Christian is that your job at (insert company) or in (insert profession) is a ministry, plain and simple. You do not have a secular job. God has you in the particular job you are currently in for a particular reason and the sooner you realize that and begin getting after that reason the sooner you will stop grumbling about your job all the time and begin living in God's will. Your thing at work may not be to start a book discussion group, but it may be to listen to your coworker who is losing their parent to cancer. It may be to visit your coworker who is sick. It may be to rejoice with your coworker who just had their first child. It may be to pray for your coworker and/or to ask them how you can pray for them. It is about being there, letting them know who you are and preparing yourself to be available. I have learned more about being a pastor here at my job then I did in my year and a half as an interim pastor for a small church. That interim pastorate helped me see some of my weak areas and God has provided me with a space in my job to improve in those weak areas. You don't have to be Ned Flanders at work, but you do have to love Jesus and have that be evident in your life. Your coworkers don't need you, they need Jesus, so everything that you do is about imaging Christ to them; showing them who He is by how you are.

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you,the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 ESV

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