Blog - Grasping Vocation
Turning Work into Ministry: Part 8--Building CommunityThursday, March 14, 2013
God’s "to do” list for us, seen in Genesis 1 and 2, includes communing with him, building community, and stewarding the earth. This series of blogs explores how we can carry these out in our daily work. For Part 7, click here.
Evangelism in the workplace. Some think it’s the only significant reason believers are there. No, say others, it’s out of place on the job. Is it all? Or is it nothing? Maybe it would help those taking either position to relate evangelism to the community-building called for in our original job description.
Evangelism involves telling the good news of what God has done to rescue us by sending his Son. Those who recognize the goodness of that news and trust Jesus become part of God’s family or household. In evangelism, God uses our telling as part of his gathering people into his eternal community of faith. Doing "evangelism” in a tactless, disrespectful manner is hardly the way to build that community. Likewise, never speaking the good news, even when God swings the door wide open, does not extend the community.
Unbelievers cannot come into the eternal community unless God draws them (Jn. 6:44, 65). At the same time God honors us by putting part of the task into our hands—as he has done in other areas. God worked to create the earth. Then he assigned us the work of unleashing its potential. God worked to create male and female. Then he gave us the work of reproducing more males and females. God worked in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Then he gave us the work of announcing the news so that others may enter his kingdom and live as part of his community.
As we think about evangelism in the workplace, it may clarify to reflect on how God has announced himself in a world set against him. Throughout the biblical record, God’s way of revealing himself has been through a combination of deed and word. God planted trees (deed), then told Adam not to eat from one of them (word). When the man and his wife disobeyed, God described the consequences (word), then made them leather clothing and expelled them from the garden (deed). God sent his Son to demonstrate his sin-cancelling love for us on the cross (deed), and invited us to share in his never-ending life (word).
Because we are made in the likeness of God the worker, our work (even evangelism in the work world) should follow his deed-and-word pattern. Paul put it this way: "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe [deed] as you hold out the word of life [word]” (Phil. 2:14-16).
In the workplace we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—primarily through deeds. From the seeds in those fruit-deeds can come a harvest of opportunities. We never know when one of those may come. So among our coworkers, we need to be ready—when opportunity does come—to follow through with words. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Pet. 3:15).
The two on the road to Emmaus said Jesus was "powerful in word and deed” (Lk. 24:19). Paul prayed that the Thessalonian believers would be strengthened "in every good deed and word” (II Thess. 2:17). So it’s both-and, not either-or. We authenticate the gospel through deeds. We communicate it in words. The Spirit-led combination of these appropriate to each workplace is part of our God-given work of building community.