Blog - Supporting Believers
Meshing Sunday and Monday: Workplace GroupsFriday, November 05, 2010
In the October 2 post, I suggested a two-pronged strategy for meshing Sunday and Monday. The second part called for "encouraging believers to gather even when scattered.” One way to carry that out: promoting the formation of workplace groups. In such groups, Christian co-workers meet regularly to pray, study Scripture, and encourage one another.
Such workplace groups meet in a variety of ways. Some, with permission from their company or agency, gather onsite. Others convene in nearby locations, such as restaurants or coffee shops. Times vary: before work, during the lunch break, or after hours. While working for a state government agency, I met with several other believers in my office at noon. Because we "brown-bagged” it, we ate together.
Some Christians shy away from starting a workplace group because they fear the law might not allow such meetings. The website of the American Center for Law and Justice offers a wealth of information on the rights of Christians in the workplace. For example, one believer from Kentucky wrote to ask about starting a Bible study in the conference room of the engineering firm where he worked.
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for ACJJ, answered: "Since it's a private place of employment, they do not have to make space available to you, but they can make space available to you without getting into any kind of problems for religious discrimination. But it has to be voluntary—in other words, you and the employer can't compel people to attend. You should have it during non-work hours, i.e. during a lunch break, or before or after work. If you do it during those time frames, you're in great shape legally; and again, the employer will not get into any kind of trouble or difficulty simply by allowing you to have a Bible study at the workplace. Again, as long as it is voluntary—that's the key here: make sure the Bible study is voluntary.”
Several weeks ago a Christian employee from Microsoft invited my wife and me to visit a workplace group that met on the campus of that software giant in Redmond, Washington. We expected the meeting might include three or four. To our surprise, 17 showed up. We learned that last February, a group of Christians sensed God calling them to start unifying the body of Christ at Microsoft. After a week of meeting daily for prayer, they began meeting in the Microsoft cafeteria twice a week. They have had dinners together, days of prayer and fasting, and a praise night. They even maintain their own website.
In Matt. 18:20, Jesus endorses groups even as small as two or three to gather in his name. Yet even here, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to tell us yes or no. The late Pete Hammond of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship offered six reasons why in some cases a workplace Bible study might not be a good idea. For example: "It can send the wrong message about what the faith is all about. If all the believers in a particular work force are only known for loyal attendance at a Bible study and not for other things like diligence, compassion, integrity and good work—faith can be seen as just religious activity and not as a way of life that produces servant people.” For the other five reasons, click here.
Hammond's warning should remind us to make certain our meetings are accomplishing kingdom-of-God purposes. The point of meeting in the workplace should line up with what Hebrews 10:24 and 25 describe as the aims whenever Christians gather—to encourage each other and to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Have you had experience either as a member or as a leader of a group of Christians meeting in a workplace? If so, I invite you to comment on whether you believe it has helped equip Christians to serve God in their work.