Monday Morning Faith: A New Career Objective (Sermon Notes)

Sermon Notes / Produced by The High Calling
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Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6)

Big Idea: The workplace is the most strategic place for evangelism in America, and every workplace follower of Christ has an unprecedented opportunity to be a significant spiritual influence in the lives of people with whom he or she works.

Introduction: The greatest communication success story in human history is how the gospel message spread across the Mediterranean world in the first centuries of the church. Was it due to the effective preaching of Peter, Paul, and a few other gifted communicators? Was it Paul’s strategy of targeting the key cultural centers to plant churches that then infected
the countryside? These efforts were no doubt important, but even more so, ordinary Christians recognized that sharing the message of Jesus was everyone’s mission. As early as Acts 8:4, while the leaders were hunkered down under persecution, we read, “Those who had been scattered were bringing the good news of the word wherever they went.”

Wherever was predominantly the workplace. The gospel spread like wildfire from home business to home business [Greek=oikos; the oikos or household was the basic economic unit of the Greco-Roman world] by men and women who personally gossiped the gospel to friends, relatives, acquaintances, colleagues, masters, slaves, students, teachers, customers, shop owners, and fellow soldiers through their everyday networks. Men and women who heard the gospel in a neighbor’s household carried it back to their household, and so on and so on. As a result, the church experienced phenomenal growth. Followers of Jesus grew from a few hundred on the day of Pentecost to an estimated six-plus million by the end of the third century[1]—amazing numbers considering the only media were word-of-mouth encounters and handwritten letters.

I. The Great Opportunity Outside Our Front Door
Interestingly, something of the same magnitude is happening today. In the next 20 years, missiologists estimate that 400,000,000 people will come to Christ. Today alone, 77,000 men and women will come to Christ in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Rumors circulate about how the Holy Spirit is drawing Muslims to Christ around the world. In fact, there is a
growing movement in China to take the gospel west to the Muslim world called “Back to Jerusalem.” Sociologists tell us that Americans are on the biggest soul search in the history of our nation. But, sadly, rather than seeking answers from a local church, they are trying all varieties of spiritual alternatives. Many of these seekers don’t even consider Christianity.

In a day when our culture is moving further away from Christ, we might assume that reaching people with the gospel has gotten harder. In a way this is true. It is harder to get people to visit a church, listen to a gospel presentation over a media source, or attend a crusade. But the avenue of personal relationships remains wide open.

As uninterested and even hostile as people may seem today toward the kind of Christianity they often see portrayed in the media, millions are thirsty for spiritual refreshment. George Barna uncovered this thirst in his research. Our surveys consistently detect a large (and growing) majority of adults who are dissatisfied and are searching for something more meaningful than bigger homes, fatter paychecks, trimmer bodies, more erotic affairs, and extended leisure. Tens of millions of Americans are open to a set of spiritual truths that will set them free from the shackles of worldliness.[2]

But it’s not just the opportunity created by people’s thirst that should motivate us. The spreading of the gospel message is every Christian’s responsibility. It’s our job. All of us who have received God’s grace share the obligation to pass it on. But don’t make the mistake in thinking that you have to quit your current job and enroll in seminary to have a spiritual impact for Christ.

[Illustration. You may have a story of your own to insert here. Here’s mine: A few years ago, my friend Steve went kicking and screaming on a short-term mission trip down the Amazon. Three days into the journey, the team leader asked Steve to share his testimony at a gathering in a fishing village along the river. When villagers responded to Steve’s awkward presentation of the gospel, his life made a one-eighty. When he returned, his wife, who had cajoled him into going, discovered that she got more than she had bargained for. Before the trip, Steve had no joy. He was like a zombie at church, and any spiritual conversation between the two of them lasted about forty-five seconds tops. But on Steve’s return, she saw his changed life and suddenly realized that becoming a missionary wife was a distinct possibility. That had not been part of her plan.

Steve felt a strong pull to the mission field, but before he quit his job, he discovered that he could and actually wanted to talk about spiritual things with the people with whom he worked—and they were interested in hearing what had happened on his trip. When I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve, I explained to him that following Jesus is more about a heart change than a career change. God could certainly call him to the mission field, but first God wanted him to be a missionary right where he was with the people in his workplace and his network of relationships—his oikos.]

Many are surprised to learn that seventy to ninety percent of people who come to Christ come because of a relationship with a friend or relative.[3] When most people think of evangelism, they think of Billy Graham. If he’s the model that pops into your mind, you may be feeling pretty uncomfortable right now if you don’t have the gift of evangelism. Fortunately, for those who don’t have the gift, God has not left us in the dark about what he expects of us as his representatives. As we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, Paul gives us sage advice about what it means to follow Christ at work. Taking faith to work gives us a new set of attitudes about serving others and God’s Kingdom while at work. We have an incredible new source of power we can access at any time through prayer. We also have a new career objective that should grip our hearts: We go to work not to climb a ladder, but to walk through open doors that he unlocks for us to become a significant spiritual influence on those with whom we work.

At the end of his letter to the Colossian Christians, Paul gives important instructions that clear up a lot of confusion about the spiritual influence God expects us to have. He writes,

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:2-6 NIV)

Nestled in these five verses are four important principles of spiritual influence that apply to every person God has called to the workplace.

A. If we want people to pay attention to our faith, we need to first pay attention to our work.
One of the most profound insights I learned years ago is that the Bible never commands us to go witnessing. It does, however, make it very clear that we are Christ’s witnesses. The word witness—the noun, not the verb—pervades the New Testament.Witnessing—the verb—dominates our perception of evangelism.[4] Unlike witnessing, being a witness is something Christians are—good or bad—whether we like it or not. Paul describes the kind of witness that attracts people to Christ in verses 5 and 6. Note that actions precede words in his instructions. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” What does acting wisely imply? Paul’s words here seem to indicate that there is a cause/effect relationship between our actions and a person’s curiosity about our faith. The way we act, along with our gracious conversation, creates a curiosity in people who observe us in daily life. That curiosity invites an answer from us that is wisely tailored to impart truth in response to an implied question.

But what is it that causes men and women to be curious about our faith? Three things are very apparent.

First, we must do good work. Whether doing a deal or doing the dishes, changing a diaper or mucking out a barn, studying a contract or studying for an exam. If we want people to pay attention to our faith, we need to first pay attention to our work.

Second, we must be people of godly character. What makes people interested in Jesus is seeing Jesus in us. Both what we say and what we do reveal what is in our heart.

Third, how we treat other people is incredibly important. Someone rightly said that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. The quality of our relationships will determine the quality of our influence.

B. Before we talk to people about Jesus, we need to talk to Jesus about people.
Last week, we saw how essential prayer is for our work in general. But nowhere is it more important than in helping people along toward Christ. Before we talk to people about Jesus, we need to talk to Jesus about people. One of the more demonstrable particulars about the early church is that successful spreading of the gospel was due to more than the mass mobilization of street-level Christians—as key as that was. It was also due in no small part to the persistent prayer of early Christians. They believed prayer was essential to their mission to carry the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

C. We’re one link in the chain.
Most Christians and non-Christians agree on one thing: they both hate evangelism—at least the kind of evangelism that forces a conversation on a stranger or unwilling listener. Fear of being put into a spiritual corner doesn’t typically rank very high on people’s Most Pleasant Experiences list. But as we can see from this passage, pressured, in-your-face evangelism is
not what God wants us to do. We are to be wise and gracious. More often than not, evangelism is a long-term process that typically involves several people over what can seem to be a long time. It’s organic—because faith takes time to grow.

Of course, the goal of evangelism is to see men and women place their trust in Christ. But just like a field needs cultivation before it can grow a crop, the human heart usually needs a lot of preparation. That preparation can’t be done at a distance—there’s no tele-(at a distance) evangelism in the New Testament. It’s working up close and personal over time. Men and
women need to see the authenticity of our faith to know that the gospel is credible. They need to hear it graciously explained and see it lived to know it’s plausible before they decide if the gospel message is reliable. These steps aren’t taken all at once, except in rare instances. Neither are they usually accomplished by one individual. In fact, the average journey to faith involves nine to sixteen individuals helping a non-Christian take incremental steps that finally lead to faith in Christ and continued spiritual growth. We’re just one link in the chain of someone’s journey to faith. And sure, it’s great to be the last link, but an earlier link who shows a skeptical coworker that, “Gee, all Christians aren’t jerks” is just as important.

D. Every interaction is an opportunity for spiritual influence.
The persecution that first century followers of Jesus faced could have easily kept the gospel contained in a tight little religious community. Doubtless, some who received the gospel were fearful and kept the gospel to themselves. But overall, Christians understood that to the one much is given, much is required. And as they went through their day, doing their work and
interacting with people in their community, they looked for opportunities to talk about what it was like to be a child of God—not formally or pushy, but in the relaxed, natural conversation that happens between coworkers.

Paul tells us to “make the most of every opportunity.” If what we’ve said about spiritual influence is true, then every interaction with people we encounter at work is spiritually significant. This doesn’t mean that we’re always angling for an opportunity to get into a spiritual conversation. Remember, we are to be wise as we make the most of every opportunity.

Here are a few foolish approaches.

  • Failing to build trust. Remember that people need to see the gospel lived out before we tell them the gospel message. People need to trust the messenger before they will trust the message.
  • Failing to build a relationship. We need to take time to find out where people are on their spiritual journey—to discern how God is already at work in someone’s life and join Him at that point—not force things along on our agenda. If we try to make more of an opportunity than really exists by being pushy or judgmental, we’re not being wise.
  • Failing to speak up about our faith when given the opportunity. One thing is clear. No one is good enough to witness by his or her actions alone. Competence, character, and concern lay the foundation for wise communication.

Conclusion: Two questions

Tomorrow morning, you’ll step out your door into the most strategic place for spiritual impact in our culture. Your work is your mission field and, whether you like it or not, your life is a witness for Christ—positively or negatively. I’d like to ask you two questions before we leave.

First, who’s watching you? Have any people at work come to mind over the past few minutes—perhaps a manager or a client you would love to see come to Christ? If so, let’s pray for them right now. [I often ask people to jot down initials or whisper their names silently to God as I lead them in the prayer based on the following Scriptural requests.[5] It might be helpful to print these in the bulletin or handout.]

  • The Father would draw them to himself. (John 6:44)
  • They seek to know God. (Deut. 4:19; Acts 17:27)
  • They would believe the Bible. (Rom. 10:17; 1 Thes. 2:13)
  • Satan would be restrained from blinding them to the truth. (Matt. 13:19; 2 Cor. 4:4)
  • The Holy Spirit would convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (John 16:8-13)
  • God would send other Christians into their lives as a positive influence toward Christ. (Matt. 9:37, 38)
  • They would believe in Christ as their Savior. (John 1:12; 5:24)
  • They would turn from sin. (Acts 3:19; 17:30, 31)
  • They would confess Christ as Lord. (Rom. 10:9, 10)
  • They would yield their lives to follow Christ. (Rom. 12:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:15; Phil. 3:7, 8)
  • They would take root and grow in Christ. (Col. 2:6, 7)
  • They would one day become a positive influence for Jesus Christ in their workplace. (2 Tim. 2:2)
  • And then one more question: Do they see Jesus in you?

[In closing, you can lead your congregation in praying for themselves personally using the following requests from Scripture.]

  • I would do excellent work that attracts other’s attention. (Prov. 22:29)
  • That my work would bring glory to God. (Matt. 5:16)
  • I would treat people fairly. (Col. 4:1)
  • I would have a good reputation with unbelievers. (1 Thes. 4:12)
  • Others would see Jesus in me. (Phil. 2:12-16)
  • My life would make my faith attractive. (Titus 2:10)
  • My conversation would be wise, sensitive, and enticing. (Col. 4: 5, 6)
  • I would be bold and fearless. (Eph. 6:19)
  • I would be alert to open doors. (Col. 4:3)
  • I would be able to clearly explain the gospel. (Col. 4:4)
  • God would expand my influence. (1 Chron. 4:10)

Bill Peel is Director of 24Seven Faith and is passionate about helping men and women in the workplace discover how to impact their world for Jesus Christ. He is the award-winning author of seven books, co-author of Workplace Grace and The Saline Solution and works actively to spread the gospel worldwide through the workplace. Besides an active national and international speaking schedule, Peel consults with churches and organizations to help men and women live their faith at work. He and his wife, Kathy, have three adult sons and live in Dallas, Texas. His website is