Evangelism - Sharing the Gospel at Work (Overview)Article / Produced by TOW Project
The suggestion that every Christian is called to share the gospel is unsettling to most Christians, since most of us don’t feel gifted as evangelists. Although it is thrilling to be part of someone’s journey to faith, broaching a spiritual conversation with colleagues at work can arouse no small amount of angst.
A Workable Definition of Evangelism
Evangelism is …
the organic process of intentionally engaging
individuals in their spiritual journey
joining the Holy Spirit
watching for where he is already at work
to help these individuals take one step closer to God
and new life in Christ,
becoming the unique reflection of the image of Christ
as the resurrected, glorified persons God intended.
Success in evangelism is consistently taking the initiative, using the gifts and opportunities God gives us, to help individuals move one step closer to Christ.
This might be true of you—and for a lot of understandable reasons. You might feel unprepared to answer the questions you fear colleagues will throw at you. You might feel like broaching spiritual conversations is inappropriate for the workplace—or that’s what you’ve been told. You might feel a bit intimidated by hostile attitudes toward Christianity held by some coworkers. You might think that sharing your faith could create conflict and generate bad feelings with colleagues. You might feel unqualified because—well, you know your faith isn’t very exemplary at work.
But what if we understood that being part of someone’s journey to faith in Jesus could begin with something as simple as having a cup of coffee with a colleague, encouraging someone who has had a rough week at work, or offering a helping hand to a boss or coworker under stress? What if we truly believed Jesus’ words about sharing the gospel with others?
- What if we believed that Jesus authorizes us to act on his behalf to fulfill our calling as his witnesses at work that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)?
- What if his promise is true that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26)?
- What if we were confident in Christ’s presence—that he is with us always and everywhere, in every situation (Matthew 28:20)?
- What if even in brief interactions and casual mentions of our faith, we knew the Holy Spirit was at work in the hearts and minds of people to “prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8)?
- What if we knew we didn’t have to be perfect and say just the right things—that it was God’s work to draw people to himself that “no one can come to me unless drawn by the Father” (John 6:44)?
- What if we understood that simply doing a good job at work can turn on the light for coworkers “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)?
This is what early Christians believed and how they saw their role in fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations—and it changed the world. It’s the greatest communication success story in human history—how the gospel spread across the Mediterranean world and ultimately to every corner of the earth. Just before his ascension, Jesus outlined his strategic plan for reaching the entire world with the good news of God’s kingdom. He told his followers, And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) First-century disciples embraced this mission, and followers of Jesus grew from a few hundred before the day of Pentecost to over six million by the end of the third century—considerable growth by anyone’s calculus.
We might be tempted to believe that the exponential growth of the early church was the result of effective preaching by Peter, Paul, and a few other gifted communicators whose occupation was spreading the gospel. Or we might credit Paul’s strategy of targeting key cultural centers and planting churches that could share the gospel throughout the surrounding countryside. These efforts were no doubt noteworthy—after all they’re in the Bible  —but even more so is the fact that early Christians of every ethnicity, gender, and level of society were passionate about extending Christ’s kingdom. They were determined to “act as Christ’s embassy to a rebel world, whatever the consequences.”
History and the New Testament tell us that the gospel spread like wildfire along trade routes, in public places, and from house to house—or in Greek, from oikos to oikos. An oikos was the basic social and economic unit of the Greco-Roman world—not just a home where a family lived, but the small business of ancient times that included extended family members, workers, and customers who frequented the place.
It was through informal conversations within and between oikoi that men and women shared the gospel with friends, relatives, coworkers, colleagues, customers, students, teachers, and fellow soldiers—through their network of workplace relationships. They were not professional clergy but informal evangelists.
As early as Acts 8 we find that it is not the apostles but the “amateur” missionaries, the men evicted from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution which followed Stephen’s martyrdom, who took the gospel with them wherever they went. … This must not have been formal preaching, but the informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing.
As a result, the workplace became the most strategic venue for evangelism for the early church.
A study conducted by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but most never do.
Today, the church of Jesus Christ is experiencing similar exponential growth in the Global South—which raises a question: With over 340,000 churches  and more than 600,000 clergy, and 75 percent of Americans “looking for ways to live a more meaningful life,” why is the Christian population in the West shrinking while the non-religious population is growing?
As Western culture moves further away from Christ, we might assume that reaching people with the gospel has become more difficult. In a way this is true. It is certainly harder to get people to visit a church, to listen to a gospel presentation from a stranger, or to attend a crusade. But a door for the gospel remains wide open through personal relationships. In fact, studies show that up to 90 percent of people in a given congregation who come to Christ as adults, do so because of a relationship with one or more Christians outside the four walls of the church. This is what makes the workplace so strategic. It’s where the actual work we do every day can not only contribute to human flourishing, but also give living proof that the gospel really is good news.
Christians of every era are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. An ambassador is a personal envoy sent from the head of a state. Just as a head of state sends an ambassador on a diplomatic mission, Christ sends us on a mission to represent him in both words and actions.
We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
The job has two aspects—conveying messages from the sovereign and representing the sovereign personally. Conveying messages requires words, but representing the sovereign personally requires more than words. It also takes action, for example by demonstrating the sovereign’s character and acting to accomplish the sovereign’s purposes. As Christ’s ambassadors, we convey Christ’s message of good news and we live in ways that show God’s love for the people we encounter at work and everywhere we go.
Jesus' words in Acts 1:8 flesh out this picture of being an ambassador. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus does not send his followers to go witnessing, but to be his witnesses. To go witnessing might only mean speaking words about God somewhere away from home, but to be a witness means living a life that shows God’s love wherever we are. In fact, we are never commanded in the Bible to go witnessing. To focus on telling before showing disconnects who we are from what we say—and that’s a problem. Church historian Michael Greene notes that the early church’s impact on the world was dependent on this linkage of the messengers’ lives and their words.
It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.
The connection between belief and behavior runs right through Christian literature. The two cannot be separated without disastrous results. Among them, the end of effective evangelism.
Notice the order in Paul’s instructions to the Colossians, how actions precede spiritual conversation.
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. (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)
When we serve other people through our actions, we bring the love of Jesus to them. Evangelism is not as much about bringing people to Jesus but bringing Jesus to people—to show and then tell. Bringing Jesus to people—serving them—was key to Paul’s strategy of bringing people to Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 9:19 he says, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” Paul was willing to reach out to people wherever they felt at home in terms of space, language, or history, not make them accommodate themselves to him.
What does it look like to be Christ’s ambassador at work—to serve Christ at work and represent him there? While none of us will do these things perfectly, there are four components that make our witness credible to others—competence, character, concern, and wise conversation. We encourage you to consider how God can use these elements to attract others to himself. They are not a formula, a technique, or steps to success, but ways we show that our faith is real to coworkers and colleagues. As we review these concepts ourselves, we consistently see areas where we need to improve. But no one has messed up to the point of hopelessness. In fact, where we’ve made mistakes and can humbly confess our shortcomings, our witness becomes more believable. Even if it were possible to be perfect, people can’t identify with perfect Christians. To be able to identify with us as witnesses, they need to know that we ourselves need grace.
As Christ’s ambassadors we are key players in the great drama of redemption. God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself and he wants us to join him. He does not need us to carry out his plans, yet he gives us this great privilege. He has invited us to join him in redeeming creation and participating with the Holy Spirit in drawing people to himself. In his infinite wisdom, God ordained that his sovereignty and human responsibility would work together to achieve his purposes. Too grand for our finite minds to comprehend, God calls us to believe this in faith and fulfill our role in his story by making disciples. As workplace followers of Christ we have not only an obligation but an incredible opportunity to foster human flourishing and spread the gospel to the men and women with whom we live and work. None of us is equal to the task, but fortunately God is. God’s ability, not our own, is ultimately what gives us confidence in the work of evangelism. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
For Further Reading
Workplace Grace by Bill Peel and Walt Larrimore
Permission Evangelism by Michael L. Simpson
The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs
Apologetics at the Cross by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen