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Should Evangelism Be the Highest Priority of Christians at Work?

This week, the Lausanne Movement has gathered 700 Christian leaders in Manila for its Global Workplace Forum. Among the many topics under discussion is where evangelism should rank among the priorities of Christians at their workplaces.

Is workplace ministry primarily about evangelism? Answers arranged from “yes” to “no”:

Gea Gort, missiologist and author of BAM Global Movement (Netherlands):

Yes, it is! Because each Christian, having inherited the “DNA” of our Lord Jesus Christ, has a mission of reconciling the world—in and through Christ—back to God’s original intent. That is the Good News; that is evangelism. Reconciling and restoring individuals, as well as neighborhoods, systems, and ways of thinking. This will be accomplished at work and through our work—if we intentionally and earnestly seek God’s revelation regarding all aspects of our work. Time and again, I’ve witnessed this in my area of research: Business as Mission. Our message—spoken and unspoken—becomes powerful and convincing when backed up by our attitudes, business culture, and deeds at work. Then our whole lives tell a story. And let’s remind ourselves that we are not alone in our evangelistic endeavor: God desires to move and make himself known during the week in the marketplace and in our office buildings, as all things belong to him.

Joseph Vijayam, CEO of Olive Technology and Lausanne’s Catalyst for Technology (United States/India):

Workplace ministry is about sharing the gospel in word and deed—which is evangelism—but it is also about living a life that bears witness to the fruit of the gospel. In other words, it is both intentional evangelism, which is the “doing,” as well as the unintentional living, which is the “being.” Both the being and the doing will point to Christ and his gospel. In that sense, yes, workplace ministry is about evangelism, though not always intentional and certainly not limited to the narrow definition of speaking persuasively about salvation. A workplace minister is an ambassador of the gospel at all time. And by that definition, she is engaged primarily—though not exclusively—in evangelism.

Francis Tsui, president of an investment firm and member of Lausanne’s Consultation on Wealth Creation and Holistic Transformation (Hong Kong):

Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” All believers should heed this calling wherever they are. In the workplace, believers should live out the presence of the incarnate Jesus as their purpose and their calling. Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah to call for bringing good news to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). We likewise should be proclaiming the good news to these people in our workplace. The purpose of the good news being proclaimed is to bring about the presence of Jesus to whatever circumstances people might be in, so that people may meet Jesus where they are and experience the compassion, the love, and the relevance of Jesus in their contexts. When we do that, “evangelism” will happen. Evangelism is not just about reciting the gospel, calling for conversion, or bringing spiritual transformation. In our workplace, we believers should help people to meet Jesus, to let Jesus speak into their lives, and to see the reconciled relationship with Jesus blessing the new life relevantly and holistically. It is much more dynamic and impactful than our conventional understanding of evangelism.

Timothy Liu, healthcare administrator, Lausanne Catalyst for Workplace Ministry, and chair of GWF (Singapore):

Workplace ministry is about evangelism—and much more. If it is only just a platform for evangelism, then we have really got it wrong. Perhaps better to flip the table and say if we do workplace ministry right and well, evangelism is a natural by-product. In the 2004 Lausanne gathering at Pattaya, the Marketplace Ministry group defined the “Three Commissions”: the Cultural Commission, the Love Commission, and the Evangelistic Commission (see Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 40). They are not separate but a whole, deriving our understanding from a Trinitarian God. If we overemphasize one or the other, we essentially have an unbalanced gospel. In a postmodern world, the gospel cannot simply be heard but also seen, felt, and experienced. We need to have a deeper understanding that Christ did not just die for people, but the whole of creation that has been broken together with the rebellion of Adam and Eve. It was God who loved the “cosmos.” Therefore, the salvation of Christ necessitates the redemption and restoration of all of creation, thus the second Adam. In and through the daily work of believers in the world, we restore not only his creation but also all that is wrong and broken in this world—with expectation that full restoration comes in the form of the Holy City, both a spiritual as well as a material existence. The resurrected Christ further testifies that this restoration is both physical as well as spiritual. Our daily work transformed is therefore an anticipation of that reality and hope in Christ’s return.

Kina Robertshaw, speaker at GWF (United Kingdom):

It all depends on what one means by evangelism. My understanding of evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus in word and action. We witness to others both through our words and our deeds. The two must be consistent with each other. We cannot make faithful followers of Jesus unless we ourselves are faithful followers. In my research interviewing 50 Christian entrepreneurs in the UK, I encountered four different answers to the question of whether they believed their work was contributing to God’s kingdom. They all said yes, but saw themselves doing this in different ways: the first group through providing an excellent product or service thus making the world a better place; the second group through embodying Christian values and high standards of business ethics in their company; the third group by openly sharing their faith with people in the workplace; and the fourth group through generously giving to charitable and Christian causes. The third group were clearly the most directly evangelistic. But the answers of the others are all important in terms of supporting what we say. Our words are crucial, but they need to be backed up by our deeds; only then is evangelism the highest priority of workplace ministry.

Willy Kotiuga, tentmaker in 25 countries, chair of Bakke Graduate University board of regents, and chair of GWF program team (Canada):

People come to Christ when they feel loved, not lectured! Do we try to convince people to “sign” a contract with God to get a ticket to heaven, or do we walk with them as they enter into a vibrant covenant relationship with the living God? We are called to proactively make disciples, not to convert people. Are we so stuck adhering to “evangelistic” methods that we don’t invest in creating workplace environments that are conducive to discovering God? My burden of having to “evangelize” was lifted when I started praying daily, “God, help me to bring everyone I meet today one step closer to personal faith in Jesus Christ.” The journey to faith is not just a single event. If evangelism is just proclamation of the Word, then it should never be the highest priority of workplace ministry. But if evangelism includes tilling the soil, influencing corporate strategies, preparing people’s hearts to discover the loving reality of God through grace—then it should be the highest priority. However, based on the current narrow understanding of evangelism in usage today, it is not a priority.

Wendy Simpson OAM, chair of the Wengeo Group (Australia):

No. As a businessperson, I long for the day when local churches see it as essential to equip and release workers in their calling. Workplace ministry’s highest priority must be to raise up catalysts to champion the workplace as a key ministry within local churches. How can the global church truly expect to accomplish the Great Commission, and create 24/7 disciples, if it has not developed its teaching on how Christians actually integrate their faith into the activities which occupy the largest part of their daily lives? Workers are yearning to discover God’s purpose in their daily work. I believe as the local church shows workers how to integrate into their work life spiritual disciplines such as mediation, prayer, fasting, simplicity, confession, worship, and celebration, the world will start to see an attractive authentic Christianity. If Sunday Christians are the desired outcome, there is no need for workplace ministry. If whole-of-life discipleship is our mandate, then we have an urgent need for workplace ministry in our churches.

Jerry White, international president emeritus of The Navigators and retired US Air Force major general (United States):

My answer to this provocative question is an emphatic “no.” Workplace ministry is far broader than evangelism. It affirms the holiness and dignity of work and the worker. Evangelism is the natural consequence of living the life of Christ in the workplace. Both presence and purpose permeate the believer at work. We live out the presence of Christ by our work ethic and our attitude. Since God is a worker, we fulfill his command to work (Gen. 2:15) to sustain our family and our neighbors in each local society. God calls us to vocation. He enables us to work with competence and excellence. He gives us pleasure in the employment of our God-given skills. Work is more than a platform for evangelism and discipleship. Rather, it is part of God’s grand plan for believers and not-yet believers. In the context of life, work, and neighborhood, we reach out with the love and hope of Christ, drawing our coworkers into discovery of the one who gives true purpose to life. Does evangelism happen? Most assuredly. In our workplace, we are prepared to “give a reason for the hope that is in us.” Thus our highest priority is to glorify God, drawing people to see Jesus in us. Whether in missions or in our home country, a believer’s work displays the light of Christ and becomes the natural pathway for the gospel.

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