By Jamie Shafer
Over the past two years I have had the privilege of sharing the stories of people who are finding ways to impact others by living out their faith in the workplace. These men and women have come from all walks of life and types of careers. I’ve talked with small business owners, corporate executives, a photographer, a vocal coach for top recording artists, a school bus driver, and an editorial cartoonist, among others. It has been humbling to hear these stories and discover how God is moving in both unique and common ways in our country and around the world.
Although each story is unique, there are common threads interwoven among them. No matter their hometown or career choice, it’s clear that God is achieving his kingdom purposes through ordinary people working in ordinary jobs. They may not be serving in vocational ministry, but they are reaching out to others who are seeking hope and encouragement.
Business owners are striving to run their companies based on biblical principles, even if it means risking a potentially higher profit. They are striving to care for their employees as individuals, treating them fairly and with respect. Employees are finding ways to become positive influences in their workplaces by committing to pray for their coworkers or starting workplace Bible studies.
Many of the people I’ve talked with say that God led them to a major change in their approach to work after a “crossroads moment.” Some of them found they were achieving worldly success, but still went home feeling empty and dissatisfied every day. Others were introduced to Jesus in their adult years by a coworker and were inspired to do the same for others. A few experienced a deep loss in their lives and found that God met them in the lowest moment.
Churches also have great opportunity when it comes to helping their members embrace the idea of living the Great Commission as marketplace missionaries. The American church is experiencing its own crossroads moment in culture right now. To ignore the expansive mission field of the everyday workplace would be a costly miss in advancing the cause of Christ. So how can the church begin equipping ordinary men and women to make an extraordinary impact for God’s kingdom?
Helping Others Find Purpose
Get started by stopping. Pause and pray for the impact your church family can have in your community by seeing their jobs as places of kingdom ministry. Often when people deepen in their relationships with Christ, they find themselves searching for God’s plan for their future. They question whether they should remain in their current job or pursue something in vocational ministry. The idea that God can use them at their current place of employment can be exciting.
Dr. C. Neal Johnson, Professor and Department Chair at the College of Business and Management at Hope International University in Fullerton, California, teaches and guides students on the practice of business as mission.
He notes, “The pews are full of a whole army of people. We need to organize and equip them to go out into the community.” He suggests starting efforts could be as simple as offering a sermon series on the value of the workplace and introducing the idea that God can call people to a line of work or to a specific workplace.
He also offered ideas like hosting a commissioning service for those who want to be more intentional about reaching their workplaces for Christ. Encourage Christian business leaders to mentor high school and college students as they begin making career choices and preparations.
Helping Others Make Connections
Churches can also consider how to help the congregation and community connect in roundtable groups where believers can support one another. Here they can talk through tough issues, like what it means to base your work on biblical principles—especially when it comes to ethics or the hiring and firing of employees. Search online for partnering options in your community.
With so many people seeking work in our country, consider reaching out through an unemployment ministry that offers coaching and job searching assistance. Trained, caring mentors who can see people through the job transition process can make an incredibly positive impact on someone who is feeling overwhelmed by the demoralizing effects of job rejections.
Want more ideas and resources? Check out www.businessasmission.com.
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.