Almost four weeks ago I wrote about my reasons for working full time even though I’m confident God has called me to vocational ministry. I’ve had four weeks at my place of employment now and as I sat over lunch I noted down seven things that I’ve learned since starting. The majority of them are directed at people who, like me, are in or feel called to vocational ministry. The last few are more directly toward people who Christ has placed as vocational missionaries in the workplace. We can all learn from both. I know I’ve had plenty to think about and learn from in my 10 days working 8-5.
Brothers and sisters in Christ are most precious when you’re not always surrounded by them. It’s so easy to get frustrated with Christians, especially people who have spent years in the church and yet have the spiritual maturity of a four-year old. Petty conflicts over worship style, service length, Sunday school curriculum, and event scheduling swallow up the joy of kingdom work. When we’re surrounded by only believers it’s surprisingly easy to take for granted the body of Christ, but when you spend eight hours of your day as the only Christ-follower, a missionary sheep in the midst of wolves, the body becomes an amazingly precious thing. Rather than being more of a drain, our Community Gatherings and my time discipling other believers has become even more enjoyable now that I spend a larger amount of time away from the Christian bubble.
You probably don’t understand most of what you’re people experience day to day if you work at a church. I spent almost two years interning at a church and have spent the last few years working part time odd hours with the majority of my daily schedule given to ministry. For the last three years I haven’t worked at a church, but I have been largely living in the ministry world. I thought I had a better handle on what the “normal” believer’s life was like. Honestly, I was wrong. Hear this as a gentle reminder if you work full-time at a church or a ministry – much of your life is in a totally different world than many of your people’s. Not a wrong world, just a different one. We need to make intentional time to gain an understanding and empathy of our fellow believers experiences so we can empathize with and shepherd them well.
There are people who seriously need Jesus that you will never see at your church. Not because their against church, necessarily. It’s not even on their radar. I have yet to meet someone at work that goes to church more regularly than holidays, and I’ve met two people who have never set foot in a church in their 20-something years of life. These are people with serious needs, some of whom are wide open to the Gospel. I had a conversation about how Jesus changes marriage and relationships over lunch this afternoon with a guy who knows next to nothing about the Gospel. We can’t wait for people to attend our church to hear about Christ, and we can’t expect our people to go out as missionaries if we don’t set the example and regularly share stories of how God is using us as ministers of reconciliation.
It takes training and practice to live as a missionary at work. I’ve had to do some seriously daily indoctrination of myself to keep from getting sucked into the “just get through the day” mindset. Starting my day in the Word and prayer and listening to the Spirit’s guidance throughout the day is more critical than ever. I have to regularly remind myself that I’ve been sent first as a missionary and employee second. Work becomes something exciting when you go into it with the confidence that God has you there for Gospel purposes. However, that mindset isn’t something that just magically happens. It’s something that we need to train ourselves towards. Paul’s ability to rejoice in any circumstance didn’t come out of nowhere. He practiced. He sang while imprisoned, even if he didn’t feel like it. He trained his soul to rejoice and his mind to be set on mission, no matter what the context.
Breaks are your greatest tool. Leverage them for Gospel purposes, not your own enjoyment. Almost all of my getting to know other workers and conversations I’ve had have been during lunch or another break time. It’s tempting to use those precious few minutes for relaxation, catching up on Facebook, or my particular weakness – reading. We need to be tuned in to the Spirit’s leading enough that we know when he wants us to rest and when we wants us to leverage our break time for Jesus’ glory. Use that time to get to know the people he’s placed you near.
Time is terribly precious. Don’t waste it. When 9 hours of your day are given to an employer, every extra minute is precious. I know a terrible number of men and women whose lives follow the pattern of work, come home, and absorb entertainment until sleeping. God commanded a day of rest, not every evening full of relaxation. I come home from work tired, but Jesus didn’t take a night off because he was tired. Instead he entrusted himself to the Father who gives rest to the ones he loves and pushed onward. My evenings are where some of my most important ministry takes place. I want to leverage every ounce of my time for Christ’s sake.
Don’t hide Christ. Flaunt him. It’s so easy to tuck Christianity away behind a veneer of niceness in the work place. We need to be upfront with people about what we believe. Look for ways to let people know that you’re a Christian, not so that they’ll think more highly of you, but so that you’ll have the conscious knowledge that you are in your workplace as a representative. If people know you’re a disciple of Christ then your actions and words are teaching them what Christ is like. Flaunt Jesus. Make it clear that you are his and then live worthy of the calling that you’ve received.
It’s been about a month of work. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I do know that it’s where the Lord has me here and now and I want to be faithful with what he’s entrusted to me. For those of you who have more experience than me in living as disciples and missionaries of Christ in your workplace, do you have any advice for me?