On Saturday a friend told me he could never be much of a witness in the workplace because... (notice where his thinking begins)... if he entered into debate, he'd only end up losing the arguments. I, on the other hand, would (he imagined) wipe the floor with their non-Christian reasoning and establish the unassailable right-ness of Christian truth. And... (at this point the details became hazy)... somehow his work colleagues would then bow to the superior intellectual credibility of the gospel, and... I dunno... become Christians?
Yeah, at that point the fantasy goes completely bonkers. But the opening assumptions are powerful. And they shape the way we think about evangelism. Essentially "being a witness" at work means - in the popular Christian imagination - being able to "hold your own" in discussions of stem-cell research and providing a Christian response to Euro-zone debt. Or at least it means being able to bridge seamlessly from discussions of popular culture to gospel truths. And, frankly, few people are up to that. I'm not really up to that and I'm paid to be.
But here are some things I told my friend...
What if the goal is not to win the arguments in the workplace? What if the goal is to be the kind of work colleague who others would open up to in a crisis? Because, let's face it, the person who's good at winning arguments aint always the person you'd confide in when your life's falling apart. In fact, scratch that. They almost never are!
I think that's a vital and fundamental change that needs to happen in our thinking. The key characteristic of "a good witness" needs to be someone who hurting people can confide in. Once we're thinking in those categories, evangelism in the workplace becomes a different beast.
Now the aim is to be a person who's known as a Christian, who seems to have something different about them, who loves people, who has an integrity, an openness, a pastoral heart and who has something different to say. Note - it's not that they have to be contrary, nor that they have to be "right", nor that they have to be heard, just that when they do speak, they seem to come from a different angle than the 'wisdom of the world.' In other words - our aim in being a witness in the workplace is... wait for it... to be a Christian.
This is not to make being a witness easy. It's not (because being a Christian isn't easy). But hopefully it simplifies our aims. And now, if you want some strategies for offering distinctive speech as a Christian, how about sitting down and thinking about how you'd finish these introductory sentences...
"Yeah, that's what I love about Jesus. He's constantly..."
"To be honest, that's why I'm a Christian. What really appealed was..."
"We thought about that at my church last Sunday. There's this story in the bible where..."
"Actually my church is really different like that. When such and such happened, they responded..."
"When I suffered X, the one thing that got me through was..."
If you can't finish off those sentences, the issue is not that you're a bad evangelist. If you can't finish those sentences it's because you've forgotten what you have in Jesus. And together with a Christian friend or two, perhaps you need to remind one another. Being able to finish those sentences will do your Christian life the world of good. And, by the by, it will also help your witness.
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matthew 12:34)