Workplace Ministry – Equipping Ourselves

How many of you think you are leaders?

How many of you think you are followers of Christ?

The fact is that we do not have much of a choice or much of a say in this matter. Let me explain why.

John C Maxwell, the noted Church leader, author and Leadership Guru, states in the Maxwell Leadership Bible that one of the simplest, but most profound definitions of Leadership that he has come across is “Leadership is influence”. I could not agree with him more. You look at any leaders, you will ultimately realise that they influence the lives of their “followers” in many ways, some of them good, some of them bad.

And here is another profound statement, once we profess our faith in Jesus Christ, we are automatically called to influence the lives of others around us, in manner that will help them to get the same salvation that we got, the same salvation that is available for any one of us. The bible makes it clear to us in many places through Jesus’ words. Let us read some of them.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Matthew 5:13-14

Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. What happens if we hold the light or a candle and there is darkness around us? Where do we hold the light or candle? We automatically hold it in front of us, so that others could see the way.

Let us look at some of the other calls of Jesus.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. John 15:1

I like John 15:16 particularly. Jesus is not giving me a choice here. He says, he chose me.. chose me to go and bear fruit. This is what drove  me to  set up the ministry that I am part of. I was encouraged by the very first red letter words in the Bible, Luke 2:49, as written in the NJKV “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business” Jesus was very clear that his mission on earth was to complete his Father’s business, His father’s business of salvation, which the father has been communicating to all peoples through prophets, heroes, heroines, kings , priests etc etc.. without much success.

In the ministry to which God has called me, I help Christian professionals and organisations to understand and use the Leadership principles and tools available, and required, in the “secular” world, from a biblical perspective. And the beauty is all the leadership principles used in the corporate world today are available in the bible. The problem is, we mostly do not look at them from that perspective. I have this model of Leadership development which I call as the Menorah FOLD

The Menorah FOLD starts with the truth that all of us are called to bear fruits. If we are called to bear fruits, especially in the form of more lives saved for the Lord, (because that is what He desires, He does not want even a single soul to perish) . If we have to influence others, it will depend a lot on how others feel to be in our company. Do they feel encouraged to be in our company? Do they feel, disgusted to be in our company? Or some where in between? The next truth is , the way others feel to be in our company, is to a large extent influenced by the way we behave in situations. In corporate world we call this Leadership Styles. Again, the way we behave is a function of who we are, and the situation that God places us in. Who we are, could become a complex function of our personality, our skills and competencies etc. But for us Christians, it is all derived out of our Christian Identity, who we are in Christ. In the Menorah Leadership Ministries, we help  Christian Professionals , Christian workers and Christian Organisations understand these principles and apply them at work, immaterial of whether we work in a Christian organisation or a secular organisation.

A lot of Christians feel uncomfortable with the thought that they are called to do “Ministry”. We are comfortable believing that ministry is best left to full time missionaries or pastors or workers of Christian  organisations. After all, the Bible tells us to “go or send” and a lot of people take comfort in the “send” part of the command. But the fact is, ministry need not always be a full time work. Ministry is how we uphold the statutes in the place where we work.

Let us look at some of the relevant scripture lessons about workplace ministry.

  • Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
  • 2 Corinthians 8:21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.
  • 1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
  • Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Apart from the call to workplace ministry in these and other scripture passages, there are some very practical messages for work ethics for Christians here, work ethics required for success at the workplace. That is the subject for totally another talk.

My studies and search through the scriptures have revealed three primary aspects to be successful at the Workplace ministry, and I would like to share them with you.

1.       Our SHAPE for the workplace ministry

2.       Understanding our Christian Identity and

3.       Acknowledging our uniqueness

SHAPE

SHAPE is an acronym coined by Rick Warren, Author of “Purpose driven Life” and “Purpose Driven Church”. He coined this in the context of Leadership. However I would like to use it for ministry too.

  • Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12) : What are the  spiritual gifts that I have been endowed with, for ministry?
  • Heart or Passion : Do I have passion for ministry?
  • Abilities or Natural Skills : What are the abilities and skills that God has given me for Ministry? Am I willing to dedicate those skills for the
  • Personality : What personality traits of mine should I use for ministry?
  • Experiences: What experiences have I had in the past that I should use for furthering the ministry?

I am going to dwell on just the personality part of the SHAPE this morning. What are the right aspects of personality to do ministry, where we are placed, In our neighborhood, in our workplace, in our business, in our friends circle. I am not talking about full time missionaries here. I am talking about you and me, who live among the quote unquote “pagans” and are called to influence them so that they may have same hope that we have too.

My studies reveal to me that there are six aspects of the personality that we need to be conscious about to do ministry in our own space.

We need to be a person of the six P’s for us to be able to do ministry effectively.

The first P is the Person of Peace.

In Luke 10:5-6, Lord Jesus Christ asks the 72 messengers to offer peace to the house where they visit and he says “if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. Else it will return to you. “ To have this happen , there are two conditions. Firstly I must be a man (or woman) of peace. Am I seen as a Man of  peace  by others? Will people see Romans 12:18 in me?

The second part of Person of Peace is the ability to identify another Man of  Peace. Jesus says in John 4:34-38, that the harvest is ready even now. We must be able to identify when is the harvest time. We must be able to identify who is the Lost sheep of Israel (Matt 10:6) and know that there will be people who will reject the Gospel, Jesus was aware of that (Luke 10:16) . We must prayerfully ask the holy spirit to guide us in identifying the men of peace with whom gospel can be shared

The second P is that of People relationships. Here again, we have two types of relationships. One is passing relationships. This could be some one we meet in the market, or in the lift, or may be a co traveler, a person whom you interviewed for recruitment. There is all possibilities that you may never meet that person ever again. The question that we need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to make use of this passing relationship to plat a seed? (1 Cor 3:6), or do we pass the opportunity saying that “hey.. I will never be able to take this forward, so why waste my time here?

The second part of People relationship is the permanent relationships. This could be your immediate family, (like in my case), your colleagues, your neighbors, Can I hold and maintain a permanent relationship with some one , without hurrying or forcing the gospel on that person, and without giving up hope, and depend on God to get them ready?  I am happy that my wife Leslie is a person like that. She was patient with me, and never forced the gospel on me. She mustered prayers from everyone in her church, and it is the power of their prayers that got me into the Kingdom. In 2 Peter 3:8-9 Peter tells us that the Lord is patient with us and do not want any one to perish. Let us remember that it is true for those we are trying to “save” too. We need to be patient with them, and let the Holy Spirit prepare their hearts for the gospel.

The third P is the Presence. Some times all that the Lord asks us to do is to be present where he wants us to be. We do not always need to act or shout. Some of us get impatient some times. We feel that we are not doing God’s will if we do not say halleluiah or Praise God a few times in a company. We feel that we are letting God down, if we do not link up the happenings or discussions to God and his plans. Some times just by being present we can bring Christ’s presence to the situation, even though many may not acknowledge the presence. Just being there, just listening, just lending a shoulder to cry on, just to share the joy of some one.  Jesus went to the tax collector’s house for supper (Luke 5:29). The Bible does not record that he gave some profound messages while he was there.  He was just being there, enjoying the company of sinners… (not sin) . Job 2:13 describes a scene where Job’s friends visit him and just sit with him without a word for 7 days and 7 nights , they were just being present with Job, and knew that  words are not necessary at this point in time. Can I be a person of presence?

The fourth P is Proclamation. We some times misunderstand the word proclamation. We take it that we must use oratory, or preaching to proclaim. “To Proclaim” only means “to give an outward indication of some thing”. Can we live and give the outward indication of Jesus’ message of “repent and live”. Evangelism is really inviting a person to walk the walk of faith with you.. not  just saying a prayer for that person. 1 Peter 2:12 says “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”.

The fifth P is Preparation. This is a hard one, especially in this world driven by results and quick wins, and so on.. This concept is so much against the corporate culture. Here is the question is are you willing to just plough the field, even if it is not you who is going to sow the seed, forget about watering it , or harvesting it? Can you just be happy to prepare the ground., not knowing if your efforts will even bear fruits? There is a danger if this concept is taken too far. This is true for one on one ministry for people who are not into full time mission work, and are reaching out to persons around them in the workplace or neighborhood etc. Some of the Christian organisations and churches , some time pick up this attitude, and do not plan for results at all. This needs to be seen in the correct context. John the Baptist was very content to just “prepare the way for the Lord” (Matt 3:3, Luke 3:16-17)

The last P is that of Perception. Mark 10:17-22 describes a story when Jesus lets the rich young man walk away, even though Jesus loved him. Jesus knew that the man was not ready. This is what perception is about. To be able to read the response of the person and understand if the person is ready or not. This is not to say that we must be in a hurry to run away from people who are not responding to the gospel, but we must be able to perceive if and when the person will open up to the gospel, and if not, be ready to “shake the dust off your feet” (Matt 10:14) and move on. We by ourselves may not be able to perceive correctly. That is why we should spend enough time with God asking the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us to really identify the Person of Peace in others.

All these are not easy, many of these might not come naturally to us, not very one of us may be good in striking up a conversation with some stranger whom we meet on  a plane, let alone sow the seeds of gospel in that person. We may not be good at perceiving the responses correctly. But then we are not alone. God has given us the counselor, the Holy Spirit to help us an guide us. If we are convinced about the call for us to be doing ministry wherever we are, we will get ample help from the holy spirit to exhibit the right competencies for such ministry. Actually, we do not have much of a choice in that matter. Once we accept Jesus Christ as our saviour, we are bound by his command “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16

Christian Identity

There are some Christians who shrink back at the thought of understanding self. They sincerely believe that knowing God is enough and we need not seek to know ourselves. I  am not sure where you are on seeking to know self. From what I know of the scriptures, knowing self is a pre-requisite for knowing God. Let us take a look at Peter’s denial of Jesus. Jesus predicted, (Luke 22:34) and what do  you think the reaction of Peter would have been? Peter had just reassured Jesus that he will go to prison and lay down his own life for Jesus, and the prediction of the denial came immediately after that.  If I was in Peter’s place, I would have doubted the Lord’s judgment itself. Lord, I just said I will lay down my life for you, and you think I am going to deny you.. are you joking my Lord? The fact is, the Lord was able to see the deepest fears which were there in Peter. If Peter had sought to know this… Look at David’s temptation when he saw Beersheba… Was he fully aware of the deepest desires within him? Could thinga have been different if he had known himself better?  My strongest argument in knowing self comes from this fact; we are all called to surrender ourselves to God, the question that we need to ask ourselves is , if we do not know ourselves very well, what are we surrendering? Are we surrendering superficially to God?

Fortunately there are some Christian leaders who agree with me on this subject.

There is no deep knowing of God without the deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without  the deep knowing of God: John Calvin (In his book: The Institutes of Christian Religion)

 Grant, Lord, that I may know myself as I know thee : A prayer composed by Augustine (Fifth Century Church leader)

There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend; to discover myself in discovering God: Thomas Merton, a modern day writer

I would go as far as to say that the teaching  that we should focus on God and Christ alone and not seek to understand ourselves and our identity as new creatures in Christ is not Christian but anti-Christian. Selwyn Hughes, writer of EDWJ

Uniqueness

Some of us some times tend to copy , or imitate some one else. We some times feel that we are not as oratorical as some one, or as learned as some one, or as humble as some one, and thus hold ourselves back from carrying out God’s mission. I strongly believe that when I stand at gates of heaven, the Lord is not going to ask me , why I did not be like Billy Graham , or Ravi Zacharia or Sam Kamalesan. God is going to ask me why I did not live like the Madana that he created me to be. We are created uniquely, not by chance, but because God wanted it to be that way. We need to be able to understand the uniqueness and work accordingly. This is a key point in corporate world, being able appreciate the differences in the people whom we work with is the first step to team work. Our God loves variety, and that is the reason why he has created you and me in our own unique manner. We need to accept the way we are, and seek to do God’s will accordingly in the place that God has placed us.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12:6

1 Corinthians 12:27 (Amplified Bible) Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body and [individually] you are members of it, each part severally and distinct [each with his own place and function].

Romans 12:4-5 (Amplified Bible) 4For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use,     5So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another].

Psalm 139:13-14 (New Living Translation)13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Romans 9:20-21 (The Message)

Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans?

Romans 9:25-26 (the Message) Hosea put it well: I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”  they’re calling you “God’s living children.”

 I have read this quote some where “Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.”

 Let us Pray that the Lord will help us to use our unique personality and our Christian Identity for being a light at our workplace.

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