Written by Sam Chan, Australia
Sam Chan (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is a public evangelist with City Bible Forum in Sydney, Australia, where he regularly shares the gospel with bankers and lawyers at breakfast, city workers during their lunch break, and high-school and uni students in the evening. He speaks at conferences around the world on the topics of ethics, storytelling, apologetics, and the practice of evangelism in a post-Christian culture. Sam has other resources on sharing Jesus in a post-Covid world on The Post-Covid Playbook and has also recently published a new book titled, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being That Guy).
It’s scary to be a Christian in today’s workplace.
If anyone finds out that we’re a Christian, there’s a good chance they will automatically assume we are haters, bigots, and racists. We will have awkward conversations defending our views on religion. So it’s natural that we want to stay quiet, never let anyone know that we’re a Christian, and avoid any talk about Jesus.
I work a few days a week as a doctor in hospitals (on top of my ministry work as a speaker). One day, a nurse asked me, “What do you do for the rest of the week?” I took a deep breath and muttered, “I’m in full-time Christian ministry.” Puzzled, she probed, “What does that mean?”
I took a deeper breath and mumbled, “I tell people about Jesus from the Bible.”
There was stunned silence. Her smile disappeared and she walked away. She ignored me for the next few hours.
I thought to myself, “Aaargh. There you go. I’ve offended her.”
But later in the day, she approached me, “I’m a full-time practising Christian. I go to church every Sunday. In fact, I’m going to the church retreat this weekend.”
This time I thought, “Wow! Even though I was a Christian, she didn’t know how to tell me that she was a Christian.”
If we as Christians are finding it hard to confess our faith to another Christian in the workplace, what are the chances of us telling our non-Christians workmates about our faith?
Yet, we do have a burning desire to tell our non-Christian workmates friends about Jesus. We spend so much time with them, but we don’t know how to come out as a Christian to them.
So, what can we do to tell our workmates about Christ without the awkwardness? I’ve got three quick tips.
#1 – Be proud to own Jesus at work
Matthew 10:32-33 can sound a little scary when we first read it. It starts by saying, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I’ll acknowledge before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in Heaven”. So, if I disown Jesus at work, then Jesus will disown me! But these verses also say the opposite: Jesus proudly owns us before God the Father. Jesus says to His Father, “This person is one of mine. I am proud to own him/her.”
That means we can also proudly own Jesus. Jesus is with me, and I am with Him!
It’s sometimes scary to be a Christian at work because we feel so alone. It’s like being an Australian Wallabies supporter in a highly anticipated rugby match surrounded by a sea of New Zealand All Blacks fans!
But the point of these verses is to show that we are not alone. Jesus is with us. In fact, Jesus is proud to be with us in the workplace. He brags about it to His Father.
In the same way, we too can be proud to belong with Jesus in the workplace.
But what does this exactly mean?
I think it’s a bit like how these days I am well and truly a family man. I wasn’t always this way. For a long time I was single. I drove a strictly two-seater sports car. I lived out of the boot of my car. I dropped around people’s homes around dinner time hoping for an invitation for a meal.
But now I am a family man. And I’m proud of it. I don’t mean that I’m loud or braggy about it. I simply mean that it’s so much who I am that it oozes out of me—in how I think, behave, and talk.
For example, if I’m asked to work an extra shift, I automatically say I can’t because I promised my wife I would take her out for her birthday. Or when people ask about my weekend, I talk about my sons’ football games. Or if someone needs a lift, I give them a ride in my dull, drab, grey family van—complete with baby seats, chips wrappers, and chocolate stains.
It’s the same with being proud to belong with Jesus in the workplace. It’s so much who we are that our loyalty to Jesus should ooze out of us.
We freely offer to pray for someone if they share a concern with us. We’re not awkward when we talk about dropping our kids off at the church youth group on Friday night. When people ask about my plans for Easter, I talk about the special meaning it has for me as a Christian.
#2 –Don’t wait to have it “all together”
Scripture says we have “this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthains 4:7). This verse tells me that God brings His gospel to the world inside boring, mundane, ordinary “jars of clay”—us! This means that God uses us—not despite our weaknesses, but because of our weaknesses—to tell our friends the gospel.
It’s a bit like how motorcycle riders often choose to ride what are called café racers. These bikes are old, noisy, leaking oil, and blowing too much smoke. Yes, they could choose bikes that are newer, faster, and more powerful, but there’s no fun in that. The café racers have charm, beauty, and character because they are slow and unreliable.
In the same way, God could choose more gifted and talented people to tell our friends about Jesus. But instead, God chooses to use us.
Most of us are worried that we’re not gifted enough to talk about Jesus at work. We’re too shy. Too socially awkward. Too far down the hierarchy. But that’s exactly why God will use us. Not despite our weaknesses. But precisely because of these weaknesses.
In my work with the City Bible Forum, I often meet people who tell their friends about Jesus at their workplaces. These are the ones who also turn up to our City Bible Forum events with a bunch of non-Christian friends to hear our talks.
But at the same time, when I talk to these people they are supremely shy and socially awkward. Often they are office workers who are low down the hierarchy. But maybe that’s exactly why they are also the most effective evangelists. God uses their shyness—because such people are less likely to offend. God uses their awkwardness—because such people are less likely to be brash, abrasive, and self-righteous. God uses their lower ranking jobs—because people won’t feel coerced to say yes to an invitation.
#3 –Ask your workmates about their religion!
Do you remember high school chemistry lab experiments? Often all the ingredients are there for a chemical reaction. But nothing would happen until we added a catalyst, which would nudge the other ingredients to react.
It’s the same with talking to our workmates about Jesus. Often, all the ingredients are already there: we have the relationship, trust, and social capital. But nothing will happen until we ask a catalyst question which nudges the conversation to the next level.
Examples of these catalyst questions are: “Do you have a faith?” “What religion did your parents raise you with?”, “What’s the best thing about being an atheist/Buddhist/Muslim/etc?”
These questions give our friend the permission to talk about the sacred. Our job is now to simply listen to understand, not to respond. The aim is to let them have a safe conversation about what is deepest and most true to them. They are allowed to be vulnerable. They will not be judged. Instead, they will be heard and understood.
And if we give them the space for a safe conversation about their sacred beliefs, sooner or later, they will give us the space for a safe conversation about our beliefs.
For the last few months, I asked my colleague about their belief about Buddhism, and listened to them as they talked to me about their religion and what it meant to them. And now, they’re starting to ask me questions about my faith and giving me the permission to talk about Jesus.
Sharing Jesus in our secular workplaces can be scary—especially since our workplaces are so diverse and we don’t want to offend anyone. Or maybe we think we can only talk about Jesus to our workmates if we are extroverts with amazing, dazzling, sinless lives. So we simply stay quiet and avoid any conversations about our faith. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Jesus is with us at work; we are not alone. He is proud to own us; so we can be proud to own him. And he wants to use us as exactly the way we are—broken jars of clay—to be his vessels of the gospel. Sharing Jesus to our workmates doesn’t have to be a big evangelistic moment either. It can be as simple as: “Hey, tell me more about your faith…” and giving them a safe space to talk.