Dear Theophilus: Work, Culture and the Kingdom

By Mike Richardson, Faculty

Woman in blue and white polka dot button-down shirt praying at work

Dear Faculty,

How can you apply the Christian faith and advance the kingdom of God with your work in a work environment where the Christian faith is not welcome?

– Theophilus

Dear Theophilus,

What an interesting question you pose here. Let’s see if we can navigate a course through some of the pitfalls you might encounter as you seek first God’s kingdom in your secular and pluralistic cultural context at work.

Our Culture’s Starting Point

When you go to work, it is helpful to recognize that we live in a secular and pluralistic society. The unwritten rule in that context is that one’s faith or core belief system is private and personal. You are allowed, and even encouraged, to be who you are and to believe what you want, regardless of what that might be. The caveat to this is that what you believe should not get in the way of your work, hurt anyone else or make it seem like you are pushing your beliefs on anyone else.

One of the goals of the secular and pluralistic society is that everyone is equally welcome, Christian or otherwise. Tolerance is a chief value. In this context, most of how we express ourselves as Christians will be perfectly acceptable, and even an asset for our work environment. Our Christian convictions lead us to work hard, show respect, be honest and faithful and to care for those around us.

A Christian may experience a challenge in this cultural context if we express our views on morality or try to share our faith. Those would seem to be the only behaviors that could make the Christian faith unwelcome in the workplace.

A Suggested Strategy for Advancing the Kingdom

So, Theophilus, in practical terms, let’s say you are off to work in this pluralistic and secular context. The company wants you to work hard, get along with co-workers and generally contribute to the flourishing of the company. To align these goals with your own life goals as a Christian on a mission, consider the following.

How to Be a Christian in the Workplace

First, lead with good works by doing a great job. Contribute to the company so they can reach their goals. Be a good co-worker, putting other’s needs before your own. When you do this, you are an asset, not a liability, and you become a trusted member of the team. Leading with good works advances the kingdom and is a great starting point.

Of course, as a Christian, good works do not tell the whole story, but they open the door to the whole story. Your good works linked to your personal story of God’s grace in your life will cause your light to shine (Matthew 5:16). There is no need to be in a hurry about sharing the Gospel or telling your story. God has been working in the people’s lives at the company long before you arrived. Discern what He has already done in them and contribute wisely according to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Second, build authentic and caring relationships with the people at work. This will enhance the trust and credibility you gained with your good works. Listen to their stories and share your own. This is where your words and works merge into light to reveal the story of God’s goodness and grace, the gospel (Matthew 5:16). It has been said that the kingdom of God flows through gifts of relationship.

Incorporating Faith in Workplace

Live passionately for Christ, listen to the Holy Spirit. On the job, work hard and care about your co-workers by building loving and authentic relationships. Eventually they will ask you to give a reason for your hope, and you can do that with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Finally, when it comes to culture and the kingdom, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV).

Have your own theology questions? Get your questions answered by emailing cotblog@gcu.edu using the subject line “Dear Theophilus.” If you would like to learn more about the College of Theology and our degree programs at Grand Canyon University click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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