Where does disciple making take place? Is it in church services on Sundays between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm? Or is it in a discipleship group on Wednesday mornings at the local coffee shop? Honestly, I think disciple making can happen in both places, but, I’d like to suggest a third option — the marketplace.
Think about it, the average American spends over 2,000 hours a year at work. That’s a huge chunk of time. And most of those hours are spent with coworkers from various backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs who will never walk through the doors of a church or circle up with a discipleship group.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do imagine that Jesus smiles when he sees discipleship taking place in our churches and groups, so please don’t think I’m diminishing their importance. However, I think heaven throws a party when the gospel overflows into the marketplace.
Ultimately, isn’t that the goal of discipleship? Isn’t it the church’s role to equip disciples to be the deliverers of the good news to a lost world everywhere we go?
So, how do we effectively engage the marketplace with the gospel? Here are five practical steps that you can start implementing today.
1. DO EXCELLENT WORK
This first step may not sound very “spiritual,” but it is reality. Your ability to make disciples at work is directly proportional to the way you execute your job. For instance, if your job performance is poor, if you’re constantly late to work, if your projects are never on time, if you forget to follow through on tasks, and meanwhile, you consistently invite your coworkers to church. I’m sorry, but your coworkers will not want to go to church with you. In fact, they don’t want you to go to church. They would rather you stay home and finish your project on time so they can get on with their lives.
So instead, be excellent in everything you do at your job. Take initiative, be self-motivated, learn a new skill without being asked, stretch yourself, do outside research, make your boss and your coworkers look good, give credit to others, and please be on time.
You’ll find that your excellent work will become a platform for your faith.
2. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Sharing the gospel effectively is so much more than an informational transaction. Jesus-based disciple making is rooted in relationships. Our relationships help provide an environment of trust where the seeds of the gospel can begin to grow in our coworkers’ hearts. This is why it’s so important that followers of Jesus cultivate real relationships with their coworkers.
Here are a few relationship-building tips to get you started:
- Give the gift of attention. When your coworkers talk, listen to them and look them in the eye. Instead of looking at your phone during a break, engage them in conversation.
- Show genuine interest in their lives outside of work. Find out about their family. Do their kids play sports? Are they married? Ask questions about their weekend.
- Help them win. If you have an extra 30 minutes, why not help them finish a project? Share a resource with them that may help them execute their job better.
3. PRAY FOR (AND WITH) COWORKERS
Pray regularly for the salvation of your coworkers. Ask Jesus to open their hearts to the gospel and give you an opportunity to share with them.
Also, look for opportunities to pray with your coworkers. If they share a need with you, why not take a moment to stop and pray together? It may seem intimidating to say, “Would you mind if I prayed for you right now?” I’ve never had anyone respond negatively to that question though. In fact, most people receive it as an incredibly kind gesture even if they’re not a follower of Jesus.
Several months ago, I was talking to the CEO of a company who considers himself a Hindu and he shared some difficulties that his company was going through at the time. So, I offered to pray for him and prayed a simple prayer asking God to give him clarity to make wise choices and lead his company well. After I said, “Amen,” he opened his eyes, looked at me, and said, in complete sincerity, “That was magical! I’ve never experienced that before.”
We may describe it differently, but he was right. Prayer is magical.
4. BELIEVE JESUS IS WORKING WHERE YOU WORK
What if you’re not the only one showing up to work at your job every day? What if Jesus works there too? In reality, he was working there long before you. Not to earn a paycheck, but he has been working in the hearts of people to draw them to himself. Most of us know this in theory, but do we believe it in reality? I think it’s a huge component to actually making disciples at work.
Here’s why. If you believe that you have to convince your coworkers to believe an ancient text is the Word of God, a Jewish carpenter is his son, and that they should surrender their lives to obey him. Or, if you think that disciple making is up to you alone . . . then you’re in trouble. In fact, you’ll probably never make an attempt because the task just seems impossible.
But, if you assume that Jesus is already working in the lives of your coworkers, if you know that he’s pursuing them in ways you can’t begin to imagine, and if you understand that he’s using other believers to plant seeds of the gospel in them as well, then, you will have the confidence to play your role in guiding your coworkers toward a relationship with Jesus.
5. SHARE YOUR FAITH NATURALLY IN CONVERSATION
Some of us grew up being trained to explain the faith in awkward sales-pitch-type presentations, so the thought of doing that with a coworker makes us cringe. I don’t think that sharing the gospel has to be super weird. It actually can be very natural.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t feel like you have to hit a grand slam. Most likely, you’re not going to move your coworker from agnostic to Jesus follower in one conversation, so don’t try to. Instead, view the conversation as a small step in their faith journey.
- Share parts of your testimony. You may not have time to explain your life’s story at work, but you can share some of the ways Christ has changed you.
- Answer your coworkers’ questions. You could be the only Christian that your coworker knows, so when they have a question about Christianity, Jesus, or God, they’ll probably ask your opinion. Don’t feel like you have to give the perfect answer. Most likely, they just want to know what you think, so tell them.
In conclusion, let’s not keep disciple making bottled up in our churches and discipleship groups. This isn’t what Jesus did and it’s not what Jesus wants for his followers today. So, let’s follow his example and make disciples in the marketplace.
This post originally appeared at: Marketplace Disciple Making — The Bonhoeffer Project