Workplace Evangelism and the Diversity Department
What works in the workplace?
‘But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.’ So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’ Acts 4:17–20 (ESV)
Acts chapters 3 to 5 paint for us a wonderfully colourful picture of the activities of the Church in its infancy.
The Apostles Peter and John have just miraculously healed a beggar lame from birth as proof that the power of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus was, and is, still very much at work in the world. This amazing miracle attracts an astounded crowd to hear the explanation of what was happening, and Peter’s ensuing sermon, in which he calls the people to ‘Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out’ leads to an astonishing 5000 people to come to faith in a day (Acts 4:4).
It is proof that a ministry of ‘teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead’ (Acts 4:3) is authentic Christian ministry; and that the Holy Spirit working through the bold, honest, verbal witness of ‘uneducated, common men’ (Acts 4:13) is all that is required for people to be saved.
This ministry is no different for us today, and Christians in the workplace are essential front-line workers for the Gospel. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Gospel is, literally, God’s good news; and in order for this news to be spread, and for people to be saved, it must be spoken in our offices.
Praise God that we presently live in a society where it is still relatively easy to tell others the good news of the Lord Jesus without fear of real persecution. Living for Jesus in the office does not (yet) require breaking the law.
And yet, just as it was in Peter’s day, the public space to speak the truth to our colleagues seems to be closing, and the myriad rules and regulations which seek to promote diversity and inclusion, seem to have the ironic effect of limiting our freedom to share the Gospel. How do we respond? And how best then, to maximise the opportunities presently afforded us to speak the Gospel in our offices?
Maximising our opportunities for the Gospel in the office
The first thing to get clear in our own minds is our attitude to ministry in the workplace: the office is our mission field, and we are ambassadors for Jesus here in the City. Christians in the City are Christians before they are anything else, and as William Taylor often reminds us, we are full-time Christians who just happen to be bankers, lawyers or insurance brokers – not the other way round.
Our mindset then should mirror the Apostles’ in Acts: as Peter and John told their would-be silencers, ‘We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20).
Below are what I hope are some useful tips to help us be faithful witnesses in our offices:
Get stuck into your local lunchtime talk
Continuing to hear God’s word taught during the working week is a vital part of being a Christian.
Lunchtime ministries have been set up all across London with the aims of encouraging Christians to stand with the Gospel, and to keep running the race; Christians can also bring their non-Christian colleagues to hear the Gospel. A list of the lunchtime ministries is available at http://www.gospelatwork.org.uk/.
Join your Workplace Prayer Group, or set one up!
The next thing to mention is Workplace prayer groups. Most workplace groups meet together weekly to briefly study a passage and to pray for their colleagues. Workplace prayer groups are often the best way to meet other Christians in your company, and many have found their local prayer group a really helpful source of support in workplace evangelism.
The chance to meet together to share encouragements/discouragements in evangelism in the office, and to share godly wisdom, is surprisingly important; and experience has shown that workplace groups have a disproportionate effect on spurring us on to boldly share the Gospel in the office.
If you would like to join a workplace prayer group, please follow this link.
If your company does not have a workplace prayer group, why not consider setting one up? Wes (email@example.com) and the rest of the City Team at St Helen’s Bishopsgate can help with getting in touch with any other Christians in your office.
Be wise, winsome and work at meaningful relationships
Often the best way into a conversation with a colleague about Jesus, and the most natural way to invite people to a guest event, dialogue talk or to church, is to first build loving, meaningful relationships with your colleagues. Working hard at being a caring colleague who lives distinctively for the Lord Jesus in the office goes a long way to making workplace evangelism more natural and effective.
Make use of your company’s diversity policy
All FTSE 350 companies are required to ‘comply or explain’ in their annual reports against the provisions of the UK Corporate Governance Code. The Code provides in particular that a company’s Annual Report ‘should include a description of the board’s policy on diversity, including gender, any measurable objectives that it has set for implementing the policy, and progress on achieving the objectives’ (UKCGC B.2.4).
In line with this, most companies in the City have adopted some form of diversity policy. Click below to read either of these examples:
Most of these policies underline the company’s commitment to diversity in the workplace, which should include a Christian’s right to practice and share your faith without fear. Off the back of such policies, many HR departments have allowed (and even encouraged) workplace prayer groups to put up events (e.g. Christmas carol services), run Christianity Explored courses in-house, distribute flyers, and put up Easter/Christmas stalls.
If an HR department is truly committed to genuine diversity, then this presents a wonderful opportunity to share the good news with our colleagues.
What if they say No?
Examples of Christians being prevented from speaking the truth with their colleagues are unfortunately becoming more and more common in the City. We know of Christians being stopped by their HR departments from running Christianity Explored courses, sharing tracts, speaking with their colleagues or even wearing a cross. It was no different for the early Church:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ Acts 5:27–29
The Bible is clear that Christians are to obey their earthly masters (Col 3:22), except where their instructions directly contradict God’s commands to us. The Apostle’s response in Acts 5 characterises the Christian mindset – we too must obey God.
How should we respond when the office tries to stop us speaking the Gospel?
These situations require much godly wisdom and prayer. Situations in each office will differ, and will require different responses. For example, it is important to ask whether it is wise to fight a particular battle. e.g. HR taking the organisation of a Carol Service away from a workplace group will normally be more worth taking up than being able to use ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Season’s Greetings’ on the firm Christmas card.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is probably your ability to speak about Jesus to your colleagues. Please do feel free to approach any member of the City Team if you want to chat through any issues.
HR departments can generally do one of two things:
- Hinder any sort of ‘organised/formal’ Christian meeting or event, e.g. stop an ‘official’ workplace prayer group from meeting on premises, shut down a workplace CE course, or cancel a carol service, or, in more extreme cases …
- Tell individual employees to stop speaking about Jesus at all in the office to their colleagues.
There will be varying levels of opposition that we should expect, but we hope the generic pointers below might be of use to you. At the end of the day, we recognise that being a godly Christian anywhere will bring persecution (2 Tim 3:12). In the face of opposition,
Will we obey human beings when they insist that we never speak of absolute truth, or judgement to come, or Jesus being the only one who can save? Or will we obey God’s call to witness to the truth even when there is a price to pay? (Carl Laferton)
If HR want to shut down organised/formal Christian meetings or events
Speak to HR to understand their views
If you have been stopped by your HR department from sharing the Gospel with your colleagues, you should speak to them to understand their concerns. Ask for a meeting with the head of diversity to seek an explanation of why they wish to stop a particular event or meeting.
It will be helpful to understand whether or not the diversity manager is committed to genuine diversity, or if he/she is really only paying lip service to the concept. Having established this, it may be helpful to see if there is any other solution which could suit the HR department, e.g. meeting outside of office hours/premises.
Challenge your company’s diversity policy
As we’ve mentioned above, most companies today are committed to diversity in the workplace. If your company does have a diversity policy, it may be worth challenging your HR department’s commitment to true diversity by referring to the policy.
If HR stop you speaking about Jesus to your colleagues, or inviting people to Church
Speak outside of office hours
It may be that HR feel that office hours are not an appropriate time for employees to be speaking about anything other than their work. Notwithstanding the unrealistic and unreasonable nature of the expectation, it may be that your employment contract requires this, or that HR have specifically said so.
In such situations, short of changing jobs, it may be worth using your lunch hour/coffee breaks instead to have Gospel conversations. As we’ve mentioned above, building loving, deep relationships with your colleagues often opens up wonderful opportunities for natural Gospel conversations.
Use your godly wisdom to judge whether it is wise to continue speaking to a particular colleague. If a colleague has made an individual complaint against you for speaking to him/her about the Lord, it is probably safe to assume that their hearts are presently closed to the Gospel and to move on.
Consider moving firm
If your workplace has a policy which prevents any discussion of faith in the office – and this is rare – then it may be worth considering working elsewhere.
Season generously with salt and pray for boldness every day
It is definitely worth saying at this point, that in all of our conversations (whether with people who are hostile to the Gospel or not), Christians must remember that we should:
… conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Col 4:6
Seeking our Lord’s help to be fruitful in the office is essential too. In the face of severe, physical persecution, the early Church did not shrink from fulfilling the Great Commission. Instead, they prayed:
‘And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29
We in the City today could certainly pray for that same boldness.
Further useful resources
Helpful legal leaflet on Christianity and Employment Law: