The Extraordinary Influence of Example
Not long ago, I spent some time in a professional and spiritual funk. We’re talking Debbie Downer, waa-waa funk, Things get hot, sticky and miserable there in the wilderness. And it wasnot pleasant.
I had an ideal – a plan to be part of business as a ministry. My role as an ambitious professional who also embraced ministry injected newfound purpose into my daily grind. .I was determined to be a worthy ambassador for Christ in my workplace. My plan was to woo the jaded, hurt, and hardened to God by loving them, praying for them, and delivering my job with excellence. And I’d do it alongside fellow Christian professionals — workplace ministers in business suits, aprons, scrubs, and construction hats — serving up prayer and encouragement along with our goods and services.
Not all of my church pals got this, though. Not even some of my church leaders.
I got my first clue that this marketplace ministry concept might be foreign to some when I shared my excitement and experiences with my pastor’s wife — a close friend who oversaw me in a handful of ministries. She stared back in silence, then changed the subject with a polite smile, adding I should consider taking on more ministries at the church. A few more ho-hum reactions from other church friends began to damper my enthusiasm. But that was just the beginning.
More disappointing were those who plastered crosses and fishes across their business cards and sales flyers, but bad-mouthed competitors, performed sub-par work, or couldn’t keep their promises. One former colleague consistently missed deadlines because, he argued, God hadn’t shown him what to do about a given work assignment yet.
Disappointed, I withdrew from the local Christian business gatherings for a time. I also stopped talking or writing about marketplace ministry. With so much false advertisement out there, better show it than tell it, I reasoned.
And as I sunk into Debbie Downer mode, I met some real-deal difference makers — genuine followers of Christ who oozed his love and integrity in everything they did, spoke, and were.
Among those was Jim, who mentored me for years on skills that proved crucial to my personal and professional growth. Jim called that mentoring a tithe of his time, expertise, and connections.
Then there was Sue, who hired me for a freelance marketing project. When I thought of the assignment as a profitable venture, I had no idea just how profitable it would be for my spirit. Watching the selfless way Sue cared for her clients and employers left my spirit so full, I’d already felt fully compensated just soaking up the love and gratitude that flowed through her.
Inspired by examples like Jim’s and Sue’s, I then directed my focus to spending time with God and doing my job exceptionally well (as an act of worship, the Bible calls it). Before long, the age-old law of sowing and reaping kicked in, and I began to experience a series of unexpected God moments, from unlikely promotions to co-workers who’d blurt out in the middle of a work discussion: “How did you find God? Can you pray for me?”
Looking back, I’ve learned we’re all broken, imperfect people in need of a redeemer. And we’re all in different stages of our journey.
Along the road, we’ll walk amidst great and not-so-great journeymen. Some will lead the way, others will trek in circles, and others may cause you to slip. When fellow journeymen fail, it helps to have our eyes on the One who’s conquered the wilderness.
Andrea Emerson serves as a brand consultant for a group of technology companies in the Midwest. She tweets at @dreaemerson.