How to Share Your Faith at WorkBlog / Produced by The High Calling
What does it look like for someone to successfully share their faith at work? When I think of that question, the answer for me is two words: Joe Talamo. I am pleased to have Joe on the board of The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life and Vocations where he serves as our Secretary. Why did I invite him on the board? Because I have not met anybody who more naturally and boldly sees his work as his mission field. Joe is a high-level executive in the service industry, working for the ninth largest employer in the world. At every stage of his career, he has seen people come to faith at his workplace.
As we often do, Joe and I met at our favorite little Chinese restaurant, and over Hunan Chicken for me and some extremely healthy choice for him (Joe is passionate about his health and fitness), we discussed his experiences.
Bob: Why are you so on fire to share your faith at work?
Joe: I believe that my mission field, our mission field, is the land between our two feet – wherever we are. I’ve made my priority my home and my work. So, as a vice president, or as a director earlier in my career, I always thought of my work as my mission field. What does a missionary do? A missionary goes somewhere to share Jesus, but first they build themselves into a culture, right? They live, they get a job, they develop relationships. It’s no different than what we do – we build relationships. Missionaries don’t tell people about Christ right away – they have to develop relationships. And work has been my mission field.
B: How has your experience of attempting to share your faith changed over the years as you’ve gained more authority in your career?
J: I don’t think there is a big distinction in my experience as I’ve been promoted. There’s probably been ten promotions along the way over the last 33 years, and whatever position I was in I attempted to do my job well – to be the very best employee I could be. And I actually did well, praise God, and got recognition from a corporate perspective often. As I sought excellence in my work, I had opportunities where my boss and coworkers would ask me, “What makes you tick? What motivates you?” People ask you that when you’re different. I can give you lots of stories of how God has given me opportunities to lead people to Christ. At different levels: hourly associates making a minimum wage, peers, and vice presidents.
B: Tell us a story of when someone asked you “What makes you tick?”
J: So I have a union steward who doesn’t like me because I’m management. He hates my guts. And he’s calling me at five in the morning, eleven at night – “I need to see you” – because I’m the manager and he’s complaining about this, that, and the other thing. And because of the Lord and knowing what my mission field was, most of the time I met his needs. I was always there for him, even though he didn’t like me. Of course, I felt that some of his demands were unfair, so I had to negotiate with him – but always with patience and love. I kept working hard to show him Christ somehow, without having a chance to say anything. And this guy was arguably the most frustrating person in the entire health care system. Everybody knew him.
And one day, this is two years into our working together, we’re in my office and he looks at me and he goes, “You know what? You’re different.” I said, “Really.” He says, “Yea, you’re not bad. You’re okay. I appreciate how you listen to me.” Right there, he just put me on the spot and asked me what is different, and the Holy Spirit made me step up. I said, “Do you want me to tell you why I’m different?” He says, “Yea.” I look him in the eye and say, “Jesus Christ.” Long story short, I’m not sure how that particular conversation eventually ended. But from that point on, he started softening. And then, one day in my office I asked, “Do you want to know more about Christ?” and shared the gospel with him – realizing that this could backfire on me. He received Christ. He later left the union and wanted a management position and so worked for our company. I moved to another company to continue in my career, and I lost track of him. Then ten years later, Bob, he sent me an email thanking me for leading him to Christ! That was amazing.
B: Have you ever attempted to share your faith with your boss?
J: This is a story about a person I worked for – she was the vice president and I was a director at the time. I liked her. She was tough. She was pro-abortion and she knew I was a Christian after having worked for her for six years. We would meet every week for a meeting and afterward she would often bring up the subject of abortion – more than I ever did. I think God was working on her. One day, I put this literature I found about abortion with graphic images of dead fetuses into my folder that I took to our meeting each week. That probably was in the file for a few months until she brought it up again. And I said, “Do you really want to know why I am pro-life? Do you want to see it?” I didn’t want to just put them out on her desk – she’s my boss. “I have pictures, if you want to see them.” And she said, “Yea.” I pulled them out and put them on her desk. She looked at those pictures for about five minutes and didn’t say anything. I don’t really remember how that meeting eventually ended. Our working relationship continued in a positive way. We had plenty of other religious conversations and I shared the gospel with her several times. I ended up leaving that hospital and she also moved on. Then – this had to be eight years later – I got a phone call from her while I was in the car. She tracked me down to tell me that she accepted Christ in church on Sunday and she wanted me to be the first to know.
B: So you never actually saw her come to faith while you worked with her.
J: I’ve come to learn that we are seed-planters. We don’t always get somebody asking, “What makes you tick?” But there are always a lot of opportunities to plant seeds. And I found that then the pressure is off me to “close the deal.” You don’t have to close the deal – God does the saving. If we would just love and plant seeds the opportunities come.
3, 4, & 5 Practical Helps to Share Your Faith at Work from THC
- Dan King shares three lessons from submitting to God’s call to view his workplace as his mission field in “What If Your Workplace IS Your Mission Field?”
- John Boland offers “Four Tips for Sharing Your Faith at Work.” One of these tips is to willingly show people your shortcomings and hardships.
- Bill Peel provides us with “Five Appropriate Times to Share Your Faith at Work.”
- Os Hillman of Marketplace Leaders gives both theological foundations and very practical examples of actual people doing great things in the workplace in “Bringing the Kingdom of God to the Workplace.”
- Bethany Jenkins, director of The Gospel Coalition’s new faith and work initiative, “Every Square Inch” has written a wonderful piece, “When to Go Public with Faith at Work.”
- Over at 9 Marks, a ministry with lots of fantastic resources to equip church leaders, Ashok Nachnani shares what he’s learned as a strategy executive for a multinational energy management company in “Evangelism in the Workplace.”
- The Lausanne Movement, the influential international catalyst for global evangelization, has embraced workplace ministry as a key focus. John Boland, who wrote one of the above articles for The High Calling is a part of this focus. In an insightful video on their website, you can watch a panel discussion of marketplace leaders on the need for laypeople to be equipped to live out a missional calling in the workplace.
At The High Calling's blog at the Mission: Work channel of Patheos
In a 60-second video, J. B. Wood shares "How Do We Glorify God in the Workplace?"
Some guy named Bob Robinson goes in-depth into why those who want to be missional must focus on the workplace.
How to Share Your Faith at Work
Let’s admit it: It can be awkward to share our faith at work. The fear of damaging relationships and making the workplace that much more difficult (we do, after all, have to deal with these people on a daily basis). The fear of repercussions from those we work for. The fear of coming across as, well, just weird. In the stories found in the series, How to Share Your Faith at Work, we find practical ways to naturally share with people the thing that is most precious in our lives – our relationship with Jesus Christ.