Business as Mission Network has posted a very interesting article last week: Acknowledging Faith in the Workplace – Jon Vanverloch of Google (hattip: Transforming Marketplace Ministry). Reading through Jon’s thoughts and verses, I found myself nodding my head in agreement and wanting to hear more. I wanted Jon to tell us what he thinks faith in the workplace looks like at Google. Also, maybe what it should look like.
I agree with him that secular businesses are often ambivalent. Sometimes hostile. But I wonder if acknowledging God in the workplace isn’t more about sharing God when appropriate.
For instance, I love my wife. My relationship with her and my family is incredibly important to me. Sometimes, when I am at work, I talk about marriage in general and my wife specifically. But often it doesn’t come up. This doesn’t mean I don’t love her. It doesn’t mean I’ve been unfaithful. It just means I’m meeting deadlines, assigning articles, cleaning up code, and all of the daily tasks that go with online publishing and marketing for TheHighCalling.org, HighCallingBlogs.com, FaithInTheWorkPlace.com, and all the other programs of the Foundations for Laity Renewal.
And that’s okay.
I think of my relationship with God in the same way.
As a former public school teacher, mostly I just taught English and literature and writing. I wouldn’t describe that work environment as hostile, but we had to be careful. Of course, I made no secret of my faith, just as I made no secret of my marital status. But I tried not to use my teaching job as a pulpit. It just didn’t feel fair to the students given the power structure of the public classroom. I think bosses can find themselves in similarly problematic power relationships. Despite my best intentions, I’m sure I made some students uncomfortable, but I tried hard to let them know what I believed without putting pressure on them to believe what I believe. I just was honest about who I am. And I encouraged them to be honest in the same way.
That could sound like I was being wishy-washy. I don’t mean it that way. (In fact, I actually talked about faith in depth with many students on their own initiative.) The point is this: my employer hired me to teach the kids English. They didn’t hire me to convert the students to Christianity. In order to honor God, my primary purpose during the school day needed to honor my employee’s needs. They needed a good teacher, not a preacher.
Though as far as that goes, every year I did enjoy dressing up like Jonathan Edwards and threatening all of my students with hellfire and brimstone and the fickleness of an angry God. That was one day when I played the role of preacher with great relish.
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