December 2008 - Vol. 25

The Workplace as a Mission Base

Spreading God’s word in the secular business world

By Elie Rizk

When I went to university, I wanted to excel – to achieve the best education, the best career, and the best job position. With my university training behind me, I thought I was ready to take on the business world. But I soon discovered that the transition from university to work wasn’t as simple as I had expected it. During college years, I always used to be in my own comfort zone, having the freedom to choose, among many other things, the people I wanted to spend my time with, the activities I want to engage in, the discussions I want to take part of. Living in a household with other Christian men was one of the choices I made that helped reinforce the life I had chosen to live, a life of discipleship and submission to the Lord Jesus. In a way, I was able to build around me a shell that would protect me from the world and many of the things that might compromise my decision to follow Jesus Christ. 

After graduating from university in July 2007, I continued on in household and started working with a professional service firm. I suddenly found myself in a very competitive and somewhat hostile environment that seemed to be governed more by the law of the jungle, where survival remained for the fittest, and for the one with utmost dedication to his job and to the firm’s growth. I had heard a lot about the challenges one might face at work and thought I was prepared for it; that was before I started experiencing it! I realized then that it is a whole new system I had to adapt to and I started to experience the many changes that would impact many areas of my life.

Although my job has many advantages, the challenges facing me were all I could see.  In a success-driven culture where profit and material wealth matter the most, everything revolves around one’s self, and one's  capabilities in contributing to the firm's growth. It is a culture which exalts the creature and forgets about the Creator. During peak season, which usually extends from November till June, known as the “high season”, I was often required to work more than 12 hours a day. Not only was this physically distressing for me, but it also prevented me from attending various community-related meetings and services. I also had to skip many household dinners and common activities. Seeing how this job was affecting my community life, thoughts came to my mind about quitting the job, because I was afraid of gradually being absorbed into the secular society surrounding me most of the day and becoming conformed to it. 

Serving Christ in my everyday tasks
During that time, I was reading a booklet entitled The Mission of the Sword of the Spirit. The Lord reminded me that he was not calling me to preach to large crowds in stadiums. Rather, he was calling me to be a source of life in Christ right where I worked and lived out my daily life! In the book, Steve Clark gives a real-life example about a person living in one of our communities, who was serving the Lord in his secular job. His situation and the surroundings he was working in were quite similar to mine. This story was a source of encouragement and inspiration and gave me a clear insight about how to live my discipleship in the workplace. I realized that being on mission and serving God should not be limited by a certain geographical location or area (for example, the household, Uganda, the Philippines) or a specific frame in time (for example, a University Christian Outreach meeting on Friday night). As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I can – and should – have an “ordinary” life on mission, serving him in my daily mundane tasks. St Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3: 23-24). So I started gradually to fit my job and my career into the bigger picture, looking at it as a means to fulfilling the ultimate purpose of my life – serving God and his kingdom. 

An open door for mission
With that vision in mind, I was motivated to give the best I could at work, so that by doing things in excellence, I would earn my colleagues’ respect and have an “evangelistic influence”, as the person in the booklet had expressed it. As a result, without making much effort of my own, the Lord gave me many open doors to reach out to my colleagues and lead them toward the life I have in him. Sometimes, my witnessing can be as simple as refraining from taking part in a certain discussion which contradicts my values and beliefs. At other times, it can be more complex, and I find myself in a situation where I have to defend my faith and the gospel. In the latter situations, I realized that it is not I who am speaking, but the Spirit of God speaking through me, putting the words in my mouth, as Jesus promised when he said: “do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20). 

During the past year, the strong relationships I was able to build with many of my coworkers made me aware of their unfulfilled needs and the challenges they were facing. From my experience, I know that only the gospel’s truth can fulfill those areas in their lives. This led me to proclaim the “good news” to them, what it means to me, and how it has changed my life. If it seems appropriate, I invite them to a household dinner or a prayer meeting. One of the colleagues I had invited to dinner with us in the household was touched when he saw the life we were living, the way we related to one another and the love we showed him. After attending a prayer meeting, he started seriously thinking about God’s place in his life and making more room for him. In addition to that, we started having conversations during lunch breaks at work which were personally deep and meaningful for him. Household and community are the “fortress” from which I received the strength and support needed to face all the challenges at work and be a witness to Jesus Christ. It is in the personal relationship I have built with him and my presence in the midst of a community of disciples that the Lord equips me with the spiritual weapons needed to fight the good fight of the faith and accomplish my mission.

Even though my work may sometimes seem to me quite meaningless, as Philip Yancey depicts it in his book Rumors of another World, I realize in the end that my career and profession are part of my calling. All the opportunities God has been giving me to proclaim his kingdom – by deed and word – so that others might come to know Christ have been clear signs to me about how I can serve him in my workplace and give him glory in all that I do.
Elie Rizk graduated from the Lebanese American University with a degree in Accounting and Banking, & Finance. He is active in University Christian Outreach in Beirut, Lebanon and is an affilate member of the Servants of the Word, an international ecumenical brotherhood of men living single for the Lord.

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