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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To testify or not to testify at work or school--that is a believer's question

It's a tough call.  Isn't it?

Do you proclaim to others that you are a born-again Christian, saved, washed in the blood the same way you share your e-mail address? 

People who have said the name of Jesus in a meaningful way--that is, accepted his atonement for their sins--are commanded to give a reason for the hope that is in them.  That commandment backs up the Great Commission, which is every believer's job: to tell the Good News that Jesus lives and is always calling to them in hope that they will be reconciled to their Creator by accepting the truth.  Sin exists.  People sin.  God doesn't sin.  To get along with God, you have to do something about your sins.  He is holy and really can't communicate with you when you are covered in grime.  His holiness requires a clean-up job, atonement, and He provided someone who can take care of that, Jesus.  The only stipulation?   It's simple:  Say yes.   Recognize the Gift.   Accept the Giver.  Admit you're dirty.  Get cleaned up.  Thank the Lord.  The Great Commission is fulfilled, and something extraordinary begins in the new believer.  It's pretty exciting stuff--heady, actually.  Exhilarating.  You gotta talk about it.  You are  commanded to proclaim it.

But when?
When and how do you testify at work?

Many of my students do this regularly in their e-mails to me or their blog entries. They tell me they are born again, saved and a follower of Jesus (I like this one especially). Colleagues don't usually.  I work at a university where we separate church and state, respect freedom of speech, and believe in open-ended inquiry about everything except faith. Christianity seems especially off limits.

As it is in other workplaces.
As politics are--or can be.
As many subjects that require respect for others' preferences and differences demand.

Business students who are preparing resumes and writing cover letters often ask me:  "Do I tell a prospective employer up front that I am a Christian because I plan to testify when I get the job?"

"Making that announcement might well cost you the job before you ever get it."

They nod seriously, ready to pay the price of unemployment.  That is commendable but perhaps not necessary.

"Will you be more able to testify once you get the job?"  I ask.  "Because if you don't get the job, you can't really testify fully."

Heads nod.

"Should you keep your counsel until that time?"  I ask.

"Makes sense," they say. 

They get jobs, and start the conversation by saying, "God bless you" even when someone doesn't sneeze, and the tension to testify begins, though not as overtly as they might have anticipated.

For it doesn't take long to figure out that testifying at work to the reality of a Living Christ is effectively accomplished by how you live and often by what you don't say as well as what you do say.

That doesn't mean that you should not tell the truth when someone asks you about the hope that you obviously have in you.  But answering the question after it is asked can be much more meaningful than telling someone the answer before the question has arisen.

When you get to work, you can live your calling in such a way that the question will be asked.  You don't have to wait until you hear it and it can show up in a variety of ways (Why do you look so happy?), but when you do, your testimony will be a seed well sown in more fertile soil.


  1. I understand the nature of your post; however, I feel differently about the topic. Everyone knows that each person is entitled to freedom of religion; it comes with being a part of a nation that each of us love dearly. I feel that if it makes me uncomfortable to express my religion in my place of work, then perhaps it is not God's will for me to be employed with that company. I agree that it is a touchy subject, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As for me, I hope my employer embraces my view of religion, because I want to be employed by someone who seeks God's will for leadership. Excellent post, I enjoyed reading.

  2. My view is there is a time and a place for everything. Church may be a great place to testify, but the office may not be appropriate. We often feel that our religion is the only way and we have the freedom to do what we want to do. Christianity may be ok for most of the office, but what about the coworker who wants to discuss their Pagan beliefs. The Christians may not approve because their viewpoints are the only ones that count.

  3. When at work, we are paid to perform a certain job. In my opinion, if expressing your belief does not interfere with your job or creating tension at the workplace then it should be alright. However, how do you really know if other employees are feeling the same way you do about God?