One of the paradigm shifts going on in my thinking right now is what "evangelism" looks like within a kingdom of God mindset. For most evangelicals, evangelism stirs up ideas of tracts and "witnessing" and door-to-door share-my-testimony activity.
To say "workplace evangelism" sets people thinking about putting Christian motivational messages on the office bulletin board, or inviting people to church. Those things are okay, but I’m interested in something that reaches deeper into the culture and ethos of the workplace. If the reign of God is at the forefront of our thinking, individual salvations and invitations to church aren’t going to be the whole package of workplace evangelism.
This is from Ryan Bolger:
Because of an emphasis on Jesus and the kingdom, and the recognition
that the sacred/secular split ought not exist, the perspective on
workplace interaction changes dramatically (just as it does with the
school, the neighborhood, the club, the pub, etc). Instead of a sole
focus on individual evangelism with a possible invitation to church,
the kingdom-minded person thinks within other categories. What would it
look like if Jesus were here? What would it look like if the marginal
voices here got a say in things? What would it look like if people were
paid fairly for their work? What might it mean for our company if we
made products or offered services that actually help people, actually
resemble God’s goodness? What would it take to create an environment of
creativity rather than control? The kingdom-minded agent would look to
embody God’s reign both in their individual responsibilities and in the
corporation as a whole. As an advocate on the inside, he or she would
look to create alternatives to the dominating practices of that
particular institution. By serving as such a prophetic example, other
possibilities for action become viable options within the organization.
It really comes back to embodied witness. You cannot invite someone to a life you aren’t actually living, or at least starting to live (we don’t need to wait until we’ve got it "nailed" – when do any of us get there?). Embodied witness means my faith in Christ is more than intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel, it means the rule of God is being worked out in my life. Thus it will mean I will work and pray toward God’s kingdom becoming a reality on earth. So I will work to influence the workplace for good, not simply try to "save a few souls" while I am there. Not that we’ll never share our faith, just that we’ll couple that with embodied witness.
People need to see what the gospel looks like when it really grabs hold of people and changes the culture of a family, a workplace, a coffee shop, maybe even a church! In some ways this "way" of evangelism requires more patience, because we dare not damage our witness with ill-chosen words spoken out of season. But in the long run, I am convinced this is what will bear the best and most fruit for the kingdom.
The question that spurred the post I quoted above was if missional/emerging conversation was actually producing this kind of fruit, or if it was simply being talked about. It’s a good reality check to see if your life is lining up with your words. But here again we may need to exercise some patience. For some, the paradigm shift from church-centered to kingdom-centered thinking is so monumental it takes a long time for the ramifications to fully sink in. We also need to exercise some trust in truth: maybe it really will set people free, but maybe it will take a little while to soak in. All in good time, it would seem.