How Best to Be Faithful?

Posted: February 10, 2013 in Christianity
Tags: , ,

While I'm WaitingI had a conversation Friday with a work colleague about the opportunities and limitations around expressing one’s personal religious faith at work.  There is a tension around the subject which is understandable.  My company didn’t hire me because of anything related to personal faith, nor do my work responsibilities call for (or allow) any overt recitation of beliefs.  In fact, like most secular work environments, taking time away from what one is hired to do in order to promote one’s religious beliefs is likely to be a quick path to strained relationships and potential termination of employment.  We are expected to respect the beliefs of others, to accept diversity of thought, and to create a cooperative environment among colleagues, not one that is strained by imposing personal religious beliefs into work relationships.  I understand that and, I believe, I follow that expectation.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to sit back and not get involved in conversations that directly relate to one’s faith.  For one who takes seriously his Christian commitment, it is occasionally a struggle in a secular workplace to hold back what instinctively comes to mind when one attempts to live from a biblical worldview.  This tension is magnified when it seems like the traditional, conservative principles many like me hold are anathema in a politically correct culture that does not share those same beliefs.

So what are my options?

One is to not care about the secular nature of the business and just dive in to conversations from an unapologetically biblical standpoint, throwing caution to the wind and accepting whatever the relational and career consequences may be.  That approach doesn’t seem to fit me well, and I have a hard time reconciling it with 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect.”  I see lots of religious folk eager to state their opinions, but they don’t always include the “with gentleness and respect” part.  I don’t want to be like them.  At the same time, I don’t want to use that as an excuse to be silent.

Another option is to continue to walk the tightrope of faith in a secular culture by being a reliable, hard-working, trustworthy, caring employee who does his best at work and who attempts to have positive relationships with others regardless of whether religious conversations are a part of the experience or not.  With this approach, opportunities may come for faith-related conversations that can be had outside work hours on breaks, lunches, casual conversation, etc.  Here, living a life consistent with one’s faith and being open to discussions when they present themselves puts the focus on first being the kind of person you think you ought to be while being cognizant of verbal opportunities and sensitive to others as well as to your employer.  Right or wrong, this is where I have lived most of my work years when not in full-time ministry positions.  It doesn’t, however, remove the occasional guilt of feeling like I could and should be more vocal.

Of course, there is always the option of scrapping the whole secular employment route and returning to full-time ministry as I was in for a number of years, first as a youth minister and then as an associate pastor in Missouri before moving back to Kentucky.  There is a part of me that wonders if I should return to ministry, having been ordained and seminary educated long ago.  Doing so would obviously remove the secular corporate barrier to proclamation of the gospel.  Since last October, in fact, I have wondered about the possibility of supply preaching and even serving as an interim pastor should some church see fit to call me in that capacity.  As I have written here before, I love what I do at work and I’m not looking for a major change, but it’s natural for one who is trained for and who served in ministry for years to struggle with a career path that reduces time in ministry.  Have I ignored or abandoned my spiritual gifts which should be used for more eternal purposes?  God surely doesn’t call everyone to full-time ministry, but He does call some.  Was the call I perceived in my teens a temporary one?

I’ll know the answer to that question eventually, but for now I am reminded of the song by John Waller, I am Waiting, which includes the following lyrics:

I’m waiting,
I’m waiting on You, Lord,
And I am hopeful,
I’m waiting on You, Lord,
Though it is painful,
But patiently, I will wait.

I will move ahead, bold and confident,
Taking every step in obedience.
While I’m waiting,
I will serve You.
While I’m waiting,
I will worship.
While I’m waiting,
I will not faint.
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait.

I’m waiting,
I’m waiting on You, Lord,
And I am peaceful,
I’m waiting on You, Lord,
Though it’s not easy,
But faithfully, I will wait,
Yes, I will wait.

One of the truths I remind myself of regularly is that I don’t have to know all the answers to the questions I have.  It’s OK to have questions unanswered.  In the midst of uncertainty, we can still be faithful day by day, doing what we believe is best for today, trusting that the One who holds us in His hand sees, knows, and cares, and that He will light up the path we are to take when He deems appropriate.  Being faithful in the present is an unending calling regardless of the environment or career path.  Maybe that’s the bigger lesson for me today.

Comments
  1. Tom White says:

    Jeff this hit home tonight. When you get this figured out please if you will, let me know the answer. I am going through this very same thing. I to am waiting. I know that there is something else that God is wanting me to do, and this just started about two years ago. Although I have not been through the Seminary, I feel it, I know it. I ask Him each and every day, just exactly what is it that you have in mind for me. I know you will tell me when the time is right for you. I have been starting to inquire about what and how to go through the Seminary. Every day that I show up and unlock my tool box and begin to start my day, I think is today the day? I’ll keep praying and waiting.

  2. Margaret says:

    Well Jeff, since I’ve know you for years and had the great pleasure of knowing you during your full time ministry time, I can relate to your feelings. One verse came to mind instantly upon reading the above comments. “Be still and know I am God” It still amazes me how small this world really is, I don’t know if I have told you before, but John Mark Inman is the son of Mark Inman, who was our pastor at Portageville for several years. John Mark’s comments are very close to what I expected. Margaret and I talked about him working a secular job instead of somewhere in the ministry, but as we suspected his desire is there, but the opportunity has not come. My advise to you is be Jeff Ross. You have touched people not just by your personnal testimony and the way you and Linda live your lives, but buy the family you have raised and the articles you have blogged. Just be patient and I would say the Lord will let you know in His time. But just for your information two prayer warriors from Missouri will add this to their prayers.

    • Jeff Ross says:

      Small world, indeed, Bill & Margaret. John Mark and I are at the same company and are mostly familiar with each other through our internal social network at work. He and I plus one other guy did a book study together last year and got together over a couple of lunches to talk about it.

      Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

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