Making Disciples in the Workplace

One of the biggest issues that we have in the church today is transitioning students from student ministries on university campuses to the workplace.  Few make the transition well.  How do we learn how to make disciples where we live every day?  Many of us can make disciples on the campus or even in our churches, but how do we make the transition to the workplace where we spend most of our time?  As a business leader I have been studying this for many years. I have also been fortunate to have a regular opportunity to  speak to a large student group at a nearby university.  I want to share with you some of the principles that I have shared with these students about making disciples in the workplace.  Let us go to the Gospel of Mark and see seven of the principles that Jesus modeled for us.

1) Be Flexible and Think Outside the Box 

And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.  Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.  And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

(Mark 2:3-5 NASU)

This is a great workplace exampleThese four men brought their friend to Jesus.  They could not get in the house, so they were creative and thought of another way to get him in front of Jesus.  In the workplace you have to be creative in sharing your faith and making disciples.  You are looking for people who are hurting, and you want to love them and serve them.  These men were creative servants to a person in need.

2) Jesus found His disciples in the Marketplace, not in the religious establishments. 

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He  said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.( Mark 2:14-15 NASU)

Follow the example of Jesus.  Do not wait for them to come to you.  Look for people in your workplace who have a heart for God and want to grow.  If your life is different and light in a darkened world, then they will either be drawn to you or reject your lifestyle.  Do not waste your time on religious people who want to attend meetings and do things to make up for their guilt.  Look for people who are real and want to grow and have a purpose in life.  If there are no believers in your workplace, then share Christ and disciple those who come to faith.  God has enabled me to equip, encourage, and model for many young men who were my co workers, customers, or vendors.  The workplace is full of people who want to give their lives for something more than worldly success or money.  Find them and invest into their lives.

3) Major on the workplace, but do not neglect the Church.  Expect opposition from the institution.  

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered.  They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.  He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!”   And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Mark 3:1-6 NASU)

Jesus often went to the synagogue, but the majority of his ministry was in the marketplace.  Therefore, do not neglect your church, because hopefully you will be equipped by mentors in your church.  You need the teaching, fellowship, and encouragement.  Realize, however, that if you focus primarily on your workplace and those in your everyday life, you will receive opposition from the religious establishment just like Jesus did.

4) Always be consistently involved in a small group of six to twelve others in the workplace.  

And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him.  And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach…. When it was evening He came with the twelve. (Mark 3:13-14, 17 NASU)

One of the biggest problems with leaders in the workplace is that they try to be the lone ranger and not be accountable to others on a regular basis.  You will not survive in life without the intimate fellowship of others.  I find this to be the number one issue as to whether the disciple stays on the road for the long run.  Jesus modeled four things to us: Involvement in large groups (your church), a small group, the inner circle (Peter, James and John… You need two or three people who care about your soul), and His personal time with the Father.  Should we as followers of Christ in the workplace try to get by with less than Jesus did?  I have found these four things to be necessary in my own life for survival as a follower of Christ.

5) Some others will not understand your motives or your methods.  Look for those who do and have a desire to learn more about God and His ways.

As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.  And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.” ( Mark 4:10-12 NASU)

You are not looking for the masses.  You are looking for the few that want to walk on the narrow road.  Give them a test and ask them to do things and get back with you.  Do not waste your time on those who just want to be entertained.  Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen.  When he went to the cross, most of His followers left him, including eleven of the twelve.  So, look for the few.  They will be flawed just as you are, but look for those who have a heart for Him and a willingness to learn.

6) Start where God has sovereignly placed you.  You do not need to go across the city or out of the country.  Start where you are! 

As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.  And He did not let him, but He said to him, ” Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”   And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. (Mark 5:18-20 NASU)

I would have allowed the Demoniac to travel with me and be an example of what “My” ministry could do for others.  But, Jesus had much more wisdom.  Jesus knew that the primary place that Legion could have influence was right in his home town.  God wants us to model transformation in our family and workplace.  He wants us to be salt and light right where we live. This principle of starting right where we are is not glamorous, but is effective.

This is probably the number one principle that God has taught me about ministry in the workplace.  Discipleship or evangelism in the workplace is not an activity but a process.  About twenty years ago, I was leaving work early and going to do evangelistic outreach at my church.  As I was driving down the street, the Holy Spirit said to me (not in an audible voice, but in my spirit), “Where are you going?”  I said, “Lord, you know what I am doing.”  He said, “I am glad that you quit work early, because you are a workaholic, but why did you not just quit working and start talking to the man at the next desk?  His teenager is on drugs and he is hurting.  Just start right where I have placed you in your workplace.”  That statement changed my life forever.  I no longer need to go somewhere else or be involved in many activities.  I just need to start where I am.  It takes less time and is far more productive.

Yesterday I had lunch with my pastor and both of us were greatly encouraged. I had to have lunch, so the appointment took only a little extra time.  Then I returned to my office and had what I thought was a business appointment to help another small business owner with some ideas for her business.  It turned out that her business was in financial difficulties and she was in serious trouble.  She needed hope.   I was able to give her some biblical advice, give her some helpful tools and things to do, get her into a small group of business leaders, and get her to call my wife and have lunch with her.  I usually turn women over to my wife, which provides safety. The primary place that God will use you to impact others will be in your family, your close friends, and in your workplace.  As Henry Blackaby says, “If you watch where God is working around you”, you will never have to go anywhere else.

7) Let them do it. 

 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” (Mark 6:37 NASU)

Jesus let the disciples learn by having them handle the problem.  It was a teaching experience.  They had to learn how to depend on Him.  They would not have learned this if they had only watched him perform and teach.  Jesus allowed them to be involved in solving a real problem.

The hardest thing for us to do is to let our disciples do the work themselves.  They will never learn to minister to others unless we let them do so.  I was taught many years ago by the Billy Graham organization, “Telling is not teaching, listening is not learning, you learn to do by doing.”   When my wife and I were in our twenties, our mentor would take us on trips when he did conferences and allow us to share testimonies, lead workshops, and lead small groups. He took a risk and paid our way to travel as a team.  He knew that we would only learn by doing it ourselves.  We were not perfect and made mistakes, but learned how to teach, serve, and minister to others.  I watched another mentor model Christ in the workplace in every business deal. You need to equip your disciples but then let them go.  They are not yours, but God’s, only on loan to you to equip them and then release them.

You can have a ministry right in your workplace by practicing these seven principles which Jesus modeled for us.  These are only a few of the many examples that Jesus gave to us in the Gospel of Mark.

Learning from the Master,
Kent Humphreys

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About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

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