Breakthrough the Barriers of Sharing Your Faith at Work

yellow and black road concrete barrier
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Having a faith-based conversation at work might seem like a huge challenge depending on your environment and your mindset.  The culture today would prefer we leave the faith stuff at home and just focus on the job at hand.  In my own experience, there seems to be 3 reasons why people miss the opportunity to speak openly about their faith.

One reason is fear. In our minds this often sounds like, “I have no idea how to start a faith conversation and what if they ask questions I can’t answer?.”  This can also sound like, “What if I offend somone, or what if they judge me because of what I say?” Either way, the fear of what mighthappen often prevents people from taking a bold step to share their faith.  Fear can be so debilitating because it projects this picture of the future that is often based on a worst-case scenario.  For some reason, we anticipate negative reactions or some type of humiliating outcome.  Oftentimes, the terrible future we are envisioning is based on a past experience, but isn’t it crazy how we assume that same bad thing will happen again? Fear is powerful, but doing things in the face of fear is superpowerful!  Fear is one of those things that loses its grip on us the more we take action against it.

Over the years, I have watched many Christian friends who were afraid to share their faith slowly conquer their fear by taking small steps towards whatever held them captive. In some cases, it was  a simple statement about faith during a conversation with a co-worker.  They didn’t engage in a dissertation of any evangelistic concepts; they gently encouraged someone with words from the Bible.  Small steps lead to bigger steps that take the power away from fear.

Another reason is we hold back from sharing our faith is doubt – we don’t think it will make a difference.  Often this is the result of never seeing the impact of your efforts.  Maybe you have dabbled in faith-based conversations in the past and nothing really came of it.  However, God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.”  None of us can see the work God is doing behind the scenes in the lives of people.

I remember a friend of mine inviting me to coffee to share what God had been doing in his life. During the conversation he reminded me of something I had shared with him several years back about the separation we all have with God until we surrender our lives to Jesus.  He went on to describe how the words I used captured his attention and how they changed the way he viewed his life.  Honestly, I couldn’t even remember the conversation! For some reason I couldn’t recall any of the vivid details my friend remembered.  God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are definitely way bigger than mine.  I realized that I may never know the impact of what I share with someone, but I can trust that God is at work in the lives of everyone.

The last reason, which is the one I struggle with the most, is distraction.  It’s being so caught up in the busyness of the day that we forget the purpose of our lives – the purpose of sharing the message of Jesus every chance we get.  The demands of difficult customers, hard-driving bosses and confrontational co-workers can be exhausting.  On top of that, loads of emails, back-to-back meetings, and the pressure to perform may not leave much room for sharing our faith.  How many times have you gotten to work, jumped into the activity, and realized it was time to go home?  The day flew by before you even realized what happened.  That fast pace keeps our minds occupied which prevents us from focusing on the God who is waiting for us to invite Him into every part of our day. Fighting distraction is tough, but it’s possible.

I have seen people who rely heavily on their calendars so they block off time to pray.  In other cases, friends scheduled time to have lunch with someone who shares their faith so they can encourage each other and be refreshed on their purpose.  They helped keep each other accountable for sharing their faith and looking for people to pray for.  When we are intentional to place our faith as a high priority in our daily lives, we can begin to break free of distractions and open up opportunities to talk about our faith in a God-honoring way.

The essence of obstacles is that they are to be challenged and conquered.  God is ready to be the source of whatever each of us needs to more boldly proclaim the message of Jesus Monday through Friday!

The Worship of Work

The first time I heard the concept of work being worship I thought it was a little strange. Personally, I had a number of days where I worked long hours going from meeting to meeting, jumping on conference calls and solving problems without taking a single minute to pray. There were other days where I got up before the crack of dawn to rush to the airport and spend the day visiting stores without taking any time to read my Bible. Honestly, there were times I thought work was the exact opposite of worship and in some cases an interruption to real worship. How can I worship God when work can be so consuming? If you have ever felt the same, then let me encourage you that it’s possible. The apostle Paul and Jesus both teach on the topic and they say it’s possible!

In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” The idea that our physical body, and how we use it, is worship is clear according to this verse. When we serve others through sacrifice and humility we are honoring the Lord. The workplace is a powerful platform for serving, helping and encouraging others.

I worked with an amazing person named Joi (so well named by her equally amazing parents). She came to the company from another industry, so she had her challenges gaining the credibility of the people on her team. As I watched her work and heard others describe her approach, you could see that she was genuinely interested in people as individuals and not simply what they did at work. She illustrated this by asking about their family, their hobbies, and what motivated them to go to work each day. She spent time working next to her team and ultimately earned their respect and admiration. Joi is also a sold-out follower of Jesus. She frequently talks about prayer, Jesus, and how Godly principles can apply in the workplace. She is a great example of presenting herself, or acting in a way, that is willing to serve others for their benefit and not her own. She truly worships at work.

Jesus also offered great words of encouragement in Matthew 5:16 when He said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What we do is a reflection of who we follow. Jesus connects our actions to reflecting God. How we do our work (not how we talk about doing our work) can be a reflection of how God works. We can worship God by giving an accurate representation of how He works. Do you work with excellence or mediocrity? Do you finish the job or leave things incomplete? Do you operate with full integrity or bend the truth at times? These are opportunities to reflect Jesus’ standards which are often the opposite of the world around us. The way we work is worship.

Finally, the apostle Paul notes in the more well-known work-related verses in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Paul makes the clear point that we are serving Jesus at work. For those of you who have a difficult boss or work with difficult people, find encouragement in this powerful truth. You are serving the Lord when you work the way He calls you to work and no matter the circumstances, He is the one who is faithfully ready to reward you for a job well done.   How do you see your work? Where do you have an opportunity to worship God more fully by how you do your work? The Bible is clear that “walking the walk” is much more important to God than “talking the talk.” I pray you will see your work in a fresh new way today.

Compete or Collaborate – A Distinct Way to Create Organizational Advantage

Irunning a race_business peoplen a few weeks I will have the opportunity to head to Atlanta with a group from the University of Houston’s Sales Excellence Institute for a sales competition.  The event is the NCSC and it touts itself as “the largest and oldest sales competition in existence”.  The purpose is to provide students a chance to demonstrate their selling skills while at the same time gaining access to top companies searching for qualified job candidates.  Up until this year I had no idea this event even existed; but being a part of the coaching staff has opened my eyes to the enormous benefits for both the students and companies involved.  It’s a showcase for the best of the best!

Our team started with four of the best and brightest sales students from our program.  These talented people spent the past few months practicing and being coached in preparation for the event.  Along the way, they are being evaluated to determine progress until we ultimately select two individuals to represent the university.  Last week we had our final selection session and after great skill demonstrations and a well-designed debate, we finalized our competitors!  What’s unique about this process is that the other two individuals who were NOT selected to be part of the competition duo will still make the trip and be part of the event.  I was so impressed by the way that this entire group of four students navigated the process that it challenged me to think about what type of team member I would be if I had to make a quick shift from competing to collaborating.  Would I be able to do it in a way that would be helpful to the group or more hurtful because of the nagging impact of not being chosen to compete?  The truth is our workplaces need more people who can collaborate and fewer who want to solely compete against others so that organizations can maximize the potential of the team.  By harnessing this characteristic and anchoring in the principle of excellence organizations are able to produce results far beyond what any one person is able to accomplish.

One of my favorite standards for excellence is found in the Bible in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  Paul encourages this group of people in chapter 3, verse 23 that “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  That word “heartily” means exceedingly well, or abundantly above something.  More directly stated; whatever you do, do it with excellence as if you are doing it for the Lord Himself, because ultimately, He is who we are living for.  When we apply the principle of excellence and seek to serve the Lord it takes our focus off of ourselves and helps to guard against selfishness and self-centeredness.  Collaboration helps to foster a similar result.  When we compete against others we are drawn to look solely at ourselves while collaboration extends our thinking to consider others around us.  It is a more powerful way to build a team and take on the challenges that come our way at work.

As I mentioned earlier, we narrowed down our student competitors from four to two and the initial reaction from the group was one of collaboration and encouragement.  I am looking forward to being part of the event and watching our team pursue a spirit of excellence and collaboration next week.  Who knows; maybe we can even come back with a victory!

Lessons From a Family Vacation – When Things Don’t Go as Planned

We had the opportunity to spend time in Park City this week as a family enjoying what I think is some of the best skiing around!  The weather has been great, and the time together has been even more of a blessing.  The only curve ball has been my youngest son fracturing his arm.  Skiing accidents are not uncommon, but when it’s one of your kids and it happens on the very first day of the trip, it can put a major damper on everything planned.  The situation forced us to rethink our days and challenged us to look for completely new ways to entertain ourselves.  Our ski trips have always been filled with one thing; skiing.  Who would have known that there are so many more ways to spend time together as a family and enjoy what Park City had to offer OUTSIDE of skiing?

As I was thinking about our major rework of Spring Break 2018 it dawned on me that these types of situations are common in business.  How many times do you have a plan only to have some unexpected event interrupt everything?  I have always been blessed to learn so much from my family.  What they have taught me this week may be helpful for you if you are faced with an unexpected situation.  My 3 big lessons are:

Focus forward – Once the broken arm was diagnosed it didn’t take my son long to begin thinking about what he wanted to do in light of the new reality.  I was amazed at the fact he never asked, “why me”, or “why this”, or “why now”?  We never spent much time debriefing how we got to where we are (although I recognize it can be helpful in some circumstances); we just moved to talking about what we wanted the rest of the trip to look like based on the current state.  In business it is easy to get stalled trying to understand how you got to where you are, but the sooner you can shift the focus to a forward-looking perspective the sooner you will be able to advance your team.

Organize options – One of the biggest challenges when plans go sideways is to determine the most viable options for moving forward.  One of the reasons good plans are often executed well is that a lot of thought and consideration has been put into the approach.  When major interruptions occur, it’s not always easy to get clarity on the best NEW alternatives.  To his credit, the first thing my son and frankly my wife began to consider is what can we can do that doesn’t require the use of a full functioning body?  Turns out there are a lot of options including museum visits, a tour of Olympic Park, and catching a movie.  My family quickly organized the options and we were able to rework our plan in a way that fired everyone up.

Family First – Truthfully, this final lesson is one that likely served as the foundation for allowing us to quickly adjust.  My boys enjoy spending time together, so it wasn’t difficult for my oldest son to drop his own ideas of what a ski trip should be like and be willing to completely shift the schedule.  It was more important that we are ALL doing things as a group than it was for any one person’s agenda to make things complicated.  In business, the commitment of the team is critical for being able to consider a major shift in the plan.  When in doubt, take the time to remind the team of the vision for the organization so the focus stays on the big picture and not the short-term challenge they are experiencing.  It will make all the difference in the world; it surely has for our family this week.

Work As Pain or Work As Gain?

frustrated business personCBS News published an article March 31, 2017 titled, “Why so many Americans hate their jobs.”  The article highlighted the state of American workers and it doesn’t take much interpretation to get the picture.  So many people are miserable at work.  The article references a Gallup study which states that two-thirds of workers are disengaged.  In addition, another 16% are actively disengaged meaning they actually resent their jobs and work to drag down office morale.  What’s scarier is the impact that disengagement has on companies including high turnover, poor customer service, absenteeism and countless other productivity pitfalls that crush morale.  Companies lose and the people who work at these companies lose as a result of this phenomenon.  So, in consideration of this encouraging state of the American worker is there anything YOU can do to guard yourself from falling into the same level of despair that seems to plague many people?  The answer is yes, and it really starts with how you think about work.

Work was invented by God.  The Bible opens with the dramatic story of creation where God went to work and spoke everything into being.  All that He made was labeled as good and He followed up His six days of profound creation with a day of rest.  Later in the Genesis account you read where God makes man and gives him the work of cultivating and keeping the garden.  It’s the first job ever assigned to someone and that too was good!  Adam had the awesome assignment to care for the garden God had designed.  What a gift!  If you are familiar with the story, then you know what happened next when evil entered the world.  Work was cursed and became something that would be laborious, challenging, and filled with obstacles.  The notion that people might hate their work is easy to understand but is that the way it should be?  I don’t think so.  We are told in the Bible that we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and that we should do our work with excellence (Colossians 3:23-24)!  God designed work for our good so that we can reflect our trust in Him by the way we do our jobs.  It’s a gift to do the work God designed for us.

How we do our work is a reflection of what we believe or better yet, who we believe.  For many people the “who” they believe in most is themselves.  As a result, they will approach work in a way that maximizes their own benefits, their own gains and their own agendas.  You know these people by their tendency to point to others as the reason for their work frustrations.  We have all worked with people that fall into that category.  Yet for those who believe in someone other than themselves they will reflect the characteristics of that person.  As a Christian, how we interact with people, how we make decisions and how we conduct ourselves should reflect the characteristics of the one we follow; Jesus.  The apostle Paul told the Romans to consider their bodies a living and holy sacrifice which is their spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).  How we work is part of how we worship, and our workplace is a primary arena where we have opportunity to reflect the one we serve.

If you find yourself hating your job, then take a moment to remind yourself that God created your work and the way you approach your job is part of your worship.  I hope you are worshipping well.

The Faith Factor at Work

A number of years ago I watched a television series on NBC called Fear Factor.  The objective of the show is to pit contestants against each other in a variety of stunts for a grand prize of $50,000.  As you can imagine, many people were motivated to get into the competition and try their hand at winning the jackpot.  For any competitive person this opportunity might sound like an exciting way to spend an evening.  But, there was a catch.  The “stunts” were created by professionals and often times extremely dangerous.

The typical format was to have the first stunt test the physical abilities of participants.  For example, jumping from one building to another, or hanging from a helicopter collecting flags.  This was intense.  The second stunt was a mental challenge that pressed the boundaries of common sense and in my opinion, safety.  I remember one episode where a contestant climbed into a box and was covered in non-venomous snakes.  That’s right; covered in snakes.  They had to remain in the box for a period of time before they were allowed to exit.  Finally, those who were still in the competition (I would have dropped at snakes) had to participate in some type of extreme stunt you might find in an action movie.  It usually involved high risk speed, mind-bending heights, or some other type of over-the-top challenge to test the resolve of every competitor.  If, and only if you survived would you be crowned as the winner.  It is one of the most extreme collection of challenges a person could ever be part of.  However, I bet if I asked you about sharing your Christian faith at work you might consider being a competitor in Fear Factor as being less intimidating.  For some reason when the topic of faith at work is brought up many people feel a deep sense of fear and uncertainty.  Why is the topic such a scary one?

I believe it starts with the fact Christians don’t think they know how to do it.  Add to that the pressure in many workplaces to leave your faith at church on Sunday and you have the perfect combination of fear and resistance.  Yet, I think more than ever our work places and the people around us desperately need to bring their entire self, including their faith, to work in a way that honors the God who created us and encourages the people in our circle of influence.  It’s a great win-win opportunity.  It’s also an opportunity that if pursued incorrectly can shame the God you serve and frustrate or even anger the people around you.  So, is there a best way?

My suggestion is to first consider how you can SHOW your Christian faith before you ever consider SHARING it.  This means living your life in a way that reflects the outstanding characteristics of Jesus.  Characteristics such as honesty, love, compassion and a willingness to serve others while expecting nothing in return.  If Christians are willing to consider how they can first reflect Jesus, there will be plenty of opportunities to talk about Him.  Each of us can move from fear to fearless by starting with aligning our own lives with the life of Jesus.  It really is a better way!

One Question That Can Really Make You Think

If someone came to visit you today and asked what the purpose of your life really is, how would you answer it?  Would you point to something such as your work and answer the question in light of that?  Would you start to list someone, or a group of someone’s in an effort to answer the question?  Do you have an answer to the question?  Having an answer is critical for anyone who hopes to live a full and successful life; one that makes an impact.

When you read about the topic of purpose there is no shortage of advice and multi-step programs on how to discover it.  In fact, when you google finding purpose, there are more than 890 MILLION results!  The topic is a relevant one because it has such impact on how we live our lives.  1Patrick Hill, an assistance professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis said that, “purposeful individuals tend to be less reactive to stressors and more engaged, generally, in their daily lives, which can promote cognitive and physical health.”  Purposeful people keep their minds and their bodies engaged which has been directly linked to living longer.

How each of us answers the question of purpose is more critical than ever because we live in a fast-paced, demanding world that is more than happy to define purpose for you.  We are bombarded with images and messages that encourage us to define purpose by our achievements, or the achievements of those around us.  Advertisements, magazine articles, and social media often highlight the best-of-the-best of life and then challenge each of us to go for it; dedicate your life to the pursuit of happiness.  One of the challenges with that line of thinking is that life does not always feel happy and the achievement of things rarely satisfies our inherent desire for more.  A defined purpose helps to clear out the noise and allows you to focus on what really matters – to you.  Ultimately, purpose will provide a crystal-clear view of how YOU define success.

So, what’s your purpose?  When you look at the collection of activities on your calendar, the ways in which you spend your money, and who you spend the majority of your time with, what does it say about your purpose?  Are you busy doing a lot of things, but not sure if they are really adding up to something?  If so, then take time to consider your purpose.  Decide to put in the work of thinking about it, writing it down, refining it a bit, and finally boldly sharing it with those closest to you.  It’s hard work, but don’t forget, living with purpose will help you live longer, so you may just have the time!!

 

1 The Washington Post, September 24, 2017, Want to Stay Strong as You Age article.

 

Defining Soul Purpose Inc.

As many of you know, I recently published a book called “Enlisted – A Battle Plan For Living the Abundant Life.”  Since the publishing group I worked with does not provide much marketing, my wife and I thought about ways we could do it on our own.  She is pretty savvy with social media and I have a degree in marketing so that should qualify us to take on the challenge! Well, as we went back and forth on things we could DO, I completely forgot about a basic element of marketing.   The part where you clearly articulate WHAT you do before developing plans on how to talk about it.  We introduced Soul Purpose Inc. (www.soulpurposeinc.com) as a way to get the word out about the book.  However, as I spent more time thinking about what Soul Purpose really means I felt an intense pressure to be able to answer the question, “what does Soul Purpose Inc. actually do?  Truthfully, I didn’t have a good answer; I really didn’t have any answer.  So, as the streets of Houston began to ice over and the events on my calendar were cancelled, I found myself with extra time to really think about that question.  I hope you will be encouraged by my answer.

Soul Purpose Inc. is a platform to connect with people in order to distribute resources that inspire and equip them to discover personal purpose and integrate their whole self in what they do.  It’s about bringing your soul; the innermost part of who you are to everything that you do.  Especially your work!  Discovering personal purpose, developing a plan to live in light of that purpose, and creating a way to monitor and adjust where needed is at the core of what we want to do.  The truth is that living with clear purpose is a better way to live.  The Bible calls it the abundant life, but you can also think of it as living the BEST LIFE God designed for you!

That brings us to the title of this article, the Soul Purpose Project.  For now, it’s simply the name of the blog we are launching to share thoughts, personal stories, and strategies for living with purpose.  Our goal is not only to address the “how-to” of purpose living, but more importantly, the “why-to”.  Why is clarity of purpose so important?  Why do I need to understand my purpose?  Why would I care about having a purpose?  These are questions that need to be considered as you live the one life you have been given to live.  We certainly won’t claim to know what another person’s purpose should be, but we can challenge you through questions to unpack the reasons you do what you do.  Our approach is about a process of discovery and our resources will serve as navigation tools to guide you on the path.

So there it is, my confession of absolutely putting the cart before the horse and asking people to join our community when I didn’t even know what it would mean.  But that has changed, and I hope you will enjoy being part of our community.  It’s free, it will challenge you, and ultimately, if this platform can impact one life for the better then it was worth jumping into before we knew if the water was deep or not.

If you received this via email then you are already part of our community so thank you for your support.  If you are viewing this through social media, then please join our community by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page on our website.

On A Mission

What is the mission of your life?  What do you hope to accomplish over the course of your time here on earth?  Never considered the question?  I never considered it much either until one of those get-your-attention moments hit me between the eyes.  I remember sitting on my couch many years ago and thinking about my own life.  I was having success at work, my personal life was pretty good, and I had few responsibilities.  Everything was clicking!  Then, in that moment, I got this powerful sense that there has to be more to life than this.  If this was it, then life didn’t seem to have much more to offer me.  Well, if you have ever questioned the purpose of your life, then you and I are on the same page.  What is this life all about?

My main source for wisdom and answers to life’s most challenging questions is the Bible.  Over and over again I have found the pages of this book address the issues that are relevant today.  Whether it is relationships, personal health, finances, big decisions, dealing with life’s challenges, or any other domain of life, the Bible offers powerful insight and unique examples to learn from.  When it comes to the question of life purpose, I think Jesus offers the words and the example for each of us to consider.

Jesus came to earth with a clear mission; to save those who were lost (Matthew 18:11).  When He finished His work on earth, He gave His disciples a challenge; Go make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).  That is a shortened version of what He said, but it is the mission of anyone who chooses to surrender their life to Christ.  Making disciples can sound intimidating, but the truth is if we follow the example of the early church, we can see them doing two things; telling others about Jesus, and showing others how to live like Jesus.  The showing part is wrapped up in knowing what the Bible says about how to live, then being an example for others to see.  To the degree we invest in the lives of others as we grow together in our faith we will realize the joy and purpose that comes with this mission.  My prayer is that you are open to say yes to what God is calling you to do!