Let me pose a question to you. I want you to think for a moment about the most significant Christians who have impacted the world for Christ in the last 100 years. Write them down. Name four or five off the top of your head. Don’t read on until you do this for me. Then come back.
Now, look at the list. How many of those were full-time vocational ministry workers and how many were workplace Christians? My guess is your list is made up of mostly vocational ministry workers. People like Billy Graham, Rees Howells, George Mueller, Bill Bright, D.L. Moody or even Mother Theresa.
My point is, where are the men and women of faith impacting the world from the workplace? Why aren’t we seeing them in the list? Absent are men like Jeremiah Lanphier (NY City revivals of 1857), RG LeTourneau (construction business who impacted many for Christ), Wilbur Wilberforce (England’s statesman who demolished slavery) or Arthur Guinness, an entrepreneur who changed the society in Ireland and England at the turn of the century.
There Are Four Types of Christians. Which one are you?
Ed Silvoso has provided a thoughtful look at four types of Christians in the workplace in his book Anointed for Business. He cites the follow four categories1:
1. The Christian who is simply trying to survive.
Our first category is best described as a person who has no purpose or zeal for their work or life. They have not seen the power or presence of God in their work life. Solomon describes this person:
So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. (Eccl 2:20-23).
This person most likely has a segmented life. Their faith like is segmented from their work life. The lack purpose and meaning and have little direction. They go to work to collect a paycheck and most likely their work is reduced to collecting a paycheck at the end of the week. They have never heard the voice of God in their life and would never consider praying during or for a workplace related issue. They go to church, but they see church as another place to do something for God. In the final analysis, this person is a defeated Christian simply trying to survive.
The world is full of surviving Christians. They are waiting for the lifeboat of salvation to take them off this “evil planet.” In fact, George Barna says that in America we have 35 -40% of the population who claim to be born again. However, if you had forty percent of market share of your industry how much influence would you have over that industry? Coca-Cola has a 40% market share in the soft drink industry. Do you think they carry a lot of clout? You bet they do.
In a survey done by the Gallup organization in 1983 they measured the work habits of church going people compared to non-church going people. What they found was no significant difference between the morality and ethics of non-believers and Christians. Christians were as likely to steel company supplies, cheat on taxes and call in sick as the non-Christian. Category 1 is a large segment of the Christian population.
2. The Christian who is living by Christian principles.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (Gal 5:18).
The second type of Christian in the workplace is the Christian who is living by Christian principles. America is a society that loves programs and systems to do things. We find 12-step programs and books that claim 7 steps to loose weight or 10 Ways to a Better Marriage as guaranteed formulas to achieve our goals. For some, this type programmed teaching is helpful. It gives them a track to run on. Christian authors use acrostics to help their audiences grasp key concepts. Let’s face it, if the whole world lived on Christian principles we would definitely have a better world.
All of this can be helpful, but we should recognize the root of this form of teaching. It largely comes from a Greek-based system for attaining knowledge as compared to the early church Hebraic model of learning. When the early church began to mature in the second and third centuries more and more Greek scholars came into the faith. When they came into the faith they also influenced the early Hebraic church with their teaching methodology that focused on reasoning, logic and oratory skills. The Hebrews learned obedience through obedience, not reason and analysis. The taught by modeling not be teaching information. Here is a comparison between the two styles of learning and relating to God. See where you fall in these two systems.
Many of us are byproducts of a Greek system which is why we don’t have impact on our world. It alleviates the supernatural because it depends on the logic and reasoning of every situation rather than living by the power of the Holy Spirit to be led by God.
This system often promotes a works-based relationship toward God. Paul warned us against this when he said: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:7-10). Paul also warned against the Greek influence when he was speaking to the Corinthians: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor 2:4-5).
Level 2 Christians tend to be ethical people. They want to do the right thing. Ethics are important for laying foundations, but they will never lead us to experience the power of God. If we fail the ethics test, we will disqualify us from the power encounters with God and fail to be a witness to the world.
Level 2 Christians are often the best church workers because they like to follow clearly defined tasks. However, in order to experience the freedom and power of God in the Holy Spirit, Level 2 Christians must move beyond the “milk” of programmed Christianity to an intimate relationship with Jesus. That is where they will experience the power of God.
3. The Christian who is living by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:14-16).
The key characteristic of a Level 3 Christian is best exemplified as one who has a heart toward God that hears the voice of God in every aspect of their life. They have moved past the Greek system and operate in the Hebraic model as the early church did. They understand that their life in Christ is a result of the love of God born in their hearts. They understand the grace of God and relate to God in loving obedience. Level 3 Christians know the importance of developing a heart toward God through prayer, study of the Word of God and obedience. They realize these are the three core ingredients to experiencing the power of God in their lives.
Let me share a story of one man who is learning to move from a Level 2 Christian to a Level 3. This was a recent TGIF devotional message I wrote about this man.
Beware of Unusual Circumstances
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit. (1 Cor 12:7-9).
Whenever something unusual happens in daily life, these are often signs that God is up to something. We must have a heightened sense of awareness of what God may want to do in these situations. My mentor once shared how he was upgraded on an airline for no reason. A woman sat down next to him who was very troubled. My mentor began to pray for the woman and God gave him supernatural insights that her problem related to her unforgiveness of her mother and that was why she was disturbed. The woman was shocked. My mentor began to minister to her on the airplane and ultimately led her to Christ.
I shared this story at our ministry board meeting among our leaders. I told them that God is raising the spiritual bar for Christians who want to impact the world for Christ today. He wants to break through into people’s lives supernaturally by giving them insights into the needs of people in order to bring them to Christ.
A few days later we took Doug, one of our close friends and board members to the airport. He barely made his flight. He sat in his assigned seat in economy class. As the doors shut, he suddenly heard his name called out. He was being informed that he was being upgraded to first class. He never flew this airline so he wondered how in the world he would get upgraded. However, he gladly accepted.
He went to his seat which was occupied by a lady who wanted to exchange seats. Doug agreed. He moved a row back next to an executive who seemed to be very irritated. He was well dressed and Doug could see that he probably was a very successful and wealthy. Doug pondered what God might do with this arrangement which seemed unusual but divinely orchestrated. He wanted to move in a supernatural dimension in his walk with God and speaking into other’s lives. “Lord, tell me something about this man so that he would know that it was You who knew him” he quietly prayed. Just then the words “finance” and then “financial services” popped into his mind. Now, he had to decide whether this was God answering his prayer or was it just his own thoughts? Stepping into the supernatural he decided to risk it and go for it. Turning to the man “I understand you are in financial services”. The irritated executive looked at him and said, “Yes I am, how in the world would YOU know that?” Doug was amazed himself at God’s work but asked “Do you really want to know how I know that?” “Yes, I would.” Doug said “The Lord told me” “What? ” the man replied “Well, when I sat down I began to pray for you and I asked God to tell me something about you. God told me that you were specifically in financial services.”
The man, startled and not sure what to make of this began a conversation with Doug. It turns out the man is the CEO of one of the largest financial services company in the US – a 32 billion dollar company with global influence. He shared the rest of the flight with the man about the integration of faith with work and business. The man did not accept Christ. But he experienced a touch of the Kingdom of God in a very personal way that may be a stepping stone for him coming into the Kingdom in the future. It was a supernatural seed – planting encounter.
I have a friend name Emeka who is the head of Intercession for a workplace ministry. He was based in Nigeria at the time. Emeka was a barrister in Nigeria. He was arguing a case before his Supreme Court. The case had five points to argue. He came to the day of his court case and met with his legal team and his wife. Emeka always prays about his cases before he enters the court room. That day the Lord spoke to Emeka and said, “Do not argue points 1-4, only argue point 5.” Now you can imagine the potential impact of taking such actions if you have not clearly heard from God.
Emeka obeyed the instructions he believed God was speaking to him. He entered the court room and approached the bench. “Your honor, I wish to change my plea today and only wish to argue point number five.” “Are you sure you want to do that, barrister?” “Yes, your lordship. That is what I wish to do.” Emeka began his argument and sat down.
The opposing attorney stood before the court and for twelve minutes could not get a word out of his mouth. He stumbled this way and that, and finally approached the judge and said, “Your lordship, it is unfortunate my learned friend has not chosen to argue points one through four of this case. I wish to yield the case.”
You see, the opposing attorney had prepared for points one through four, but not point five. Emeka won the case. Emeka was successful in his workplace because he prepared professionally, but there was a secret weapon that God gave him – the power to hear His voice for direction. He supernaturally defeated his opponent by gaining information from the Holy Spirit regarding how the other attorney had prepared. What an exciting way to live!
4. Christian who is transforming their workplace for Christ.
The Level 4 Christian is one who is transforming their workplace for Christ. Level 4 Christianity is a byproduct or fruit of Level 3. You can only transform your workplace if you are moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. Rarely did he speak of salvation as much as the Kingdom of God. Certainly, salvation was included in the Kingdom of God, but it included much more. Jesus mentioned the Kingdom of God 70 times in the New Testament (NKJV).
This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9-10).
When we talk of transformation we are talking about bringing the Kingdom of God upon the workplace and society. The early disciples understood this.
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 5:12-13).
And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:17-18).
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done- by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit (Rom 15:18-19).
You see, the supernatural was part of the normal Christian life. There are examples of individuals who are transforming their workplaces for Christ.
Jeremiah Lanphier was a businessman in New York City who asked God to do something significant in his life in 1857. In a small darkened room, in the back of one of New York City’s lesser churches, a man prayed alone. His request of God was simple, but earth-shattering: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” 2
He was a man approaching midlife without a wife or family, but he had financial means. He made a decision to reject the “success syndrome” that drove the city’s businessmen and bankers. God used this businessman to turn New York City’s commercial empire on its head. He began a businessmen’s prayer meeting on September 23, 1857. The meetings began slowly, but within a few months, 20 noonday meetings were convening daily throughout the city. The New York Tribune and the New York Herald issued articles of revival. It had become the city’s biggest news. Now a full-fledged revival, it moved outside New York. By spring of 1858, 2,000 met daily in Chicago’s Metropolitan Theatre, and in Philadelphia, the meetings mushroomed into a four-month long tent meeting. Meetings were held in Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, New Orleans, and Mobile. Thousands met to pray because one man stepped out. Annus Mirabilis, the year of national revival, had begun. This was an extraordinary move of God through one man. It was unique because the movement was lead by businessmen, a group long considered the least prone to any form of evangelical fervor, and it had started on Wall Street, the most unlikely of all places to begin.
R.G. LeTourneau, a businessman from the United States, wrestled with the secular versus full-time Christian work idea. LeTourneau was a successful businessman in the early 1900s that recounts the turning point in his understanding of how God desires to use business for His glory. His pastor one day said to him, “You know, brother LeTourneau, God needs businessmen as well as preachers and missionaries.” “Those were the words that guided my life ever since,” said LeTourneau. “I repeat them in public at every opportunity because I have discovered that many men have the same mistaken idea I had of what it means to serve the Lord. My idea was if a man was going all out for God, he would have to be a preacher, or evangelist, or a missionary, or what we call a full-time Christian worker. I didn’t realize that a layman could serve the Lord as well as a preacher. I left the parsonage in sort of a daze. If God needed businessmen, he could certainly find a lot better material than a dirt-mover with a lot of debts piled up in the garage business. But I said, ‘All right, if that is what God wants me to be, I’ll try to be His businessman.'” LeTourneau later became known for his generosity for giving 90% of his income to Christian causes. 3
Hotel Owner Transforms His Workplace
Ed Silvoso, author of Anointed for Business, tells the story of a Philipino business man who owned a hotel chain. God saved this man and began an amazing transformation that led to a major transformation in his large scale hotel. This man owned a 1600 room hotel in three buildings. The hotel had become a haven for prostitution with the rooms being used as many as five times a day. The 2,000 employees had a primary clientele of prostitutes. There were more than 3,000 prostitutes. One of Silvoso’s associates shared with the owner a formula for winning the lost. So, the owner of the hotel went out and hired 40 pastors and told them to follow these instructions.
- Speak peace to the wolves. Bless those who curse you.
- Eat and drink with the sinners. Become their friends.
- Pray for them and their needs.
These were the strict orders. They were not to share the gospel until these three requirements were met for two years. The net result of following these three rules was that all 2,000 employees got saved and the hotel was upgraded to executive level which removed the prostitution because the rates became too high. A prayer chapel was added with 24/7 prayer for anyone by dialing 7 on the telephone. Two years later 10,000 guests had received the Lord on this property.
Now that is transformation! Start asking God to help you see how to transform your workplace today.
1. Source: Ed Silvoso, Annointed for Business
2. John Woodbridge, ed., More Than Conquerors (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1992), 337
3. R.G. LeTourneau, Mover of Men and Mountains (Chicago: Moody Press, year), 109-110.