In the World, Not of It

Is it possible to maintain our Christian faith with integrity and still work in the marketplace without compromise? Can we hold fast to our Christian convictions in the secular workplace while striving for professional excellence? The answer to both questions, I believe, is yes.

Briefly for context, I worked as a psychologist in private practice for nearly 38 years before joining the staff of First Church. Partnering with another psychologist, our two-state practice employed several therapists and provided a full-range of services to a variety of agencies, professionals, ministries, and clientele of all ages. Although everyone in our practice held a strong Christian faith, we did not advertise as a Christian practice and we provided services to people of all faiths and beliefs. Therefore, maintaining integrity in our faith without compromise and holding fast to our Christian convictions were values we fervently held while still serving the community at large.

In John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father for all believers: “They are not part of this world any more than I am … As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.” These words animated our practice and undergirded our mission statement, and I believe they should be the foundation for any Christian professional and worker in the marketplace. How can we live out these words? Let me share what I believe are a few guiding biblical principles.

First, know your calling. It is not only full-time Christian workers, such as pastors and missionaries, who are called into ministry. The word “vocation” derives from the Latin word vocare which means to call or name. We are called out and sent by the Father. Because of this, our vocation is not just our way to earn an income; it is our mission assignment for impacting His kingdom.

Second, realize you are an ambassador of Christ. The word “apostle” in the Greek (apostolos) means an “envoy, ambassador, or messenger commissioned to carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent.” Like the New Testament apostles, we, too, are ambassadors. Since we have been called, we are also commissioned. Whether it be at home or in the workplace, we are always serving as ambassadors. In this role we help bring Christ’s kingdom to wherever we are.

Third, do everything with excellence. This means not only in the job we do, but in how we treat both those we serve and those we employ. Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). It has been said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” When we work and love with excellence, the gospel goes forth, if not in word, then in deed.

Fourth, remember Whom you work for. Ultimately, we are not working for the praise of others, but for the glory of God. In Colossians 3, Paul reminds us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (verse 23). This is important to remember especially when our zeal fades or the climate in which we work turns cloudy.

Finally, know why you believe. As Christians, there will be times when our faith will be challenged or questioned. Peter reminds us to “[q]uietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3:15, TLB). As Christians, we will be watched, and at times even spotlighted—especially in occupations where Christians are infrequently found, such as in professional psychology.

It is important to remember that these guidelines are not just for those who are still working, but for those of us who have retired. God is always working so retirement is not the end but the beginning of a different calling in a new season of vocation. All we need to do is listen.

by Dr. Al Barrow, Director – Spiritual Development Center