The Christian in the Engineering Workplace

This article has been prompted by numerous problems I have had working with other employees who are Christians. In extreme cases, their faith spills over into the workplace, interfering with the day-to-day execution of their job and the jobs of others around them. I feel I have a unique perspective on this issue, because I am an Engineer as well as a Christian myself. I have written this article to Christians and the non-Christians alike. To the Christian, it contains guidelines for acceptable conduct. To the non-Christian manager, it contains some suggestions that will help you deal with problem situations. If you feel overwhelmed, threatened by, or offended by the Christians - this article is also for you! Hopefully I can give you some valuable tips that will allow you to effectively deal with your Christian employee, without getting drawn into issues of faith you would rather avoid.

My Qualifications

In dealing with a sensitive topic like this, I feel I must state my qualifications up front, especially to Christian workers who will question my "spiritual authority" over them.

As an Engineer ---
I have over 20 years of experience in the industry, and am a manager of a small team containing both Christians and non-Christians. I have many successful design projects under my belt, as well as successful products over which I supervised.
As a Christian (using terminology that Christians will recognize) ---
I was saved and baptised in the Holy Spirit over 25 years ago. My salvation is based on the blood atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross as payment for my sin. Since that time, I have been a member of several churches depending on my location and growth as a believer. I have a regular quiet time and study the Bible daily. I have served the Lord within the church as Sunday School teacher in the the youth and children's departments. I have served Him outside of the church through radio, through decency organizations, through pro-life organizations, and have even taken young people into my home to give them an opportunity at a better life.

The Engineering Workplace

The Christian in the United States is presented with a dilemma with which they are not prepared, in many cases, to understand. The United States is a nation founded by people who put freedom of religion and freedom of speech as two of the founding principles of the nation. The Christian's faith commands them to "go forth and make disciples" of the entire world, and chides them if they "hide their light under a basket". They come into the workplace, in many cases, thinking of it as a "mission field", full of "lost souls" who need the "saving grace of Jesus Christ", or their co-workers will go to hell - a fate that must be avoided at any cost. I fully believe in all of that myself, yet have the maturity to temper my natural inclination with the realities of the workplace.

The reality of the workplace is that it is an environment focused narrowly on the accomplishment of tasks to produce a profit for the employer. The Christian must work as a member of a team, which consists of individuals who were carefully chosen for their ability to contribute to the task - not their spiritual beliefs. In order for the team to function effectively, all members must be able to communicate and work together in a mutally respectful fashion. The Christian, in many cases, has built a support group around members of his or her church - the members of which were selected for the spirituality. The only time the Christian may encouter people of different faiths and beliefs is on the job. Their family is Christian. Friends outside of work are all like-minded Christians. Their work in the church is Christian, and they are rewarded for the depth of their devotion. They may view with suspicion people of other faiths on the job - if they get too close, they could "slip back into worldly habits". There may well be a certain detachment between them and people they perceive to be worldly.

Tips for the non-Christian manager:

Just as you do not desire for the Christian to spread their faith at work, you must be careful not to do things that they perceive as you spreading yours! Christians will interpret certain things as an attempt to "convert" them to worldliness. The following things, in particular, must be avoided:

Tips for the Christian Worker:

But What About Witnessing?

This chapter is written to the Christian ---

As a Christian employee, you must realize that you have entered a business environment where your freedom of religion and freedom of speech may be curtailed in the interest of conducting business. By accepting a salary, you accept the authority of your employer to command you to do certain things, and not do others. Slavery and indentured servanthood has not been in your experience, but I encourage you to read Ephesians where it talks about such relationships. You are a servant to a master, and must behave according to scriputural principles regarding this relationship. In other words - you have some homework to do!!!

The following is my opinion on this matter, based on years in the industry, years in the faith, and much prayer:

Almost universally, an employer will regard witnessing as a negative activity. This includes verbal, email, and otherwise. You must assume that witnessing is not appropriate on the job, unless told otherwise by your employer. Witnessing, from an employer's perspective, is a time consuming, non-productive activity that creates divisiveness within a team. You must respect that perspective and refrain from witnessing. Keep it out of your conversations, and out of your emails. This is instruction from the Lord through me, to you the reader. Ignore it at your own peril!

Questions and Answers
But what about the leading of the Holy Spirit? He told me to write that email / talk to that person?
NO, HE DID NOT!!! And I will tell you why. Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit, will never ask you to do something that is in violation of His Word. The authority of your employer, as your master, is an absolute. You must do what your master commands, or be out of the will of the Lord. Period - end of discussion.
What about witnessing on lunch hour and breaks?
If and ONLY IF the other person specifically asks you to share your faith. Then, in the time-constraints of the break or lunch hour, you may share your faith. But when the break or lunch hour is over, SO ARE YOU!!! Take the conversation off-line - away from earshot of others. Do not get loud in the hope that others will hear and also get saved. Be aware that some employers do not consider lunch and breaks to be "your time". If so, be silent during those times as well.
But - these people are going to hell and don't realize it!
Yes, they are. But YOU are not the man God is sending. Remember, God does not send people to hell. Satan does not. People freely choose to go. God gave them that gift - the gift of free will. This was at the suggestion of satan before the throne of God, who asked the question "Does Job serve you because he wants to, or because he HAS to?" This may be the only honest statement ever made by satan. God feels so strongly about the issue of free will that he gave His creation the opportunity to say "NO" to His love. Who are you to force the issue at an inappropriate time? God knows the need of that co-worker. He absolutely WILL SEND the right person, at the appropriate time, to witness to them. But it is not you. Not on work time. Maybe not even on breaks or lunch. Respect their right to say "NO" to God. God does. Leave the selection of the right man up to God.
But what about their rampant sin, it is affecting me!
Their sin will not affect you. God will never allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to resist. I find that the worst offenders of inappropriate workplace witnessing are young believers - those who are still weak in their own faith. The ones who are insecure. If fall into that category, you don't need to be witnessing to anybody on or off the job! Become a mature, strong believer. Then you are fit to be used. God does not need you out there turning people off to the faith because of your bungling. Remembers Peter's failure! I am not talking about the cock crowing three times. Peter did not even realize he was supposed to be sent to the gentiles. He was preaching only to the Jews. Jesus himself had to send him a dream to show him what he was supposed to be doing. Jesus is just sending you a web page. Heed it. Co-workers are off-limits, find who you SHOULD be talking to and GO DO IT! Diversity in the work place serves your master's needs. That person who believes very differently from you may well contribute more to the master than you do. You have much to learn professionally from them. Learn it so you, too, can benefit your master. Ignore their foolish sin, but learn their professional wisdom. You will earn not only your employer's praise, but theirs as well. If a friendship develops, you may someday earn the right for your faith to be heard. But that may or may not happen.
I have won a lot of people through witnessing. It must be right on the job. You can't tell me otherwise, you are satan trying to deceive me.
There is the better way to witness - one heart at a time. The steadfast faithfulness of the powerful, God-fearing man produces fruit that the lost can see. I tell you truthfully, one God-fearing man, who makes sincere friendships that are totally free of strings, will bear more fruit than a thousand wagging tongues with no love, no depth behind them. There is a simple story of the wind and the sun - and a boy with a coat. The wind tried to blow the coat off, but the boy clutched the coat tightly. The sun shone warmly, and the boy took his coat off. So it will be with the defenses of the sinner. Earn the right to be heard - be the most sincere friend to the sinner and the best of employees - and the defenses will drop. Preach about homosexuality, adultery, drinking, and sexual sin and the sinner will clutch their defenses tightly. Remember, everybody is deluged with advertising. They are sick of it. They have defenses erected against it. You are just one more annoying advertisement to them for a product they don't want. Get away from the instant gratification mentality "I am going to pick-up a burger at the drive through and witness to a dozen people on my lunch hour". It doesn't work that way. Where is the love? Where is the follow up? People will spot you a mile off and run the other way. And they will run to their supervisor and complain about you. How does THAT honor the name of Christ?
What about Christian radio? Can I witness with that?
Christian radio is a great tool to bless the believer. As a professional broadcaster as well as engineer, I can tell you it is not reaching the masses of non-believers. It is ineffective, because the programming is targeted at Christians, not non-believers. Therefore, if radio is allowed at your work, keep the volume low where other people cannot hear it, and be prepared to receive all the blessings it offers. If it interferes with your work, however, you must not listen. If it prompts you to cross the boundary and send out emails, talk to people about the Lord on company time, because of something you have heard - do not listen. People don't want to hear it, and I can guarantee it will not bear the right fruit. Remember you are a servant to a master - one that wants to make a profit, not one that wants people converted to Christ. You voluntarily entered the relationship, as you can voluntarily leave. As long as you are under the master's authority - that authority supercedes your freedom to witness. God will NEVER ask you to turn up a preacher, a song, or recount a sermon note in a company email. He does not violate the principles of servant and master that He set forth in His word. You should not, either.
What about Christian art and clothing. Can I witness with that?
There is appropriate business environment and dress. The company can dictate, within limits, how you dress and decorate your work area. This works to your advantage, because most companies no longer allow inappropriate calendars which violate sexual harrassment guidelines. If Christian art is allowed, it should be tasteful and non-threatening. I personally have a framed program from a Christmas pageant in my work station. It is colorful, tasteful and reasonable in size. I also have other art that is not related to my faith. If I were to hang several large posters that have large lettering that say - "accept Jesus or go to hell - you degenerate pagan!", obviously it would be obnxious, insulting, in poor taste, and not bear any fruit. If it is a private reminder of God's goodness in your life, then it is probably OK. If it is an attempt to intimidate, then your motivation is questionable.
What about reading the Bible at work?
If you are reading on free time - your break and lunch hour, then it is OK. If you are reading instead of doing your work, you are an unfaithful servant who deserves to be terminated.

Suggestions to Supervisors

If you have a "problem Christian", one who wastes time witnessing to co-workers - and other team members are complaining, you need to deal with it. But the problem is "how", especially with a Christian who is otherwise a good contributer. Without spending a lot of time in the Bible - how do you know what makes this individual tick, and how can you eliminate the problem behavior? This is the section for you!