The CEO Evangelist: How to Take Your Faith into the Workplace

The CEO Evangelist
How to Take Your Faith into the Workplace
By Mark L. Mathia, CEO

It seems like yesterday that I found myself in the startup phase of launching a new company. Driven by a desire for success and the freedom of self-employment, I left a comfortable job in a major corporation and embarked on a journey that has changed my life forever. As s student of business, I pursued my MBA and bounced up the corporate ladder, meeting each challenge with considerable success. I thought I knew what business was really about. Things like making a profit, gaining recognition and offering my family a comfortable life.

Was I ever wrong!

All my hard work and effort turned out to be nothing compared to what Christ gently called me into as He turned my business into a personal calling.

We see it today, gaining momentum across the United States, the idea of adding faith to the workplace. Each of us spends the majority of our time at work. Why not develop a plan for ministry within the walls of your company? Just imagine the impact it could have if more CEOs considered themselves, in a very real sense, a pastor of their business too. The idea would be revolutionary, to say the least. But there are some serious obstacles to making your workplace a ministry. How do you pursue ministry while keeping a company’s competitive advantage and turning a profit?

Having lived this particular calling over the last seven years, I’d like to offer some insights that can give hope and encouragement to CEOs, business owners and professionals that are feeling a similar call to live out their faith in a more dynamic way in the workplace.

Your Mission Begins With You And Jesus

You must first work on your walk with the Lord before you can expect others to follow your lead. Early in my career I found myself tied in knots most of the day. The strain of startup, raising capital and calling clients stole time from my prayer life and sapped my spiritual vitality.

Devoting time God may seem like common sense. But as anyone with a crowded schedule knows, it is lost easily when the pressures of this world press in. You must be intentional about maintaining your personal relationship with Jesus as you move your organization forward.

If the lead man is taken out at work (or home) the mission is in jeopardy. As you spend time with the Lord the true motivations of your heart will come to light. Pride, jealousy, and greed all these emotions can derail your attempts at building a kingdom company.

Don’t worry though, the Lord and your employees have a way of drawing this out and when they do, repent and make things right. But then, by all means, press forward. To successfully add the element of faith to your workplace you must first be honest with yourself and then allow your faith to flow to others.

Lead With Relationships

Understand that at the very core adding faith into your workplace is a calling to be relational. Value people and meet them where they are. It’s been my experience that too many faithful believers, instead of trying to inspire those around them into a life of faith, decide to create a system of religious behavior modification. This is not the model we were given in the Bible.

If you attempt to impart biblical mandates by forcing your team to dress or talk in a certain way you will loose the very people you should be cherishing the most. Instead get to know what makes your team tick. What are they interested in besides making money? What are their strengths at work?

Taking an interest is critical in laying a foundation of trust. Once trust is established you can begin your ministry by pouring into them. Showing interest in their lives is like tilling the soil so that tiny seeds can begin to sprout.

Leading with relationships should be fun and natural. I am impressed at how Jesus related to people in such a casual and comfortable way even when He was delivering tough truths.

One word of caution: You cannot be everything to everybody, so don’t try. Just be yourself and trust God. If you do this, you will not overextend yourself or appear disingenuous. And there will be plenty of opportunities to minister.

Don’t Glean Your Fields

The Israelites were commanded to leave a little grain on their fields for workers to eat. Though we no longer live in an ancient, agricultural society, the principle still applies. Release money’s grip on your heart and allow it to flow to the least of your team.

At my firm, we are a salary plus commission-driven organization. Everyone on my team, whether they serve the clients or greet people at the front door, is on a bonus plan. In a very real sense this is my attempt to allow a portion of the profits to flow down and bless each and every person who calls our firm their home. The net results are staggering. We all share in the success and feel the pinch of a failing effort.

Everyone understands that you cannot run a successful company without making money. Every Christian also understands that you cannot love money more than God.

Early on in my career the Lord had to work this tension out of me. I was concerned only with survival. That self-induced fear was my first mistake as a new business owner. I used to experience unnatural anxiety. My stomach would turn and all I could think about was the company’s problems and how I felt as if I let everyone down including my family.

The truth is, God uses trying seasons to ensure that money does not take Christ’s place in my heart. Having moved through the startup phase, those trying days are mostly behind me. However, worries still come and it’s in those times I check my personal commitment to my people and my relationship with the Lord. I trust God for His provision and expect that through our hard work, solid leadership and investment into His kingdom that we can overcome any challenge as an organization.

Create A Platform To Share Your Heart

A mute Christian can be a good worker, but not a strong leader. At my firm we have a development program called K2 Extreme training. In it, we share sound principles on leadership, balance of life, the giving principle, budgeting and how to cope with stress and tension in the workplace. We teach workers portable life skills.

Not only do such teaching times allow you to connect with workers personally, by investing in your people you will help your company tremendously in the long run. The net result will also be a low turnover rate and greater productivity.

Sharing your faith in the workplace is not easy. There will be challenges, mistakes and plenty of opportunities to stretch as you move forward keeping your eye on what really matters. Every organization is different and every person placed in your sphere of influence is unique. But if you lay the groundwork, people will turn to you. When the time comes, you will be ready.

Just remember these suggestions. Take time to work on your walk with the Lord. Be relational with others, taking time to invest in them. Free yourself from the love of money and allow your employees to partake in the gains of the company. And be creative and thoughtful in connecting with employees in order to build a platform to share your faith.

The rest, through prayer and trust, is up to God. It’s a partnership between you and the Lord that will bear fruit for eternity and give you life abundant.

This article “The CEO Evangelist: How To Take Your Faith Into The Workplace” written by Mark L. Mathia, CEO is excerpted from Outreach Magazine January 2006 editon.