About two years after I graduated from seminary, God made it clear to me that everyone I knew was already salty and shiny and I was not being the salt and light I needed to be. So, God called me into secular work and out of my ministry job in a large denominational agency. That’s a story in itself I’ll share another day. My secular job turned out to be working for an engineering consulting firm as an assistant newsletter editor at a nuclear power plant. Not your typical path for a seminary grad! Even though I felt like a fish out of water most days, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be.
Sometime around the start of that new job, I “happened upon” a book that completely changed my understanding and my approach to evangelism and has certainly affected the way I try to lead. The book I purchased was Gentle Persuasion by Joseph C. Aldrich and it is still available on Amazon. I highly recommend it!
The subtitle of the book is “Creative Ways to Introduce Your Friends to Christ,” which is what caught my eye. Yet, the phrase on the back cover and explained throughout the book, which continues to influence my life and leadership, is “love people until they ask you why.” In other words, find ways to serve others, love them for who they are right now, and strive to see the image of God that is already in them. That sounds a lot like Jesus to me! The book gives many practical examples of how to do just that and shows how, over time, in natural conversation, their questions will give you an opportunity to share your faith with them.
I started putting it into practice at my power plant job–and it worked. I had more opportunities to share the gospel with co-workers than I could have ever imagined or even orchestrated! Here are some of the things I did:
- I periodically left thank-you notes for my boss (a self-proclaimed atheist) who had taken a risk by hiring me and was really mentoring me in my writing skills. I was learning so much from her and she was very encouraging.
- I intentionally chose to carpool with some co-workers (which meant getting up at 4:30 every morning) so I could get to know them better and find ways to serve them.
- When a co-worker announced her engagement, I volunteered to address her wedding invitations using my calligraphy skills. When she went on her honeymoon, I volunteered to housesit for her.
- When the anniversary of my own conversion (my “re-birthday”) came around, I told my co-workers I would be celebrating something on June 30 so I would bring lunch that day for everybody.
- When I wanted to understand some of the technical scientific jargon I needed to translate for the newsletter, I intentionally asked a particular engineer to explain it to me and then complimented his patient teaching skills.
And the results?
- After multiple conversations about our very different backgrounds, my boss Pam said one day, “Maybe you do have the answers I’m looking for, Laura.” After about 4 months on the job, I had the privilege of showing Pam some Bible verses over lunch one day and she prayed to receive Christ. Over the coming years, I watched her become an elder in her church.
- After several months of carpooling, normal conversations led to personal stories of our backgrounds and I had the chance to share how I knew I had a purpose and how Jesus made a difference in my life.
- My newlywed co-worker called me a year or so after we were no longer working with each other because she wanted me to know she had had a miscarriage and wanted me to pray for her.
- My co-workers’ curiosity at lunch on that June 30th led them to believe I must’ve gotten engaged. I told them, “No, USA Today would cover that news if it ever happened!” My sense of humor opened the door for me to simply say that every year on that day I remember the day I gave my life to Christ and what he has done for me.
- The engineer who had a great way of explaining technical jargon had a new openness to sharing personal family concerns with me.
Since those two years at that nuclear power plant more than 25 years ago, I have had many more adventures of sharing my faith on airplanes, as a missionary professor in Romania, with neighbors, coworkers, and friends. I have learned that when you focus first on loving the other person, the questions as to why you’re doing what you do will naturally emerge. That’s the open door.
As a leader, focusing on the lives and unique gifts of your team members will help you find ways to serve them and love them like Jesus would. It’s hard not to want to follow someone who genuinely cares for you. “Love people until they ask you why” and have an answer ready.
Join the conversation below (click on “Comments”) by sharing some of your life-shaping books . . .