For 8 years I worked in the construction industry as a fire sprinkler fitter. During that time I interacted on a day to day basis with a rough group of men. It would almost seem that the industry and men working in it produced not only new construction, but also had the market cornered on foul language and inappropriate behaviour. Some might be tempted to think that the world of construction is a “lost cause”, that the men within it are too hardened and perverse to recognize the truth. Having been a part of it, I see that, well, obviously no one is a lost cause, but even more, by living out your faith firmly, you can bear witness to Jesus in a profound way and make a huge impact.
The very first thing that my foreman said to me on my first day of work was, “so you’re a Christian, eh?” I hadn’t said anything yet, never mind it sounding “churchy”. However, I discovered that my boss had set the tone for me before I showed up that day by telling him I was a believer. That was it. I never had to tell anyone after that. The fact of my being a Christian seemed to go before me like a herald announcing royalty. It had an odd effect. If any explicative came out of someone’s mouth, it would be immediately followed by, “sorry, I meant ‘dang’.” Or if the guys were going to a pub afterwards, I wouldn’t get the invite. That’s not exactly how I imagined the evangelizing to go. However, God uses all situations for His greater glory; always giving a man the opportunity to receive him. And so it was that, from time to time, people would come up and ask some moral, philosophical, or even theological question. Whether it was sarcastic or serious, I would answer them to the best of my ability. Sometimes I would get direct friction, like an insult to test the waters and see whether I would “turn the other cheek” or lose my cool and act like a “hypocrite”. At a later point in my career, while I was a foreman, one of my apprentices was a self-proclaimed atheist who actually knew his stuff well. He and I built a relationship on philosophical dialogue, sharing with each other our particular worldview. Throughout my whole career I experienced a number of different evangelistic situations. However, I would say that my most fruitful and influential moments were not refuting moral relativism or proving the existence of God, the Divinity of Christ, or doing anything from the proverbial “soapbox”.
I believe the combination that was most effective in my evangelizing on the work site was: First, when I lived what I believed with conviction, without compromising (to the best of my ability; and admitting I was wrong when I didn’t). And second, when I took a real interest in the lives of the guys I worked with and made myself available to them to talk to at lunch times, while we worked side by side, or commuted together, they were more inclined to try and understand the life I was leading. To be honest, I don’t know that I ever actually started many, if any, of the conversations I got into. The cliché is “walking the talk”. The talk, in this case, just happens to be the Gospel, or in other words the life of Jesus who was here to make God present. We make Christ present through word and deed. We will not make Jesus present by soapbox preaching because he must be made present by our “love”, our genuine interest in the lives of others.
We are called to do this in every environment we are placed in, even the difficult ones. God wants to reach the people in our lives with the Gospel of Hope through us. If we don’t witness to them, who will? If we look at the people in our class, office, job site, sports team, or even our families and say, “it’s too hard”, or “they would never listen to me”, then who will genuinely love these people enough to do it? The reality is that we’ve been given everything, the fullness of life, and God wants all people to experience it as well. The real question is: do we have the right to keep it from them?
In the end, it was by evangelizing these young, university-aged men that I felt my call to be a full-time missionary with CCO!