Marcus O’Malley, is Director of Disciple-Making Employees for Marketplace and Development Enterprises. His testimony illustrates how the marketplace can be a powerful forum for witness.
Jesus in the marketplace
I was raised a cultural Catholic. I remember choosing to attend mass with my father once a week at an abbreviated 7:00 am service. I could fulfill my weekly religious obligation and go back to my warm blankets for a few more hours of sleep.
I later attended a Catholic high school, where the curriculum included religion classes. I was intellectually curious, but my questions went unanswered. I was told that matters of religion needed to be accepted by faith and were not open to discussion. That was the moment I remember thinking, "I'm done with this religion thing."
I entered college with no personal commitment to my family’s faith. On holidays I attended mass out of tradition. As the years passed, even that gesture became less of a priority.
Meeting a Jesus freak
In my senior year of college, I started a software company with two other students after we won a coding competition sponsored by Microsoft. Our first of three employees hired was a grad student, a believer.
William wore t-shirts with catchy religious phrases, had a cross necklace, and displayed his Bible in a prominent place on his desk. He was a great guy and skilled, but he was naive (in my opinion) when it came to his faith. Worse, I believed he was being taken advantage of because he volunteered his time to develop his church's website. I was compelled to talk to William about his faith and urge him to become enlightened - like me.
I wanted what he had
Because I was dubbed "the least socially awkward" of the three coders, I was chosen to be the sales rep for our company. Through a friend, I met a man who was willing to mentor me in sales. He was the top sales rep at what is now a multi-billion-dollar company.
I respected Shannon. Professionally, I wanted to experience the success he had achieved. From the beginning, I knew there was something different about him. He had grown up Catholic but walked away from the faith at a young age. His journey back to faith in Christ began by reading the Gospel of John and talking to those able to answer his spiritual questions.
Shannon's example challenged me, but William would be the target for my questions. Why do good things happen to bad people? What of the people in Africa who have never heard the gospel? William was not able to answer all my questions, but he never got defensive. He received my questions thoughtfully and often asked for time to research answers in the Bible or talk to his mentors at church. I was impressed and respected William all the more for his commitment to the Bible.
William told me later that my questions made him break out in a sweat on more than one occasion. He had been raised in a Christian home and had never been placed in a situation where he needed to defend what he believed.
A forum for witness
I came to faith through the example and the faithful witness of Shannon and William. I am convinced of the potential for witness inherent in the marketplace because it is a part of my faith journey.
Look at the organic opportunities that the workplace provides. Percentage-wise, we spend more time with coworkers than we spend with our own families.
When advising young professionals on how to maximize opportunities in the marketplace, I often recommend the following commitments.
- Learn to appreciate the accountability of the marketplace. Our coworkers watch how we live our lives and how we interact with others. They care about us and are curious about what makes us tick.
- Choose to be bold and transparent about your faith and how it informs everything you do. We don’t want to be confrontational, but we do want to be confident. We never know who might be listening.
- Be excellent at work. I joke that if Shannon had been the 15th best salesperson in the region, we never would have met. I wanted to be mentored by the BEST. Sometimes Christians approach work like it is an onerous activity that allows them to do more important things. There is something wrong with that thinking. As we pursue excellence at work, our witness becomes more attractive. And when we rise to leadership positions, our witness for Christ impacts a larger audience.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:17, ESV)