The Mission Field of Corporate America

Her voice lacked its usual confidence. It was the end of the week, and I would have been happy if it had been a routine client request.

But as she talked, I could hear that something deeper was at stake. “Listen, DeLona,” the voice in my soul said. “She’s in a spiritual struggle.”

There I was, in one of the hundreds of moments of decision we all face every day. Would I respond to the prompting of the Spirit? Or would my own focus for the day prohibit me from listening—really listening—to a colleague who was deeply troubled?

I realized that the gift I could best offer her was my presence—my complete and attentive presence at that moment. As I did, she began to open up to me. She was in the valley of despair over complex personal issues and business challenges. “Just once,” she said, “I wish every day wasn’t such a struggle.”

Her words helped me realize how many opportunities for extending the “healing” ministry of Christ we face in business each day. Yet, how many times we miss those opportunities through lack of spiritual attentiveness.

There’s a great need in the business world for the ministry of Christ. How important it is that we as Christians stay tuned in to this work—a work that is just as important as any mission work.

A Different Jungle

Some are called to be missionaries in other countries. But my mission field is characterized by suits, laptops, Palm Pilots, and deadlines—the mission field of corporate America. What we find in this modern-day mission field is a plethora of needs—needs often buried under the required masks of self-sufficiency demanded in this fast-paced world.

Through our business dealings, we have the chance to reach out to people who may never set foot in a church. We are asked to remove our blinders and open our hearts to the promptings of the Spirit. Where we once saw a successful young corporate vice president as a client, we now see a person struggling with her own spiritual journey. Where we once saw a seemingly invincible young entrepreneur, we now see as a soul shut off from a faith community.

By giving way to the work of the Spirit, our eyes can be opened and we can see what Jesus sees—a world in need. It is then that we can do our real work of tending the human soul.

Practicing God’s Presence

It was Brother Lawrence, a humble monk, who changed my view of work. He wrote simply and eloquently about “practicing the presence of God” in work—however humble or distinctive the task might be. For him, the lines between sacred and secular blurred, and as he performed the most menial of tasks, he learned to do it in the name of Jesus.

Brother Lawrence helped me move from seeing work as a livelihood to work as a path to ministry. Where I once separated my life into work and faith, I now see a convergence. I now see more clearly the sacredness of work as a holy venue for carrying out the work of Christ.

Creating Sanctuaries

The human desire for spiritual sanctuaries is not new, but it is in need of repackaging. The idea of “sanctuary” can become a reality in a Christian work place, as we find new ways to create places where people can find safety, fairness, and nurture.

The workplace is ripe with opportunity and begging for visionary leadership. Many spend more time at work than they do with their families. On the weekly canvass of time, the Christian leader can paint experiences that restore hope, infuse meaning, and model principles that stand to change the lives of others. It may be in creating practices within the company that ensure fairness and equity. It may be in offering a word of hope to a discouraged heart. But each of these types of work is holy, because it offers the chance to impact the life of another.

A look at the life of Jesus shows that, indeed, this was His model of work. His vocation was a means of reaching people at a deeper level, a door that brought Him into places of need.

The impact of this intentional, purposeful approach to work and faith will touch those in our circle of influence, as well as ourselves. When we do cross the bridge to understanding that our work is sacred, we begin to create wholeness in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

The Quiet Model

I have had the good fortune to be in the company of Christian business people who have taught me far more through their quiet, faithful actions than anything I’ve read in a business journal.

Their daily decisions and wise handling of issues of money, politics, and people showed me how to live in a secular world. They taught me how to be relevant, yet faithful; integrated, yet unswerving in principle. By watching them, I was forever inspired to raise the bar higher in my own work and life.

In a world of corporate upheaval and scandal, there is something we can do to restore hope. We can live our lives with purpose and integrity.

Here and Now

On those days when I am tempted to feel despair about the scope of human need and my own inability to make an impact of any significant size, I am reminded that my mission for this moment is my circle of influence—my clients, my suppliers, my employees, my family, my immediate neighbors. This is where I am called to serve—at least for today. My job is to make myself available to the work of Jesus, set aside my own agenda, and move in harmony with the quiet nudging in my soul.

When I do that, I find that He is present. Like a silent business partner, He motions to me to set aside my plans and listen—really listen—to an employee’s personal struggle. To offer a word of encouragement to client who is harried, tired, and empty. To create words that heal and inspire, instead of destroy. To be generous with someone in need.

By entering your work day—whatever it is—with a centered and quieted soul, God will provide you with opportunities to relieve human suffering. Sometimes you will see the results, and sometimes you will not. But always, there will be opportunity if you quiet yourself to receive it.

Featured in: December 2002