How many of you conjure up an image similar to the one above when you hear phrases like marketplace ministry, faith at work, or even marketplace christianity? You’re not alone. It’s the way most Americans see the typical Christian today – especially evangelical Christians.
Bradley J. Moore, founder of Shrinking the Camel, wrote earlier this week that this is similar to what pops into his head. To be honest, it’s very easy to see why he, and millions of others, feel this way. I find myself shaking my head daily at what people proclaiming to be Christians say and do in the name of Christ.
Searching for a Better Christian Workplace Model
He explains on his blog that he didn’t want to be associated with this image of Christianity, this brand if you will, but he wasn’t prepared to give up his faith in the workplace. It didn’t fit his more understated action-based approach to sharing his faith in the workplace.
He came across an interesting study that looked at how evangelical Christians in elite executive roles negotiated their faith in the workplace. This study from Rice University interviewed 360 elite executives (CEOs and senior executives) across six areas of influence who could be identified as evangelical Christians.
They broke the responses into four categories based upon how public displays of faith were received (Reception) and how these elite evangelical Christian executives used their faith (Expression) to make decisions.
What is a Brazen Christian?
Are you surprised to find Brazen under the Amenable reception? The image of the Christian using their job as just a platform to proselytize even in the face of employer opposition is probably what most of us thought we’d find. There’s certainly a lot of that in our workplaces, but remember that this study was of elite, top-level executives so you probably wouldn’t expect this given their position.
This study points out that some industries are more receptive to public displays of faith, and that those interviewed have significant freedom to express their faith in these environments.
An amenable context coupled with a tendency toward explicit religious expression generates a brazen framework in which actors willingly and without deliberation bear witness to their faith.
These Christians have little to fear from their public displays of faith. There is almost no negative impact on their careers so they feel completely free to openly and indiscriminately display their faith.
Examples of Brazen Christians
The study looks at professional athletes as examples where the brazen framework can best be seen. Owners, management, and coaches tolerate their public displays of faith so long as they perform on the the field or court.
Kurt Warner, Super Bowl XXXIV MVP
When asked about a play after the Minnesota Viking’s win in Super Bowl XXXIV, Kurt Warner responded,
“Well, first things first, I’ve got to thank my Lord and Savior up above—thank you, Jesus.”
When asked if it was pre-planned, he said,
“To me, it’s just about loving Jesus . . . when you love something, all you want to do is talk about it . . . and that’s just how I feel about my faith.”
David Robinson, “The Admiral”
San Antonio Spurs center, David Robinson, felt he had an obligation to “make known and act upon his faith.” Motivated by the Old Testament story of David, he says
“As long as I’m king, we’re going to serve the Lord.” And that was what I said when I went into the locker room, “As
long as this is my team, we are going to pray together.”
Not everyone on his team appreciated this, including a Muslim player on the team; however, nobody actively resisted against his team prayer.
In fact, the study goes on to point out that
This brazen paradigm falls within a larger tradition of American evangelicalism that can be regarded by outsiders as triumphalistic or overzealous. It is a framework most at home within large, established institutions where outspoken Christian expression is welcome, if not expected. We find examples of its emergence within professional athletics and some other workplaces, but it is typically birthed out of the evangelical subculture.
Are You a Brazen Christian at Work?
Do you work for an employer that allows, or even encourages, public displays of faith? Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Christian Brothers Automotive, and many more employers foster this type of environment. Are you comfortable with an open proclamation of your faith in this type of workplace?
It sounds like an ideal work environment for Christians, doesn’t it? There are many, like Bradley, who see the potential for overzealous Christians causing offense to co-workers, suppliers, and customers. My own experiences working in this type of environment have not been very positive.
Bradley chooses a more subtle approach preferring to be more Circumspect while enjoying this freedom. Next week, we’ll look at what it means to be a Circumspect Christian as we continue looking at these four different paradigms.
Until then, how open would you be with your public displays of faith if you knew there were no negative consequences for your career? What should our reaction be to those who are offended, or who feel oppressed, by such a workplace?