Are You a Brazen Christian at Work?

by Brad Harmon on September 3, 2010 in Employees

evangelist with bible pointing 600x360 | marketplace christianity

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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.

orientations towards faith-work interaction chart 600x218 | marketplace christianityThey 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

Kurt Warner, Super Bowl XXXIV MVP | marketplace christianity

AP Photo/Doug Mills

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”

david robinson 298x400 | marketplace christianity

AP Photo

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?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Graham Seel September 3, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Thanks for expanding this discussion, Brad. Your post reminded me of a particularly galling example. Right after 9/11, as a leader on the IT campus of a very large company (which was definitely an amenable environment) I had the opportunity to lead a time of open mic prayer that I billed as multi-faith and inclusive. I started out with a reminder that each of us would pray from our own tradition and faith, but this was a time for mutual respect and honor, and specifically not the time for proselytizing. How naive I was! One Christian just couldn’t help himself and used a prayer as an excuse to sell his faith. Fortunately most of the 200+ people who turned up were able to ignore him. In fact one person (an activist lesbian anti-church colleague) was so appreciative that she gave me a special award under the company’s diversity program. So which approach spoke more effectively of God’s grace I wonder?
Graham Seel recently posted..Church @ Work – Teaching

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Brad Harmon September 3, 2010 at 8:19 pm

My pleasure Graham. This isn’t the first time that Bradley has provided a spark for a post or two here. He finds such great material.

I think when many people who are openly against Christianity come across someone who truly practices it they are taken aback. The Bible tells us that the Word of God will be an offense to some, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be too. How sad that some Christians have this amenable work environment, yet use it to become an offense to others negating their public displays of faith.

Shortly after 9/11, many businesses became amenable to PDFs. It was likely inevitable that this feeling would dissipate as time went on, but I wonder how many opportunities “Christians” squandered during this time period?

Thanks for sharing your story. It’s a great example of PDFs the right way and the wrong way.
Brad Harmon recently posted..What the Future Holds for this Site

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nAncY September 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm

i wouldn’t advertise it on my biking shorts.
looking forward to more of your perspectives on the study.
nAncY recently posted..special delivery

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Brad Harmon September 3, 2010 at 8:46 pm

lol … I think I’m missing something. It does make me wonder about all of the Christian apparel, accessories, bumper stickers, etc. that many Christians wear. Hmm… I feel another post coming on.

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Bradley J. Moore September 4, 2010 at 7:09 am

OMG, Nancy – that is hilarious.

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David@RedLetterBelievers September 3, 2010 at 11:28 pm

over at the Graceful blog, she asked a similiar question this week.
Seems like we’re all talking about it

Here’s my take. We need to be ready — in season and out of season. I dont force the issue, but i never back down.

I don’ t need to find a way to sneak Jesus into conversation. If I am ready – listening and obedient – there are always the occassions that happen naturally.

Here is Graceful’s post, “God talk in the office”
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Graceful/~3/pYzas-cqeGE/god-talk-in-office.html

I encouraged everyone to “work dangerously” here
http://redletterbelievers.blogspot.com/2010/07/ditch-safety-talk-work-dangerously.html

Great post of Bradley’s this week and of course, yours is right on. Can hardly wait for next week

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Brad Harmon September 4, 2010 at 12:55 am

Bradley seems to know how to start conversations, doesn’t he? This study has occupied my mind ever since I read it in his post. The brazen category is the easiest for Christians to live under in the workplace, but it is also ripe with the opportunity to take our freedom too far. The next three categories bring in real concerns that I think, if we’re honest, we’d all admit we’ve struggled with – or at least the thoughts have crossed our minds. I’m looking forward to sharing more of the study, and reading everyone’s comments. It’s starting out as a great discussion.
Brad Harmon recently posted..What the Future Holds for this Site

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Bradley J. Moore September 4, 2010 at 7:12 am

Well done, Bradley.
You do a great job of re-telling the study in common English! Those researchers try to hard to impress each other with their high-falootin’ academic $20 words. But the way you explain it here, THIS is what should go out on all the PR wires!

Glad to get you all stirred up.

BTW, I work for a Christian CEO who is not afraid to start a board meeting with a prayer. It’s real nice, and one of the big reasons I came to work for the company I am with now. Can you see my “Circumspect” rationale?

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Brad Harmon September 4, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thanks, Bradley. I’m not sure my posts will do justice for all of the concepts expressed in the study, but I think taking the categories one at a time helps simplify it and hopefully leads to a deeper, more meaningful conversation.

There is a lot of merit in the Circumspect point of view, and I’ll be writing about it next. I’ve probably been in all of these categories at one point or another, and I think that’s probably true for most Christians. Our environment, spiritual maturity, and personality all play a role in how we negotiate our faith in the workplace.

Thanks for sparking this conversation.

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Mike@ Biblical Strategies for Startups September 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Prayer before a board meeting…now that is cool!

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David in Houston September 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

I work for Christian Brothers Automotive’s home office in Houston and have to say that our workplace is very open about who’s company this is. We remind ourselves constantly that CBA is God’s and not ours and that we are just stewards of what God is given us. We meet each Monday morning to pray for our locations and our CBA Family members. Not everyone at the office is a Christian, but that’s OK. They aren’t forced to attend and no one even mutters any ill feelings about it. We know that each person is responsible for themselves and can make their own decisions. As a Christian, we’re called to share, be an example of Jesus and be a friend. It’s God who convinces, not us. Our shops are run in the same way, but with less emphasis on sharing. Our philosophy is to treat others how we would like to be treated and we know no matter what religious background you come from, even if you don’t believe in anything, you can relate to the Golden Rule. Our shop owners first want to be an example of Jesus by operating with Honesty and Integrity, and if private opportunities to share the Good News arise, they’ll gladly step in.

Thank you for your thought provoking post. CBA will continue to strive to operate with excellence as unto God and though we may fail at times, we will always work towards excellence, honesty, integrity and trust.

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Brad Harmon September 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

Thanks for giving us an insider’s view of the role faith plays inside CBA. Your differentiation between the corporate office and your shops brings up an interesting point. While this study was of elite executives, many (if not most) organizations have a different culture at the corporate office than they do at their field locations. It sounds like a Brazen paradigm may work in your corporate offices, but perhaps a Circumspect paradigm works better in the field. In my next post, I’ll be discussing the Circumspect paradigm.

You mention that non-Christians aren’t forced to participate in the overtly Christian PDFs, and that there isn’t any muttering about the Amenable work environment. Do you know if the company ever discusses the possibility that non-Christians don’t feel comfortable enough to express their concerns? I’m not suggesting this is the case at CBA. I’m just curious if this is something they consider, and if so, how they handle these concerns.

Thanks again for sharing your insights with us. I’ll be curious to hear your insights on the Circumspect paradigm.

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