Which one of these executives is the Christian? There are no cross lapel pins, Jesus fish necklaces, Bibles, or any external signs that might give away which of these, if any, is a Christian. It’s quite a contrast to the Brazen Christian we discussed last time, isn’t it?
Instead of sticking out, a Circumspect Christian chooses not to make their faith known through overt actions. They blend into the faces of those around them similar to how this picture gradually looses it’s focus. Even those who work with them on a daily basis may never know that they are a Christian.
Searching for a Better Christian Workplace Model
Bradley J. Moore, founder of Shrinking the Camel, explains on his blog that his approach to workplace ministry is to tap into his spiritually to become a more effective leader. He wasn’t sure what to call his particular expression of Christianity that was characterized by an 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 Circumspect Christian?
Like those who fall under the Brazen category, the executives categorized as Circumspect also had an Amenable work environment meaning that they’ve chosen a subtle expression to their faith even when there were no adverse consequences to their careers for being more explicit.
A Circumspect Christian does not want to be perceived as “jamming their faith down anyone’s throat,” rather their subtle invocations of faith are more pietistic.
Pietism, which has a long history within American evangelicalism, stresses an experiential spirituality which has been synergistic with the revivalism of many evangelical churches and the entrepreneurial ethos of evangelical publishing houses. The blending of devotional piety and heartfelt worship became important touchstones within American evangelicalism and continues within the tradition today.
Their faith is a personal faith, and it tends to be carried out in private ways. It guides their decision making, but moral conflicts are likely to be carried out in their mind instead of airing their concerns to others. This framework was most prominent among the highest-ranking executives in the study.
Examples of Circumspect Christians
Your boss could be a Circumspect Christian, but you may not see any religious undertones to his/her speech or actions. They are likely to institute “values-based” initiatives without explaining that the values are grounded firmly in their faith.
John Aden, CEO of Mac Tools
John Aden had a spiritual renewal after taking over the helm at Mac Tools. He felt the need to change both his reputation, as well as, the culture of the company.
For two and a half years I was John Aden one way, and [after my faith transition I] needed to be John Aden the other way. I needed to figure out how to have that conversation in front of people so that once and for all we could just kind of give permission to be different.
His answer was to avoid the “God talk,” and institute values-based principles like having respect for one another and holding to a higher standard of integrity. This approach represented a “subtle, yet significant way of bearing witness to his rediscovered faith.” These values didn’t offend those of other (or no) religions, but were still deeply grounded in Christian principles.
Ann Iverson, CEO of Laura Ashley
Ann Iverson looks to her faith as a resource that directly helps her in her decision making process.
I wouldn’t make any decision . . . without prayer. When I am sitting in a board meeting now . . . I will ask God to just guide me.
She sends these bullet prayers up to heaven during meetings to help her discern the right way to go at a visceral level.
“When you’re doing the right thing, your heart feels light and good, and when you feel heavy and slimed,” Iverson senses things are wrong.
Such a private expression of her faith also means that it is also hidden from most of her co-workers. In spite of the Amenable reception to public displays of faith, Circumspect Christians are lesser known in the public domain than even some of those who work in a hostile environment.
Are You a Circumspect Christian at Work?
I mentioned Christian Brothers Automotive as a company that has an Amenable workplace in the previous post. David in Houston, an employee of CBA, posted a comment to that post that I found very interesting. While the corporate offices tended to have more Brazen Christians, the culture of the shops was more subtle.
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.
It’s a great example that your position within the company can determine which category you fall under even in an Amenable environment. I’d imagine that many companies operate this way as well; however, there is probably some cross-over from the Pragmatic category that plays a role in shaping this culture.
So what do you think? Given an Amenable environment to public displays of faith, are you more or less likely to show them? Is the subtle approach of the Circumspect Christian more in line with “the way Jesus taught us to live” as John Aden claims? Or, are they hiding their light under a bushel (Matt 5:14-16)?
Next in this series we will switch to the Hostile environment when it comes to PDFs starting with the subtle approach of the Pragmatic Christian.