Workplace Discipleship

In this episode, Bill Hendricks and Dr. David Gill talk about how faith and work intersect, focusing on combining ethics with evangelism.

About The Table Podcast

The Table is a weekly podcast on topics related to God, Christianity, and cultural engagement brought to you by the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. The show features interviews with guests who are experts on the chosen topic, and each episode is hosted by a member of The Hendricks Center’s team.

Timecodes
01:31
Making the commitment to share faith at work
06:05
Excellence as a form of evangelism
09:16
How to do pastoral care at work
13:05
Gill’s spiritual, vocational, and academic background
19:50
Ways to model integrity and ethics at work
28:55
Why prayer needs to be a priority
Resources

Book by David Gill, Workplace Discipleship 101:  A Primer

Book by Bill Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God

Transcript

Bill Hendricks:
Welcome to The Table podcast. I'm Bill Hendricks, Executive Director for Christian Leadership. And we, on The Table podcast, discuss issues of God and culture. Today, we want to talk about what does it mean to be a Christ follower in the workplace? It's my very special privilege to welcome David Gill, who has put really a lifetime of thinking, as well as practice, into his recently released book, Workplace Discipleship 101: A Primer. David, welcome to The Table.

David Gill:
It's great to be with you, Bill.

Bill Hendricks:
So let me ask you right off the bat, I'm thinking of a software programmer who works in a giant corporation. I'm thinking of someone who's filing insurance claims in a doctor's office. I'm thinking of someone who's delivering packages for UPS or Amazon. I'm thinking for someone who's raising children as a stay at home mom. So these people love Jesus, and they have a notion that their day to day, what we call their work, how they spend most of their day, somehow their faith and their walk with Christ ought to inform that. So where do they get started? What's the first thing they need to do as they think about that?

David Gill:
Well, I think that they should get a copy of your book, Your Work Matters To God-

Bill Hendricks:
Oh, you're kind.

David Gill:
... which is a classic in our whole domain. Back in 1988 when that came out, that was just such a joy to find, because a lot of us out here in California were meeting to talk about these exact issues. So I always say the first thing to do is really to be committed. To pray and say, "Lord, I want to honor you 24/7 with what I do. And I don't really know exactly the difference you want to make in my life, but I want to make that difference." So I really do think we need to make a commitment. Almost like when you become a Christian, it's really important to say, "Okay, I accept you, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior." And not just think, "Well, we grow into this, we inherited it from our parents or something else." So I'd say make a commitment.

David Gill:
Then I would say, find somebody else who's struggling with the same issues. In my book, I have a whole chapter on building partnership, and I often call it a posse. These things are complicated and they require creativity. So early on, if you're a mom raising kids, or even a stay at home dad or whatever we've got these days, I would say find somebody else who's in the same situation and say, "Why don't we explore together the difference that God would like to make in the way we do it?"

David Gill:
So yeah, we want to learn from the world around us and our schooling and everything else what are the best practices in a tech company or something. But what we want to know is, "What is the difference that Jesus would make so that we become the salt of our company and the light of our industry, and not just doing what everybody else does?" Because we think there's a lot of good in the world and in the working world, but we also we're fallen, and there's a lot of room for improvement in our practices, our work practices, the way we treat our colleagues or our employees, the way we relate to our customers, all of those things. And so what's the difference that God would make?

David Gill:
So I'd say first of all, really commit to that project, and then find somebody else to pray with and work with and begin the journey.

Bill Hendricks:
Well, you also make the point for many people, they feel like they're the only person in their workplace who is a Christ follower, and so there's a sense of loneliness. And that's perilous because if you feel like you're all alone, you feel that isolation and so forth. So having somebody alongside is critical.

David Gill:
Yeah. Sunday, I did a guest sermon from my home church out here, and I was preaching on the three temptations of Christ. And I pointed out that these temptations arise, the first one is in the desert, the second one on the pinnacle of the temple, and the third one on a high mountain where you could see all the glory of the world around you. But in each case, Jesus was alone with the devil. And so one of my recommendations is: don't get alone with the devil. Always have somebody with you. So I said in the sermon, I said, "I'm not going in the desert alone. I'm going to take my wife with me." I'm joking a little bit, but really, that's true. Don't get alone with the devil to struggle against evil in the world.

Bill Hendricks:
Well, and it's really living out the promise that Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst." And so when we get with another believer or two believers and we're committed, as you said, we've drawn that line in the sand to say, "I'm in and I want Jesus' will to be done," then we begin to besiege him and ask with others, "Okay, what does that really look like?" And he shows up and begins to guide us.

David Gill:
Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, not one by one.

Bill Hendricks:
Exactly.

David Gill:
The only time anything was not good in the creation, it's not good for man to dwell alone. We need a companion. We need helpers. Every David needs a Jonathon, every Naomi needs a Ruth. This is just a consistent message, cover to cover, in the Bible.

Bill Hendricks:
In your book, you talk about sharing our faith at work, but one of the points you make in there is the importance of doing an excellent job. Tell us more about how that builds credibility for when we do try to share our faith.

David Gill:
I have a chapter... Actually, five chapters on five ways, I think, in which our discipleship at work gets expressed. And one of them is on, "How do we share our faith? How do we actually engage in evangelism, sharing the good news?" We want to do that. That's part of the Great Commission. But that's going to be a lot more effective if our life has already been good news to the people with whom we work, and to our customers and to our boss. So that's why a work ethic where I come to work and I put out my best self and my best energy, and yes, I want to stand up for wrongdoing and speak up. But on the other hand, I want to be a positive force, a force for solutions. I want to be the kind of employee who, when somebody comes dragging into work and they're looking really down, I'm going to say to them, "Hey buddy, what's going on? Are you okay?" And if somebody comes in really happy, I'm going to say, "Hey, did you just win the lottery or something?" So reaching out to my colleagues.

David Gill:
And then another thing I point out is a lot of times, our best evangelism, our best sharing of the faith, happens when people ask us about our faith. Because in a lot of companies, it's inappropriate to try to proselytize or promote our Christianity any more than Islam anything else. But if somebody asks you, "Tell me where you're coming from," or "Why do you act this way? Why are you interested in me like nobody else is?" or something: that's the best opportunity to share our faith, is when somebody asks us that. So we provoke that partly by our behavior and on our models.

David Gill:
So I ask in my book, "What would be a beatitudes shaped life?" If I'm a person who was poor in spirit instead of arrogant and full of myself all the time. What if I'm a person who can mourn and really weep with those who weep around me, and really take responsibility and not just be somebody who blames others? What if I'm somebody who hungers for righteousness and the right thing to do? I have that ethical kind of hunger. What if I'm a peacemaker? I'm a team builder and not a conflict builder. A beatitude shaped character can have a huge impact on others, and just without ever sharing the gospel. It's preparing the soil for somebody else.

David Gill:
So it's that kind of thing, Bill. It's the way we approach our work and the impact we want to make. And there's a whole lot more to be said about it. But I think let your conduct among the nations be worthy of Christ. Walk in a way, don't just talk in a way that glorifies God, but walk in a way that glorifies God.

Bill Hendricks:
Well, you're reminding me of a DTS grad, actually, now with the Lord named Ray Stedman. I know you're from the West Coast. You probably know him, Ray Stedman.

David Gill:
I knew him. I admired him and I know him. Peninsula Bible church.

Bill Hendricks:
Absolutely. And he was a great friend of my dad's. I actually have a recording of him here in Dallas Seminary in 1984, and he was talking about Ephesians 4, which talks about the gifts for equipping. He specifically honed in on the pastor teacher gift, and was making the observation that that gift is actually far more widely distributed in the body of Christ than simply the paid professionals. And there's a reason for that, because the rest of Ephesians 4 says that these saints, these everyday Christians, are distributed all through the work world and all through the workplace and the community, and they run into people that have what we would call pastoral needs. And you just mentioned a bunch of them.

Bill Hendricks:
So somebody comes to work and they're mourning, they're grieving. They've lost a loved one or they've gotten bad news about their parents' health, or they have a little one that's sick or they've had a financial reversal. People come in with all kinds of troubles. And what a great opportunity that Christ followers have to simply be there for those people, pray for those people, offer to walk alongside them in whatever situation they're in. And then in doing so, they're really meeting and speaking into pastoral needs. And in that context, people experience something of Jesus, and that oftentimes will promote conversation: "Tell me more about what's prompting you to treat me this way."

David Gill:
I may have read this in your book. I don't know where. This isn't original with me. But I think about the fact that the church I am part of now has about 500 members. Now, I know that's just a small church by Texas standards. But we may have 10 or 20 visitors, I'm not really sure, but we may have 10 or 20 visitors. We always have some visitors at our church, and they get a lot of love and a lot of truth, I think, when they come. And so it's all good.

David Gill:
But of us 500, let's say 400 of us are going... We'll give the youngest 100 a break a little bit. But the other 400 of us, we probably have 10 significant relationships out there, either in work or our next door neighbors or on the block. So if your work is to be a stay at home parent, you still have the 10 or 20 people living right near you, and the people at the grocery store you get to know after going back many times, whatever. But you figure 400 people out there in the world, we have 10... So we have a congregation of 4,000. And so it really is important, as you say, that God gives us gifts of evangelism, but gifts of caring and pastoral care.

David Gill:
And like you, Bill, I've spent my life as an entrepreneur, trying to build organizations and recruit students and things like this. And people sometimes say, "Well, how did you do this? You didn't have any money or your organization." And I always say, "Well, honestly, it's pastoral care." Even from my MBA students or MBA alumni, it really is pastoral care. And that's the kind of thing that's not just for pastors, it's for all of us to walk in the ways of our own shepherd and pastor, Jesus Christ, and care for the people around us.

Bill Hendricks:
Well, you mentioned your background. I was going to ask you to give us a bit of that story. You've been thinking about these things since you were 20 years old as a college student. Tell us more about that.

David Gill:
Well, Bill, I grew up in a tradition called The Plymouth Brethren, which actually has influenced Dallas Seminary a lot. They weren't perfect by any means. And it's a little denomination, a little sect, you could say, that's disappearing to some extent, because they've succeeded and most other churches believe in the things that they did. But anyway, one of the core things is everybody in the body of Christ has a gift and is expected to exercise it at church. But Jesus is also Lord of the whole of life. And so like people say, if Jesus is Lord at all, then he's Lord of all. So I grew up in a family and in a church that drilled that into me, that Jesus must have something to do with what I'm studying at Berkeley.

David Gill:
By the way, this little separatist group didn't believe... I was in the really closed, exclusive Plymouth Brethren who really feared being exposed to bad doctrine by other Christian groups. So as a result, none of us ever went to a Christian school of any type. We weren't allowed to participate in Youth for Christ or any of these kinds of things. This was excessive, believe me. But as a result, we went to these public schools and we learned how to be a Christian in a public environment like that. So all of the people who were headed for college from my Oakland church, we either went to Cal or Stanford. If you were a poor like me, you went to Cal. If you had money, you went to Stanford. So there weren't many at Stanford. But anyway, so I automatically went there.

David Gill:
Well, when I went to Cal for the first time, I had to get serious about studying. In high school, I was interested in football and chasing my girlfriend, who's now been my wife for 54 years. So that was a good move. But still, I didn't think that much about what I was studying in high school. But at Berkeley, I started really thinking, okay, what should I study? And then I began thinking, what's the difference that Christ would make? And I was a history major by the time I was a junior and I was 20 years old. And I started thinking, in my history studies here at Cal, we have some of the greatest historians and Pulitzer Prize winners in the country, but they never talk about God. And they don't even like to talk about religion as any kind of causal or influential factor in history, including in a course I took on the Reformation, which was explained in economic and political terms.

David Gill:
So meanwhile, then, I'm going to church. And in my personal life, we're praying, "Oh God, would you be present? Would you help us with this Vietnam War and with civil rights," and other things that were crazy going on at those times. We were saying, "God, would you intervene? Would you have an influence?" So here I am in my personal life believing in a God who cares about history, and then professionally, vocationally, I'm studying with people who don't think that's anything. So that was really the trigger for me, Bill, was to try to figure out, "How should I think about God and history?" So eventually, it led, right after to Cal, to a master's degree program at San Francisco. My thesis was called: The Problem of God's Role in Human History. And I wrote that for a secular three member master's thesis committee over there. And so that really fired me up. I was thinking, we can bring these subjects up in the academy.

David Gill:
And then I also was going to be a public school teacher, a high school teacher was my dream, and so I studied the teaching classes and got my credential. But nobody ever talked about Jesus as a teacher, or Paul or any of these other people. And so what can I learn about being a great teacher from Scripture? And then how does that work out in a public school setting? I'm not going to be an evangelist per se, I'm going to be a teacher, and I want to respect all that. So it was those integrative questions. And then try to figure out, where can I get help? I looked at seminary catalogs from Dallas to Fuller to everybody else. Nobody had courses on how to think about history, or even how to think about work or think about study. So that just became a lifetime pilgrimage of mine.

David Gill:
Eventually, I went back to graduate school at the University of Southern California and did a PhD in an ethics program. Because Bill, I felt like it's not just about how to think Christianly, but it's how to behave Christianly, because that's going to be a witness in its own right. So I wanted a Christian mind, but I also wanted a Christian set of values, discipleship behavior. So I felt ethics was the best way to get at it.

David Gill:
And then after USC, I've been a professor all my life. Sometimes an interim pastor too, which has been great. But basically working with students, and mostly, in a little over half in theological seminary context. My last job was at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Boston. But also teaching MBA students and consulting out in the business world, and helping companies and organizations build what I call an ethically healthy organization. And it's all about what I've learned from Scripture, from the Decalogue, from the beatitudes, from all the other classic stuff in the Bible. And then translating that into business speak and work speak and organizational speak. What I mean by that is vocabulary that can communicate without requiring a conversion in advance. And then later on, a lot of these people, they say, "Where did you get those ideas from? Where are these ideas coming from?" And then I say, "Well, I have to tell you, it's because I grew up as a Christian and I study this stuff, and I just figure it is so insightful."

Bill Hendricks:
So I know we've got-

David Gill:
That's my career. That's my career in two minutes.

Bill Hendricks:
Yeah. I know we've got any number of business people listening to this podcast. And that, of course, is one of the big challenges that's always brought up is: "Well, how do I live and work in this rough and tumble business world and I'm around all these people that take ethical shortcuts and so forth? How can you possibly expect me to do the right thing in a context like that?" What's your response to that?

David Gill:
Well, I think one of the temptations is to become sin detectors and denouncers of evil. We can spend a lot of our time focusing on how do we stop bad things from happening. And so we've got our antenna up to see what's unethical, what's illegal, and what's unfair, and let's stop those things. My friend who I've worked with a lot over the years, Al Erisman, former Boeing executive, well, when I was first working with him back in the 80's and we were talking about this, he said, "Yeah, that's damage control ethics. The agenda is driven by responding to damage. And damage means our brand is going to be harmed or we might get sued, we might get indicted, we might end up with a prison sentence or a big fine."

Bill Hendricks:
Just worried about the consequences.

David Gill:
And so the ethical agenda is driven by damage control. But I said, "You know what? The Bible doesn't teach damage control ethics, it teaches mission control ethics." Where Paul is saying, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good." So yes, we have to engage in courageous damage control at times. No doubt about it. It's like we're embarking across the sea in a leaky boat, and so we have to be patching holes from the first moment we take off. We can't pretend everything's fine. But on the other hand, the longer term solution is to work at building ethically healthy departments, neighborhoods, organizations.

David Gill:
I think the first step has to do with purpose. It has to do with mission. And we have to get the right mission that brings out the best in people. Now, how do we do that? We try to awaken in them the image of God. So I always say, Bill, the first thing to do, and when I'm consulting with a company, is I say, "I can't just write you an ethics code and create an ethics training program. Let's talk, first of all, about the mission of the company. And the leaders of the company, your main job is to be the herald and protector of the mission. And the mission's got to be inspiring and it's got to be true. It can't just be words."

David Gill:
So where does that come from? In my book, I have a chapter on this, which is really saying, we need to understand the character and activity of God. And so what is that? I divide it into six things. God is the creator, God is the sustainer, God is the provider of wisdom, the herald of justice and fairness, God is the redeemer, and God is the finisher, the omega, and not just the alpha. And so those characteristics are in us because we're made in the image of that God. Or if you want to simplify, you can say, he's the creator and the redeemer. Everybody has that DNA to respond to an opportunity to build something good and beautiful, or to be creative in their own little department or whatever. Everybody has it in their DNA to respond positively with an opportunity to help somebody or to fix some problem. We all feel better if we do that kind of thing.

David Gill:
So to align the mission of the company, the organization, the church, my family with those things. And some companies will be more of the creative, innovative types, and others are more the healing redemptive types, like healthcare. But all of us have that in us, and it's by getting the mission aligned with that.

David Gill:
Then secondly, it's asking, what are the core values that we need to embed in all of our structure, our culture, and find in the character of the people we hire the values that will enable and incentivize people to achieve that mission with excellence? And then below that, we ask about guidelines and principles for practice, which is the ethics code. So that's a summary of a bigger strategy than just responding to what's wrong.

Bill Hendricks:
Well, it certainly highlights the significant importance that leaders who are Christ followers have in shaping the cultures where they work, to the extent they have influence on that. What I'm hearing you suggest is you can promote those core values and those likenesses to God in a company, even if the other people in the company are not necessarily Christ followers. You don't have to use the Bible verses because aligning with these things promotes good. When we do that, things tend to happen that are good.

Bill Hendricks:
God's built into the fabric of the universe and the way life works certain core basic principles. The most obvious is love your neighbor as yourself. If you treat other people the way you want to be treated, then good stuff's generally going to happen. Another one is if you work hard and long and diligently at a task, eventually you're going to reap the benefits and the fruits of that labor. And wherever humans line up with those core principles, you call ethical guidelines, then good stuff tends to happen. And people always want to flourish. They always want to see good stuff happen. So you don't have to necessarily quote the Bible verses behind these things, but you can still influence for God.

David Gill:
Yeah. Paul said in Romans that people who don't have the law of God, the Old Testament, they nevertheless have it written on their heart and they have a conscience that bears witness. Now, the reality is some people in the world are so broken, they're so broken that they actually respond to need with making it worse. And they don't respond very well because they've been so broken by their own bad choices or by the abuse of others, whatever. So everything's not going to work out.

David Gill:
I think that's why, what I've often done with my MBA students, or even in companies, is after we've done the mission part of this, I'll say, "Okay, now what we need to do is figure out, what are the key core values that will best enable the achievement of this mission?" And I say, "I'm going to give you a sheet of a set of values here, characteristics you can say, for people and our policies and stuff. And I'd like you to go through the sheet and circle the ones that you think are most important to the way we function here at Harrisons and Associates Construction," or whatever. And what I do is I do have a lot of the core values that you read. Integrity, all these other things. But I also have in there really representations of the beatitudes. So instead of saying poor in spirit, I'll say humble, teachable, open, that kind of thing.

David Gill:
And so in the end, I've often proposed, I've given lots of talks on eight characteristics of a healthy organizational culture. I've done this in secular settings, to rotary clubs, to business school audiences. And people, they usually say, "This is really brilliant stuff. Where'd you get this from?" That kind of thing. And no, it doesn't make them a Christian, but it draws them. The wisdom draws them. Because a lot of people have this idiotic thought that this stuff is irrelevant, it's old fashioned. No, it's very relevant, you just haven't heard about it like that before. You've never had a pastor or anybody apply this to your business or your organization or your school environment, culture, things like that. So that's what you and I, Bill, have been about all about, is rallying people to see the Bible is a gold mine of insight. It's not just a superficial quoting of a verse. It's an insight and it's an adventure.

Bill Hendricks:
It's what Proverbs calls “wisdom”, which is the skill of living, "hokma" [wisdom in Hebrew].

David Gill:
Absolutely.

Bill Hendricks:
We have just a little less than two minutes left. One of the points that you speak into is the importance of bringing prayer into our work. I think for many people, that's a new thought. We pray at Bible studies, we pray at church, we pray for the missions department, we pray for the new building that's going to go up. Many people never think to pray about their work. Say just a word about that.

David Gill:
Well, I think that's really important. It's two pieces. One piece is we need to do it more in church. I'm a big proponent of-

Bill Hendricks:
Praying for work at church?

David Gill:
Yeah. At the church, I encourage pastors to bring their healthcare people to the front of the church and commission them and pray for them and so on, their artists. But I also think on a personal level, if we really believe we want God to guide us at work, we should be talking to him about it. And so every day, I think we should pray and say, "Lord, would you give me guidance? Help me represent you in the workplace and those problems."

David Gill:
In my book, I have a chapter on this, recommending several different ways that I've done it and that other people have made sure that work is part of our prayer life. So over my life, I always pray about the emergencies, but I also say we should pray proactively before there's an emergency. And so every Monday, I usually focus my prayers on my upcoming workweek. And I say, "Lord, our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. I want it to be holy and uplifted in my work. And your will be done in my world this week and my work, as it is in heaven. And give me, Lord, what I need to work this week. And protect me from temptation, Lord. And yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. I want that to be evident in the way I approach my work this week." So be proactive in my prayer life.

Bill Hendricks:
Well, that's outstanding. David Gill, thank you for being with us today on The Table podcast. Workplace Discipleship 101: A Primer. I heartily encourage you to get ahold of this book. It's a book that I wish had been written 30 years ago. It's practical, it's precise and to the point, and very relevant to every workplace disciple. Thank you for being with us on today's Table podcast. If you'd like to go deeper with David, we're going to have another conversation on DTS Plus, and you can subscribe to that. But be sure and subscribe to The Table podcast and have a good day. Thank you.

Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
David Gill
David W. Gill is a writer and speaker based in his hometown, Oakland. California. He recently retired from the faculty of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton and Boston, Massachusetts, where he served as Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology & Business Ethics and Director of the Mockler Center for Faith & Ethics in the Workplace. Prior to this, he served six years as Professor of Business Ethics on the MBA faculty of St. Mary’s College of California, nine years as Carl I. Lindberg Professor of Applied Ethics at North Park University in Chicago, and thirteen years as founder, Professor of Christian Ethics and Dean or President at New College Berkeley, an interdenominational graduate school of theology for lay men and women. He has led retreats and workshops, preached sermons, and taught classes for hundreds of churches and campus Christian fellowships over the past 50 years. Gill was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1946 but has lived most of his life in Berkeley or Oakland, California. Since 1967 he has been married to Lucia (Paulson) with whom he has two children (Jodie (Gill) Hoffman and Jonathan Gill) and six grandchildren. The Gills are members of Solano Community Church in Albany, CA.
Contributors
Bill Hendricks
David Gill
Details
September 7, 2021
church, community, cultural relevance, evangelism
Share