How Can I Best Manage my Teleworking Team?

(Note: This article was written for and published by The Gospel Coalition. It was later posted on the Coram Deo blog.) 

I’m used to managing my team face-to-face. But now we all work from home. I know some of my employees are putting in less time, since they have a lot of family pressure (like homeschooling kids and taking care of babies) they didn’t have before.  Others are alone, and seem to be working a lot more hours than they probably should.  I am praying for each one of them.  I want to be generous but also fair.  How can I figure out how each team member is doing without being too intrusive?  How can I figure out reasonable expectations for them?  And how can I balance the employee that’s putting in too much time and the one putting in too little?

I totally get it!  Teleworking is not as easy as it sounds.  I recently went back to the office after teleworking from home for four and a half months, and it was way different than I expected.

I do want to commend you as a manager for desiring to treat everyone on the team fairly and deal with them as individuals with different needs and challenges. A good manager knows his or her team members well.  Prov. 27:23 teaches, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”   I also applaud your commitment to pray for your team members.

Let me share a few of my own experiences, some successes and some failures, in managing my own employees from 30 miles away from the office.  I also want to highlight several biblical principles that may be applicable to situations like this.  Perhaps I can also share some wisdom as you move forward and attempt to navigate through these rough waters.  God’s grace is always sufficient!

My teleworking experience

Despite the many ways to communicate, including email, text, phone calls, and video chat, it was sometimes difficult to keep in touch with my employees on a daily basis.  “Out of sight, out of mind” was something we all struggled with.  I seem to recall hearing or reading somewhere that it was the employee’s responsibility to check in, but I felt like it was my lane to be intentional to check on them to ensure they were okay.  I am not sure we laid out expectations clearly from the start.  I missed the daily face-to-face informal interactions with my team that we had in the office. 

I also learned that teleworking took more discipline to stay focused on projects and to manage my time well as I worked from home.  This was my daily struggle, so I knew it was difficult for my employees as well.  This was especially hard for those who had children or spouses at home.  In our empty next, my wife worked hard to not be a distraction to my work, which I truly appreciated. 

Biblical principles regarding work

There are some biblical principles that apply to your situation as a manager of employees who are working remotely, some who work diligently and others who may truly want to work hard but are distracted with family responsibilities.  Let me highlight a few passages that might be helpful.

Proverbs is full of wisdom for the workplace, as its purpose is to give wisdom for life.  Proverbs 22:29 instructs us that a man or woman who is skilled in his or her work will eventually go far in life.  Proverbs 27:18 highlights the general principle of sowing and reaping: “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.”  These verses should reinforce your goal as a manager to develop character qualities such as consistency, diligence, faithfulness, and loyalty in all your employees, which will be a benefit to all concerned.

For your employees who were forced to work and attend children at the same time by the sudden quarantine, school kids sent home, or loss of childcare facilities and sitters, I am afraid there are no easy solutions.  Biblically, we know that a parent bringing up children is a blessing and is a huge responsibility.  (See Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4.)  Many of these workers have no choice but to work both full-time jobs simultaneously.  You are correct that these workers need some consideration. 

With these biblical principles in mind, I encourage you to continue to motivate your dedicated employees to work hard, but to not overdo it.  They should not feel like they need to work more hours than is normally required because the lines between work and home are blurred.  I encourage you to guide all workers to strive to maintain balance between work and family responsibilities. 

Practical wisdom to guide you

So, what do I recommend to creatively address your valid concerns above?

Spend some time with those employees who are struggling to take care of children while also trying to work.  Help them to assess what they are doing to balance their work and family responsibilities.  They need to figure out how to put in an honest day’s work for a full day’s pay. 

If what they have been doing is not giving them eight hours of focused work time every day, you might suggest that they design a schedule that allows them some flexibility in their work hours.  Maybe they are more productive when the kids are in bed.  If their spouse is teleworking also, they could take turns with  the children to carve out a couple of hours of uninterrupted time throughout the day.  If they are single parents, they might need to consider some part-time child care in their home during the day.

It is a challenge to confront employees when they are not right in front of you. However, asking for occasional updates on projects is a reasonable expectation for a manager.  Discuss their priorities at the beginning of the week and then evaluate their progress at the end of the week. 

You need some feedback to be able to hold them accountable, to ensure they are producing on schedule, and remain value-added to your organization.  You might have them write weekly progress reports, if that seems less intrusive.  If you had not already done so, set clear standards for hours worked and when employees need to check in.  Enforce them consistently, and be prepared to modify them as needed. 

Your compassionate yet firm guidance as a manager who is managing “as unto the Lord” will set them up for success and will increase the probability of productivity in your own organization.

About the author:

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  More than 50 articles posted on this blog have been published 100 times on numerous Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.

How Should a Christian Respond to Bad Language?

Cussing

(Note: This article was written for and published by The Gospel Coalition. It was later posted on the Coram Deo blog.)

I’ve worked a number of “blue collar” jobs over the years (landscaping, construction, security, to be specific). On each jobsite, I found that my coworkers frequently used profane, sexist, and racist language in their humor and everyday conversation. Should a Christian respond negatively to every instance of this kind of behavior? How can a Christian balance between camouflaging their faith and just being a prude?

I can identify with what you are going through.  I have worked in some of these manual labor jobs myself over the years and served in the Army for over 20 years.  You are right, there does tend to be a number of folks who use the kind of language that might make some of us squirm.

There are a number of practical suggestions based on some of my own life experiences that I could offer as a way that we as Christ-followers can deal with these situations when they come up.  However, I do want to begin with seeing what Scripture might have to say about dealing with the sins we see so frequently demonstrated around us every day.  We want to look at these situations through a biblical lens so that we can respond to these thorns and thistles in the work environment in a way that might bring glory to God, who placed us in our jobs for His purposes.

Sinners sin

The place to start might be to review what God’s Word has to say about sin in general.  Men and women were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27).  However, Adam and Eve rebelled (Gen. 3).  This has impacts on our daily work (Gen. 3:16-19).  From that point forward, children were still born with God’s image, but they also had the image of their human parents.  (See Gen. 5:3).

These are basic theological truths that most Christians understand well.  But how can we apply this knowledge in trying to properly respond to those who blatantly sin at work and elsewhere?

When I was in my last year of college, my father was about to get married to a woman he had had an affair with.  I went to my pastor for some counseling regarding how to treat my new stepmother.  He gave me some wise advice on how to love others in spite of their sinfulness.  He said something like, “Dogs bark, trees shed their leaves in the fall, and sinners sin.  It’s just what they do.  It shouldn’t surprise us when we see it”.  He then reminded me that she was one more person I had the opportunity to show God’s love. 

So, how should I respond when we hear sinful words in the workplace? We should not be surprised by it. Plus, it just may give us an opportunity to to show God’s love to those who need it.

Choose your battles

So, in answer to your question, no, I do not think a Christian should respond negatively to every instance of this kind of behavior.  Perhaps knowing what we just discussed might help us when others sin verbally in our presence.  We should not be surprised when we hear words that take the Lord’s name in vain or disrespect others.  However, that does not mean that we stay silent and allow it to continue indefinitely.  Jesus took us out of the world to send us right back into the world as salt and light, to make a difference right where we are.  (See John 17:14-19.)

I think we have to have some practical wisdom here when we consider how to confront someone over their choice of language.  There are two major questions we need to ask to determine our approach: 1) How damaging are the words that are used? 2) Is this coworker a Christian?

I remember basic training.  I had a drill sergeant who constantly used F-bombs and other colorful language in every sentence.  I became numb to it.  Although I actively discourage the use of it in my current position with the soldiers that work directly for me, there is not much I can do to diminish its use in others.  Sadly, it has become part of the military culture.  When I weigh the actual damage that occurs when those kinds of words are said, the effects truly are minimal.

However, when co-workers use words that are disrespectful to other people of different cultures or are denigrating to women, I have to draw the line.  A workplace that allows that kind of talk that takes away the dignity of other human beings and creates a hostile environment for all needs to change.  Perhaps God has placed you in this place for such a time as this.  (See Esther 4:14.)  We do need to take a stand.  The conversation must start with a loving and private conversation with the offender.  If they refuse to listen, perhaps you take it higher, or wait to see if it changes.

Not only do we need to pause and think before we try to wrestle inappropriate speech to the ground, but we also need to take a step back to assess whether or not the offensive speaker is a believer or not.  If they are not a Christian, telling them to “clean up their act” will not bring them closer to faith in Christ.  If they are a brother or sister in Christ, then we have a leg to stand on when we approach them to try to get them to be mindful of the impact of their words.  When we do care enough to confront someone, we always need to remember to look at ourselves first.

I hope that this snapshot of biblical truth and practical wisdom will give you a firmer foundation to stand on the next time you hear something negative coming out of coworkers mouths.

About the author:

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  More than 50 articles posted on this blog have been published 100 times on numerous Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.

Building Your Team by Showing Dignity and Respect

equality_woman_multi-cultural_diversity-100737990-large

(Note: This article was posted on the Coram Deo blog and published on the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.)

On the way in to work one morning two weeks ago, I heard Dave Willis, a speaker on the “Focus on the Family” radio broadcast, talk about bringing up his sons with Christian values.  He shared a memorable incident where his own son had said something negative to the only girl on his Little League baseball team.  As a good coach, he made his son apologize to her, and then addressed his players.  He said, “We never want to make anybody on this team feel that they don’t belong.”

This reminded me of one of the things I love about serving in the U.S. Army for over 30 years, its emphasis on treating all personnel with dignity and respect.  Equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of their demographic, is constantly reinforced at every level: for military centralized promotion and command select boards as well as for civilian hiring actions and promotions.  I believe that our strength lies in our unity of purpose amidst great diversity.  Every member on the team brings something positive to the table based on who they are and where they come from.

Let me address this topic from a biblical perspective.  I will share a few personal observations and suggestions from what I have seen in my own workplace, unpack an important passage from one of Paul’s epistles that is applicable for us at work, and share some wisdom from another writer.

Personal observations and suggestions

I recall living in a racially diverse neighborhood in Long Island, New York for several years.  I attended Kindergarten through 2nd grade there.  Classmates with a different skin colors were the same as those who wore blue or red shirts.  It didn’t matter.  I am glad I grew up that way.  When I joined the Army twenty years later, I truly appreciated the diversity of my teammates.  It was so great to see my kids making friends with those of a different race in our neighborhood or at school.  

When I give my orientation brief to new members of our team, I make certain that they understand that this office will be a safe place to work for all concerned.  There will be no tolerance for sexual harassment or racial discrimination.  Every single member of the team will be treated with basic human dignity and respect.  Period. 

I then carefully point out the diverse groups within our office and within the larger organization.  We have military and civilian, male and female, officers and noncommissioned officers, old and young, black, brown, yellow, and white, active duty, reserve and National Guard.  And even though everyone used to joke around about the competencies of the other two branch schools where we work side-by-side (military police and engineers), we can no longer do that.  We even get along with the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who are stationed here.

How do we treat those who are different than us with dignity and respect?  We notice them.  We smile and greet everyone in the morning and say goodbye when we head home in the afternoon.  We praise publically, and correct in private.  We engage with all.  We ask questions to get to know our teammates and listen to their answers. 

We never tolerate any kind of negative talk about “those people” (whether they be of other races, ranks, ages, genders, or members of the other armed forces; it doesn’t matter).  If someone were to say something carelessly about blondes, millennials, or boomers, we stop it.  We let all know on a daily basis that they are appreciated and are valued members of the team.

Building up the church through mutual respect

Let us look a little closer at what the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth. 

In 1 Cor. 12:-12-26, we read a brilliant analogy concerning various parts of the human body.  In context, Paul had just been teaching about spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1-11).  He writes that there are a variety of spiritual abilities that every Christian has that the Holy Spirit gives to each one as He wishes.  In the same way, the human body is made up of many parts and forms one complete body. 

These individual body parts failed to understand that they each had a divine purpose and were connected to one another and to the head, just like this local body of believers, whose members forgot their unity in Christ.  The foot should not think that it does not belong to the body just because it is not a hand.  If the foot was missing, how would the body walk around? 

Additionally, the eye can’t say to the hand that it is not needed.  Every part contributes to the whole.  What Paul is saying to them (and us) is this: every member of the team is essential, has a unique purpose, performs a necessary function, and is to be valued by the other members.  We need each other.

Here is what it would look like at my work.  One of my sergeants could say, “Well, I am not an officer.  Officers are really important.  What I do doesn’t matter.”  One of the male employees could say, “Why do we have females on our team?  They are different.  We don’t need them.”

What would it look like at your place of employment?  Do your custodians or administrative assistants feel like valued members of your organization?  Are there leaders at or near the top of the chain who do not recognize or value the contributions that everyone on the team brings? 

In William Morris’ great book, Love Thy Colleague, we find a biblical perspective on one aspect found in the passage above.  He addresses how to minister to the loners who have forgotten that they are part of the team. 

Morris shares this valuable insight: “Allowing each person as an individual to fully develop their talents and build and deepen relationships within the framework of a team, is what best promotes the human flourishing that God desires in the workplace (and everywhere).  And the loner can severely disrupt that dynamic  just like Paul’s unruly limbs.”

Later, Morris exhorts his readers on how to show God’s love to these workers who prefer to go solo. “Mercy lay in showing the colleague that they didn’t have to change from being a foot to being a hand, or try to be the whole body . . . Paul was actually arguing against conformity inside the church.  There was, he said, room for different talents, different characters, different types of people.  And it was from diversity inside the one body that real strength, and richness, and fruitful possibility truly lay.”

I know from my own experience in building teams over the past twelve years that seem to change every few months or so that I have to be intentional to ensure that every member of the team is treated like family.  I have to monitor my own relationship to each one, and also the relationships that each one has with the others on the team.  We cannot accomplish our mission without them.

About the author:

Robin_McMurry_Photography_Fort_Leonard_Wood__Missouri_Professional_Imaging_Russ_Gerlein-7161-Edit-Edit

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  More than 50 articles posted on this blog have been published 100 times on numerous Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.

God’s Presence With Those Who Have Served in the Military

(Note this article was written for and published on The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.  It was also posted on the Coram Deo blog.)

There are 17 million veterans in this country.  Some of them made a career out of it like I did, having served over 20 years active duty, and are among our retired ranks.  Many more of these great American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines served for three or four years.  Some served for decades in the reserves or National Guard.  Many served well in combat.  Each and every one of them, in addition to the ones now serving, should be very proud of their service to this Nation.  For those veterans who are also Christ-followers, you need to know that your work while serving in the military matters to God.

As I reflect on my military experience over 33 years of active federal service in and with the U.S. Army as a Soldier and Department of the Army civilian, I know beyond a doubt in my military mind that God has been and is present with me in this work.  Let me share a word of encouragement about how God has been present with our veterans and those who are serving in our armed forces now.  Perhaps our pastors can use these ideas below to provide a biblical perspective for the veterans in their own congregations.

God led you to serve in the military

I was in a tough spot in early 1986.  I had started seminary in the fall of 1982.  After struggling for over three years, due to a number of doors that God closed, I had exhausted all options to continue pursuing my master’s degree.  I had to let go of my dream.  The pastor of the church that we attended at the time gave me some wise advice.  He said, “When your dream dies, find a new dream.”  I had to humbly pray and seek God’s direction.  Little did I know He was going to answer my prayer in a most unique way.

Be all that you can be!” was the Army’s slogan as I was looking at my options.  Perhaps I needed to be willing to consider joining the military to get some financial stability for my young family.  The medical benefits were a plus, as was the G.I. Bill and Army College Fund which would help me get my seminary degree later on if I still felt led to pursue furthering my education.  After much prayer, I decided to enlist for just three years.   After I served on active duty for 20 years, 6 months, and 17 days, I have continued working with Soldiers for the past twelve years as a Department of the Army civilian employee.

I do not know what your story is, but I am willing to bet that it is as good as (or better than) mine.  Whether you were drafted, enlisted, or were commissioned in your branch (or branches) of service, I can tell you that based on what I know about the attributes of God: His faithfulness, mercy, and presence, He led you to serve.  He needed you to be all that you could be and to represent Him wherever you went.

God brought you through every challenge you faced

I may not know you personally, but am sure that your initial experiences being in the military were not much different than mine.  There were a lot of challenges when I first joined the army.  In basic training, there were the physical challenges of long days, running for miles and miles, and doing hundreds of pushups.  In my next phase of training, there were mental challenges to learn many new technical skills. 

When I got to my first duty station, I had to learn how to submit to my younger squad leader’s authority.  There was so much I had to learn about the way things were supposed to be done to meet established procedures.  Quite often my pride got in the way.  During these humbling times, I had to trust God and depend on His grace, mercy, and wisdom to strengthen me and get me through on a daily basis.  It was years later before I knew what I was doing and had developed confidence in my abilities as a Soldier.

One verse from the Old Testament that was written by an experienced military leader tells me that God was directly involved during this training and learning process.  King David wrote, “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Ps. 18:34).  God clearly provided just what you needed to be an effective Soldier.  He may have used drill sergeants, instructors, squad leaders, platoon sergeants, and first sergeants to train you.  But as s Christian, the God of the universe also trained you directly by His Holy Spirit.  His primary mission is to comfort, remind, and empower us in our daily walk of faith.

God developed your character and caused you to grow in spiritual maturity

Among the many successes I had in my military career, I also had several failures, which humbled me, and made me more Christ-like.  As a recruiter for sixteen months, I failed miserably, despite the fact that I had gotten myself sent to my old college town.  Years later, as a platoon sergeant in Germany, it became obvious after about eight months that I was ill-prepared for that job also.  This was mostly due to conflicts with my platoon leader, but it also had to do with my lack of leadership experience.  I truly struggled.

It was during these difficult assignments, God caused me to depend on Him as my source of confidence and identity.  The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25) supernaturally grew in me by leaps and bounds as I increased in compassion, patience, kindness, and peace that passed all understanding.  I also came to appreciate those times when God truly had blessed my efforts way beyond what could ask or expect. 

I imagine that you have had your share of failures during your years of service as well.  You have also had plenty of trials along the way.  Some of these were unique to the military, such as combat deployments or training exercises that took you away from home.  Other trials were just part of the thorns and thistles we all face at work, like trying to balance work and family, health issues, or working for unreasonable bosses.  In these trials, I know that you leaned on the Lord for strength to get through.  And during this process of walking by faith through each and every trial, you developed perseverance and became more Christlike.

God used you to build a strong defense that brings peace in this world

As I have studied the theology of work over many years, God helped me to understand the many valuable contributions our military personnel make.  Amy Sherman, in her book Kingdom Calling, shares a helpful concept of God as our vocational model.  She describes the different kinds of work God does in our midst now and how our human vocations can fit into this model. 

One of the six categories she lists is “Justice Work”, which is defined as God’s maintenance of justice.  The OT prophets indicate that there will come a day when our Messiah Jesus returns and wars will be no more.  (See Isa. 2:4 and Micah 4:3.)  But until that time, a strong offensive capability is one of the ways in which God keeps peace in this world. 

As a result, I can say without reservation that God is very much present in the work of our brave men and women in uniform.  He needs them to be trained and ready, individually and as a team, prepared to fight and defeat the enemy when called upon.  He is very much present on the military installation where I work, through the drill sergeants, instructors, leaders, and civilian staff members who work to develop, coordinate, support, and execute the training that God provides to thousands of new Soldiers annually. 

Closing thoughts

With few exceptions, I think most men and women who have served in the military inherently know the value of the work they have done, as a lot of people have thanked them for their service.  I trust that our Christian veterans have also come to understand a little better that God values their service also.  He has worked in you, with you, and through you as part of His work to bring justice and peace to the world.

Let me close with a special word of encouragement to our many combat veterans who have experienced great losses as a direct result of serving this country in places that were far from home.  Many of you have lost battle buddies, your comrades in arms.  Many of you have lost limbs or had traumatic brain injuries.  Many of you have lost your families.  Many of you may feel like you may have lost your souls. 

I want you to know that your work was not in vain.  More importantly, I want you to know that there is comfort, healing, and rest to be found in God alone.  He is your rock, your shelter, and your deliverer.  And when you receive His comfort, you can in turn pass it on to others who need it.  (See 2 Cor. 1:3-4.)

About the author:

Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  More than 50 articles posted on this blog have been published 100 times on numerous Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.

How Does the Fruit of the Spirit Bring What is Lacking at my Workplace?

This is a follow-up to an article I recently wrote on how the Seven Army Values align with Christian values.  My intent in the previous article was to show that a Christian Soldier can wholeheartedly serve in the military, since the Army’s values are not in contradiction with biblical values. 

In this article, I want to demonstrate that a Christian worker will not merely fit in, but will be able to significantly improve the quality of the work environment by intentionally living out the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). 

Let me focus on just three of these nine positive character traits called the fruit of the Spirit.  I believe I can illustrate how exhibiting these spiritual fruit as a Christian employee working in an ordinary job will have an eternal impact on those we work for, those who work for us, our peers, and our customers.

Love

I have worked for the U.S. Army for 34 years now.  In my experience, they do not teach soldiers how to love, per se.  In fact, when it comes to how to respond to enemies both foreign and domestic, love is the furthest topic of discussion.  Soldiers are well-trained to destroy the enemy, not to love them.  (However, we know that God can use a military force to protect His people from those who do evil.)

I will maintain that a Christian soldier, even while marching off to war, can bring his or her biblical understanding and capacity to unconditionally love to their fellow soldiers.  They do this by acting properly to meet people’s legitimate needs, demonstrating the sacrificial love Jesus displayed on the cross. 

A Christian who has learned over time to abide in Christ (John 15:5) and let the power of the Holy Spirit flow through them every day can display genuine care and concern for those they serve with who do not look like them, are from different backgrounds, etc.   Moreover, the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we work with will be noticed by those who are not Christians.  You may recall the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”  (See John 13:34-35.)

Joy

This is another character trait that the Army does not seem to emphasize much, if at all.  For example, a Drill Sergeant may be less effective in training soldiers with a constant smile on his or her face. 

Mark Greene, in his excellent book, Fruitfulness on the Frontline, shares this keen observation: “Here, joy doesn’t mean that we have to be highly carbonated, effervescent people gamboling into every encounter like exuberant puppies.  There are plenty of joyous Christian people who aren’t extroverts but who have something about them, something luminous, something that makes you pleased to see them walk into a room – even if you never get to talk to them.”

Perhaps joy is not appreciated much at your place of employment, either.  However, who does not want joy in their life?  Those Christians who can display this fruit of the Spirit consistently will be able to bring something unique and positive to the workplace that the world cannot possibly provide.  Perhaps we need to figure out a more appropriate way to express the joy of the Lord that we all have based on the total forgiveness that we have in Christ and God’s mercy and grace that we experience.

When we go through a trial at work, and have total confidence in God’s ability to work out all things for good, we have a sense of joy and peace that those who do not know Him cannot understand.  In the context of suffering, the Apostle Peter describes it in this way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). 

People will eventually notice this radical and illogical attitude, and may ask where this unexplainable joy comes from.  At that moment, we have earned the right to explain to our co-workers the reason for the hope that we have in Christ.  (See 1 Peter 3:15.)

Self-control

This quality, last but not least in the list, is of much value to any employer.  Who doesn’t want an employee who can keep his or her temper, hold their tongue, or say no to abuse harmful substances?

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia sheds some light on this key quality.  “Clearly self-control does not come naturally or by hard effort but is the gift of God through His Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23) . . . There is no ultimate power over self here but only a control granted and sustained by God.”

What sets ordinary Christian workers apart from the crowd is a sharp focus on the fact that one’s actions, if not aligned with Scripture, will reflect on not only other Christians, but on Jesus Himself.

Closing thoughts

Greene shares some great insights from Ps. 92:12-15 as he describes the fruitfulness that God develops in those who consistently abide in Christ.  He says, “We live to glorify God.  And God is glorified as his character, his priorities, his goodness and indeed his power are expressed through our everyday lives.  The goal of fruitfulness is to bring glory to God.”

I trust that you have been challenged to consider some practical ways to fully integrate your Christian faith at work on a daily basis.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to show that we are new creatures in Christ by how we interact with people in a Christlike manner. 

We bring increased value to our workplaces by demonstrating that Christ lives in us.  As we supernaturally, yet quite naturally display each of the qualities listed as the fruit of the Spirit, we will be a blessing to everyone we work with, which will bring glory to God the Father and will point others to Him.

About the author:

Russell E. Gehrlein is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Fifty articles posted on this blog have been published on numerous Christian organization’s blogs or websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.