How to live on mission in a secular workplace

October 30, 2017

God has called me to live a life on mission, and for me that includes a call to full-time ministry. But I have run away from what God was calling me to do and have actually spent my entire career up until this point working in healthcare administration. As I’ve grown more spiritually mature, God has been more persistent in the call to make the name of Jesus known to all and make disciples through vocational ministry. I want every moment of my day to be spent furthering the Kingdom.

While my wife and I are in a hard season of waiting for God to reveal a full-time ministry opportunity, we are trying to prepare ourselves for the next season. And I believe God has used the secular workplace as a means of preparing me. I’ve learned a lot about intentionally living on mission in a secular workplace. For others who find themselves in a similar environment, here are four ways I’ve tried to put that into practice. I pray they will be an encouragement to you.

Let the Word dwell richly.  I am constantly praying at work. I pray to be a strong witness, to keep my heart pure and guarded (Psalm 4:23). I work to put others’ needs before mine. I have lots of, “What can I do for you today?” and, “Is there anything you need?” types of conversations. I keep little reminders around my office of Scripture that speaks to my heart, reminders to view all people as made in the image of our Creator. I pray to watch what I say—and this is a hard one! Out of the overflow of my heart, my mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Thus, I spend substantial time filling my heart with things that are wholesome (Col. 3:16). The two most practical ways do this during my workday are: be in the Word often, such as during breaks and lunch, and play uplifting worship music in my office.

Fight discouragement. We live in a world clouded by darkness and evil, and my life in the secular business place has worn me out. In the business world, I can’t settle disagreements by reminding them what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2. When there’s a budget shortfall, I can’t go loaves-and-fishes style (John 6) and fulfill everyone’s bottom line. Recently, I was a bundle of nerves just asking for time off take a mission trip. I’ve worked for Christians who did not reflect the love of Jesus, producing no fruit. Yet, these environments are still an opportunity to share. There will be things about my life and your life that resonate with these individuals, and we might just be the watering their seed needs to produce fruit. Remember, while Paul tells the Corinthians that only God makes the seed grow, the one who waters will also be rewarded! (1 Cor. 3:8)

In the day-to-day workflow of business, there are numerous opportunities for the enemy to find a stronghold.

Be aware of the devil’s schemes. “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).

In the day-to-day workflow of business, there are numerous opportunities for the enemy to find a stronghold. He will lie in wait and use anything he can to distract me from the mission. If I succumb by engaging in office gossip or allowing money to become an idol, significant damage can, and will, be done to my character. If I want people to know that Jesus is my King, I have to be different. I have to be on guard at all times. I counter this by being faithful to my quiet times in the Word. Seeking strength in Scripture and guidance in prayer keeps me alert to the devil’s schemes.

Care through prayer. I cannot deny my passion, my calling, and my mission. I want people to experience the fullness of life with Jesus. When my various workplaces have shut down conversations about Jesus, I’ve begun to care through prayer. I simply show interest in people and their lives and listen to the things they say. By doing this, I find opportunities to care for their needs through prayer. When, through regular conversation, I hear signs of brokenness in their life—maybe someone is sick or stressed, or they’re experiencing something difficult—and the timing is right, I ask them if I can pray for that need. I’m careful about the circumstances, as I don’t intend to make anyone uncomfortable or create a human resources issue. But ultimately, contrary to what the business world’s bottom-line goals are, my bottom line is seeing lives changed.

Living a full life—every minute, hour, and day—on mission is always the goal. I strive to demonstrate Christ’s love through word and deed and be his light in the dark world. I pray that at the end of the day, people will know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m a Jesus-follower, no matter where I am. While I wait for God’s next move, I’ll embrace this season of preparation, living on mission in the secular workplace, and anticipate what God has in store next.

Eric Weatherbee

Eric Weatherbee is a former health industry administrator who lives in Maryville, Tennessee, with his wife and kids. They have a passion for missions and foster care and attend Foothills Church. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24