Bill Fay, a Christian author and speaker, advises believers in the workplace not to share their faith until they are on their own time. I have read his book Share Jesus Without Fear numerous times and continue to evaluate and scan it often for help with strategy. I have used his approached numerous times and have seen success with it, mostly by simply getting me to be bolder about sharing my faith. His chapter about overcoming fear (Chapter 3) is very stimulating.
Still, there is a fundamental problem that some die-hard soul winners might see. If we believe that the Holy Spirit directs us, then who are we to decide that we should shut off the Holy Spirit during working hours? If I didn’t believe in predetermination, I would probably agree, but I find Bill very insightful in his discussion of workplace evangelism. After all, if God wants a person saved, then He’s not going to kill said person off before your working hours are over or before your lunch hour starts.
But here’s the real problem for military personnel: I’m always at work! This is especially true of deployments. While we have certain times of the day where we aren’t officially on watch or when we are in what we would call “working hours”, the fact is that we’re always on the job. The Navy, and I’m sure this is true for the rest of the services as well, is a 24 hour job. Because I'm on the ship at virtually all times during a deployment, distinguishing between off time and on-the-clock is difficult at best. There have been countless nights where I was working at 8:00pm or later, not because I had to, but because that was a convenient time to work due to drills or whatever. What then? When does that allow me to share?
So how do we handle the fact that, especially when the ship is underway, we are always “at work?” Ironically, it’s the same thing that I talked about in the second paragraph. We simply listen to the Holy Spirit. Have I witnessed during working hours? Yes. Only when I felt that the Holy Spirit led the conversation, and only when I knew I wouldn’t get the young man in trouble (not to mention myself). Everyone’s time is precious, but the Holy Spirit has been doing this a long time. He will make sure you’re in the clear before you get going. Having said that, I find that most of my witnessing takes place in the form of small encounters. I’ve shared small portions of my faith at soda machines, headed to the “head” (Navy speak for restroom), or while watching the sunset above decks.
Am I worried that I might not get a chance to close the deal by not sharing the entire story of faith at one time? Not at all. Again, I rely on the Holy Spirit to engage the person, not myself. I am a stepping stone, not the final product.
My mission is not affected by my work, and vice-versa. Military personnel are certainly able to reach out to their fellows with the Good News. In many, many ways, the harvest is ripe...we just need more laborers.
I realize you guys are always on duty when on deployment, but don't they give you guys free time? What exactly do the Navy regs say about sharing your faith?
I found this site while looking this very thing up..
It has a press release from 1997 in it. Go check out some of the things written in it. I am not sure it still applies, but it was found on the Office of Naval research Human Resources site.
"(2) Expression Among Fellow Employees. Employees should be permitted to engage in religious expression with fellow employees, to the same extent that they may engage in comparable nonreligious private expression, subject to reasonable and content-neutral standards and restrictions: such expression should not be restricted so long as it does not interfere with workplace efficiency. Though agencies are entitled to regulate such employee speech based on reasonable predictions of disruption, they should not restrict speech based on merely hypothetical concerns, having little basis in fact, that the speech will have a deleterious effect on workplace efficiency."
Thank you for the help here. I appreciate it. You're the second person to challenge my preconceived notions about ministry in the Navy and I'm grateful for it. I'm going to start opening up more and see what I can do. Thanks!
No problem Dan. I know it can be difficult to get things done in the military, but it sounds like you are right on track to break that mold!
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