This article was originally published on January 21, 2021 at the Thorns and Thistles section of the Gospel Coalition and appears here by permission.
By Charlie Self
I’m looking for a new job, and so I’ve been doing various interviews. I’m not sure how forthright to be about my faith. Do I leave it out of the conversation unless the interviewer brings it up? Do I slide it into the conversation, perhaps by referencing my church or my wife’s job (which is at a Christian organization)? I want to be a witness to everyone, even my interviewer. But I also don’t want to be overbearing. And I do want to get a job. What should I do?
I commend your desire to honor God and give witness to Christ’s gospel in all circumstances. Please keep that disposition, and allow it to be tempered with wisdom.
Thinking carefully about how we answer questions is not capitulation to compromise or fear. The apostle Paul sometimes positioned himself as a faithful Jew contending for the resurrection when he was before Roman authorities. In other moments he took on skeptical philosophers, using their own literature to evangelize.
In the same way, your answers may depend on what company you’re interviewing with, the questions of your interviewer, and how well—if at all—you know that person.
Generally, the interviewer is in charge of the conversation. Out of respect for them, it’s wise to follow their lead—answering the questions to the best of your ability, then expanding when prompted. If you are asked directly about matters of faith, you can answer honestly. If the conversation drifts into what you did last weekend, you may want to mention the church service you attended or the volunteer work you did.
Here are two cautions:
First, if the questions about religion seem pointed or hostile, you have the right to challenge them, since religious discrimination is forbidden by law.
Second, don’t be pushy or dogmatic. One of Christianity’s great contributions to the world is freedom of conscience and religion. Christ invites us to follow him voluntarily (Luke 9:56–63). Generosity and sacrifice for the sake of others is voluntary (2 Cor. 8–9). In a pluralistic world, we desire for all others the liberties we want ourselves. Our aim is humble obedience, not haughty obnoxiousness.
Being ready to share your faith with gentleness and respect is good (1 Pet. 3:15–16). But if the opportunity for a direct testimony doesn’t open up, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a witness.
If you are asked about guiding principles and ethics, or if it’s an inquiry about integrity, you can bring biblical truth to the conversation without becoming preachy. A Christian executive-employment coach offered these pointers to professionals as they sought fidelity to Christ in the workplace:
Let the interviewer know your decisions are guided by the timeless values of clarity, honesty, and integrity.
Communicate your willingness to work with people of all cultures and lifestyles in an environment of mutual respect and common mission. If you are pressed on “tolerance,” you can offer that there is a difference between living peaceably with different views and being compelled to promote attitudes and actions contrary to conscience.
If an interviewer goes “off the record” and wants to know more about your beliefs, ask for a completely separate setting and distinguish a personal conversation from a professional one. You do not want to be trapped and then accused of preaching or imposing your religion.
There will be moments when you must declare the truth. Doing so with kindness and inviting further dialogue is vital. It’s also important to remind coworkers that other religions have moral absolutes as well, and singling out Christianity is unhelpful in a larger conversation.
Even if we do everything wisely, there is still a real spiritual battle. All our communication must be infused with deep prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Years ago, I worked for a technology firm in Silicon Valley. One day I was invited into a manager’s office to discuss some difficult accounts. After the business was done, the manager commented, “I hear you are a minister and going to seminary.”
I affirmed the rumor. The manager continued, “I grew up in church but left it behind in college.” When I asked why, the manager replied, “I was weary of feeling condemned while I tried to follow all the rules.” Fervently praying, I sensed an opportunity. I asked, “May I share some thoughts about Christianity with you? Can we consider this a personal conversation?” With permission, I shared a one-minute presentation of the gospel of grace. The conversation ended with the manager pledging to consider God’s invitation.
All our communication must be infused with deep prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
If you’re asked directly about being a believer, answer kindly in the affirmative and inquire if the person desires to dialogue outside of work. Be alert for traps that will try to paint you as intolerant.
This is why the apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and to seek the mind of Christ through reliance on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:16). Be alert for opportunities to share, while being wary of snares. With God’s help, you can walk in confidence and wisdom.