Living Your Faith at Work
Thursday, September 7, 2017
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What does it look like for someone to successfully share their faith at work? When I think of that question, the answer for me is two words: Joe Talamo. I am pleased to have Joe on the board of The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life and Vocations where he serves as our Secretary. Why did I invite him on the board? Because I have not met anybody who more naturally and boldly sees his work as his mission field. Joe is a high-level executive in the service industry, working for the ninth largest employer in the world. At every stage of his career, he has seen people come to faith at his workplace.
As we often do, Joe and I met at our favorite little Chinese restaurant, and over Hunan Chicken for me and some extremely healthy choice for him (Joe is passionate about his health and fitness), we discussed his experiences.
Bob: Why are you so on fire to share your faith at work?
Joe: I believe that my mission field, our mission field, is the land between our two feet—wherever we are. I've made my priority my home and my work. So, as a vice president, or as a director earlier in my career, I always thought of my work as my mission field. What does a missionary do? A missionary goes somewhere to share Jesus, but first they build themselves into a culture, right? They live, they get a job, they develop relationships. It's no different than what we do - we build relationships. Missionaries don't tell people about Christ right away—they have to develop relationships. And work has been my mission field.
B: How has your experience of attempting to share your faith changed over the years as you've gained more authority in your career?
J: I don't think there is a big distinction in my experience as I've been promoted. There's probably been ten promotions along the way over the last 33 years, and whatever position I was in I attempted to do my job well—to be the very best employee I could be. And I actually did well, praise God, and got recognition from a corporate perspective often. As I sought excellence in my work, I had opportunities where my boss and coworkers would ask me, "What makes you tick? What motivates you?" People ask you that when you're different. I can give you lots of stories of how God has given me opportunities to lead people to Christ. At different levels: hourly associates making a minimum wage, peers, and vice presidents.
B: Tell us a story of when someone asked you "What makes you tick?"
J: So I have a union steward who doesn't like me because I'm management. He hates my guts. And he's calling me at five in the morning, eleven at night—"I need to see you"—because I'm the manager and he's complaining about this, that, and the other thing. And because of the Lord and knowing what my mission field was, most of the time I met his needs. I was always there for him, even though he didn't like me. Of course, I felt that some of his demands were unfair, so I had to negotiate with him—but always with patience and love. I kept working hard to show him Christ somehow, without having a chance to say anything. And this guy was arguably the most frustrating person in the entire health care system. Everybody knew him.
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