What do the Bible and a company employee manual have in common? For some, they both collect dust. For Waypoint Church in Durham, they’re both important tools for taking the gospel to the nations.
Waypoint wants Christians to put the gospel to work in the professional world; they believe doing so in a city with a swelling immigrant population is an effective missionary strategy for impacting the nations.
Waypoint began September 2014 in Durham, N.C. as a church plant from The Summit Church. Josh Benfield, associate pastor for formation at Waypoint, said the motivation to start a new church came from the high number of people immigrating to the area near Research Triangle Park (RTP), a commercial district between Raleigh and Durham that’s one of the most prominent technology and research centers in the U.S.
Josh Benfield, associate pastor for formation at Waypoint Church in Durham, sees many opportunities to reach internationals with the gospel.
They want to be a church “comprised of many nations.” It’s a vision shared by Benfield, who is a former international missionary, and Waypoint’s lead pastor, Lawrence Yoo, a Korean American.
“Being from an immigrant family, I have experienced first-hand the struggle of finding my own cultural identity. … It is my desire to awaken people to their true identity that is found in the gospel,” Yoo said on the church’s website.
Benfield sees lots of opportunities for reaching internationals with the gospel in Durham – and by extension, their friends and relatives overseas. “If you can reach Durham,” he said, “you can reach the nations.”
Many immigrants come to the area for political asylum. There are entire communities in Durham comprised of refugees. They often face cultural, linguistic and citizenship obstacles and are not able to find employment. Waypoint ministers to these groups. There are others working high-level jobs at technology companies or in the large healthcare system across RTP; still more are studying at one of the 15 major colleges and universities. Waypoint church members work and do business with many of these immigrants.
By integrating the gospel into their vocational settings, Waypoint church members can express their faith in everyday life and reach the nations at the same time.
Benfield said engaging the workplace as a mission field is both a part of Waypoint’s identity and a part of their evangelistic strategy. “Whatever your station in life … we feel that God has placed you there for a purpose. You are a missionary in that place.
“You wake up every day on the mission field,” said Benfield. Whether as a spouse or parent, everyone has a ministry in their own home.
That ministry extends out the front door too. “Going to work should not feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get to work so I can get my job done … so that I can get to the church and do something significant for the kingdom,’ he said.
“If you’re at RTP, if you work at Chick-fil-A or Panera Bread, or if you work for the City of Durham – no matter what you do, you are a missionary to that place and that context.”
Benfield said Waypoint values this vision for everyday missions, and wanted to know more about practical, ethical ways to share the gospel in the workplace. So, they reached out to Marketplace Advance, a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, to conduct a training session at Waypoint.
On the job training
On Feb. 21, Waypoint invited the Marketplace Advance team to lead a portion of a weekend “Missions Marathon” at their church. “People were very interested in developing goals and strategies on how to effectively communicate the gospel and reach people at their workplace.”
In a breakfast session, the Marketplace Advance team gave practical advice and helpful training on starting gospel conversations and Bible studies. They also talked about ethical questions related to sharing the gospel at work.
Jayson Georges, a missionary to Central Asia for nine years and writer behind honorshame.com, was the keynote speaker of the weekend. He offered Waypoint principles about evangelizing people from honor-shame and fear-based cultures.
The missions marathon was bookended by times of celebration and prayer for missions around the globe.
Attendees left the training with homework, said Benfield. The task was to find their company’s employee manual and determine what kinds of discussion topics are acceptable at their workplace. Sometimes Christians feel like they can’t share their faith at work when their company may actually allow it, according to Benfield. Others may in fact be restricted from doing so.
Either way, the veil of uncertainty lifts and Christians can be sure about what they can and cannot say at work. “Satan sometimes uses [uncertainty] as a strategy to put fear in our hearts,” said Benfield.
Attendees will gather again in the near future to discuss what they’ve discovered about restrictions in their work environment.
Benfield said they’ve seen results from the training already. A software engineer in their church began meeting with junior colleagues regularly to pray, talk about the faith and fellowship. There are others in the church too that are using the strategies they learned to share the gospel with their co-workers.
“Evangelism was at the heart of our people, but maybe it wasn’t necessarily coming through their lips,” said Benfield. “Some of the training taught them some easier practical strategies which has helped them say, ‘Hey, I can share my faith. This has given me a way to do it that is easier than what I’ve done before.’”