Show and Tell: A Christian Designer's Guide to Faith in the Workplace

September 3rd, 2008 in Web Design Worldview

by: Matthew Griffin

How should a Christian manage his or her Christianity in the workplace? This is a question most Christian designers have considered at one time or another during the course of their career. In our current age (especially in America), the attitude of employers toward public displays of faith varies dramatically from one workplace to another. Some Christian designers work in a laid back work environment where outward displays of faith are seen as generally harmless (annoying at worst). Others work under management that is openly hostile toward Christianity. Still other Christian designers work for religious organizations where it's expected that every employee will let out a "praise God" from time to time. But a well-sharpened Christian should constantly work to shrug off the pressure of the situation and live a life of integrity. Christians have thrown the work integrity around so much that it seems to have lost its punch. Integrity has the same root work as integrate. It's used to describe a person that integrates one set of truths consistently in every situation. A person of integrity is the opposite of a hypocrite. In this article I'm going to paint a picture of biblical balance in the workplace and discuss some of the common philosophies that impair our ability to strike this balance.

Faith and Life: The Imaginary Divide

Faith and life are necessarily fused. Now, the question is: What do we do about it?

Possibly the most paralyzing lie Christians have accepted concerning the workplace is the myth of private faith. Many modern American Christians would agreed that faith is private and work is public. Work is something we can all agree on, while faith is a private, unrelated preference—an "upper story truth" as Francis Schaeffer called it. Nothing could be further from the truth. This secularist system that separates faith from life is nothing more than smoke. It assumes that we can carry out the day to day tasks required in a work environment—making decisions, setting goals, reprimanding employees—without consulting a worldview for guidance. This is an absurdity. To propose that anyone can labor as a pragmatic machine-like zombie with no foundational assumptions is completely out of touch with reality. You may be forbidden to discuss the underlying beliefs supporting your workplace actions, but you will never be able to rid yourself of any and all worldview. And all worldviews have religious implications of some kind.

For example, the very act of showing up to work automatically shows one very important aspect of my worldview. Namely, I believe work is worthwhile. Why is it worthwhile? Well, I can't really answer that question without revealing my religious beliefs. Even if I'm an atheist who believes that work is only worthwhile insofar as it furthers the survival of the human species, I can't answer the question honestly without essentially saying that God is non-existent. Such a claim would be a religious proposition based on faith. After all, I'm a finite being. I didn't witness the birth of the universe with my own two eyes. And even if I did, whose to say that my perception is reliable? You see? Faith and life are necessarily fused. Now, the question is: What do we do about it?

Ignorance Is No Excuse

This ridiculous divide between belief and life is easy to demolish in theory, but the practical side is another issue altogether. After spending years believing the lie of private faith, or at least living like you do, it can be difficult to imagine a model of what a Christian should look like in the workplace. Also, we're surrounded by a culture that has no concept of a life fully integrated with faith. In fact, most people (even many Christians) get uncomfortable when conversation turns to faith in the workplace. This state tends to have one of two extreme effects on Christian designers. We either embrace the lower story pragmatism and swap out our worldview when we go to work, or we become highly mystical and unapproachable. Both of these reactions are incorrect. The key is to work in a manner that fully integrates Christ as truth for all areas and remains sensitive to the philosophies of the age.

We haven't been given the gift of salvation so we can dream about heaven to make the work day go by faster.

The apostle Paul went to great lengths to know and understand the philosophies of his day. He argued with the Greeks and the Romans on their own terms and showed the superiority of Christ in every matter. Countless times in Paul's letters to the early churches he prays for their knowledge to increase. This is no accident. We need to know our stuff. Christian designers should know why they work and how their vocation fits into the purpose God has ordained for mankind. We haven't been given the gift of salvation so we can dream about heaven to make the work day go by faster. Salvation is for the whole of our being. Salvation permeates our lives, invigorating our spirit as well as our body, and restores us to the original purpose for which we were created. And work is a huge part of that original purpose. I recommend starting with David Chilton's Paradise Restored if you want to get a good primer on the biblical concept man's purpose. ( Note: Please don't go out and buy The Purpose Driven Life or any other modern Christian book on purpose. We don't need self-help principles in this case. We need depth and substance. I would be happy to recommend other books on the subject if you're interested.)

A Light in the World

Knowledge and a deeper understanding of the historical Christian concept of work and design will go a long way. But let's get even more practical.

  • A Christian designer should be first and foremost an excellent designer. He should study his craft the same way he studies his purpose under God.
  • He should be always growing gradually and never with impatience, understanding that vocational sanctification is just like spiritual sanctification—it takes a lifetime.
  • He should not be caught up in the latest trends but rather use wisdom to discern the the lasting versus the ephemeral.
  • He should be humble, never diminishing complements but always acknowledging the one to whom all praise is due.
  • He should be ready to praise excellent work produced by both Christians and non-Christians, recognizing that God's common grace has allowed all of mankind to participate in design.
  • Likewise, he should never be afraid to criticize evil, foolish, absurd, or shoddy work from both Christians and non-Christians.
  • He should work and design deliberately, always keeping God's purpose at the forefront of his mind.
  • He should always be ready with concrete answers about design and human purpose that resound to the praise of Christ.
  • He should be participating in a local church—the visible sign of Christ's reign on the earth—and encouraging other Christian designers to do the same. Designers are part of the diversity that should characterize the church. When we abandon Christ's church we are harming God's kingdom.

(Note: The hes in the previous list are obviously meant as generic. It applies to women as well.)

What About Witnessing? may shock you to know that [evangelism] is not the reason we were created.

You may have noticed that I didn't specifically mention preaching the gospel in my list. For sure, preaching the gospel is a Christ ordained activity in which all Christians can and should participate. But it may shock you to know that it's not the reason we were created. It's not our number one goal to drag as many people to heaven with us as possible. If it is, Adam and Eve were created for no purpose at all. God created humankind in a right relationship with him. It is sin that has made evangelism necessary and, by the grace of God, we are now allowed to participate in God's plan for reinstating his elect to their original purpose. But evangelism is only part our overall purpose to establish Christ's kingdom on earth.

If you want to change the world with the gospel, look to God's primary means of evangelism and evangelize your children. That's right, it's in the context of the family that effective Christian men and women are most often raised up. Oh, and I guess that means you should probably rethink your plans to go through life childless. The purpose of humankind is all wrapped up in the family. For some this may be old news but for the "alter call is everything" Christians it will probably sound blasphemous. I realize I may receive some objections for this section but please understand, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't attempt to evangelize your coworkers. I just want to encourage a right perspective on the issue. Biblical balance is the first priority.


This article is probably different that what you may have been expecting. I really wanted to get to the heart of the issue here. I think the "5 steps to this" and "20 ways to that" can be helpful but never in a deep life changing way. I wanted to stay away from that over practical style in this case and focus more on principles. After all, it's principles that guide our lives, not simple steps. For more reading, you may want to read the sixth part in my web design worldview series entitled Web Design Worldview (Part 6): A Christian Web Design Manifesto.



Posted By: Ross Aitken on 09/03/08

Some important points in this article, thanks for sharing your opinion. As a christian myself I can relate to what you're saying and found it useful:)

Posted By: Matthew Grffin on 09/03/08

Thanks, Ross. Glad you found it helpful.

Posted By: mark on 09/04/08

this was great! i have a link on my site expressing my faith in Christ, and by and large, the response has been great! so thanks for this article. i will share it with my design buds.

Posted By: bc on 09/04/08

I'm a former christian who finally saw the light of truth, though not the one you all think. I finally saw through the sham that is derives from religious memes. Please keep your faith to yourself. It is more than annoying to others -- it is insulting. Most evangelic christians don't seem to realize (or don't care) how completely hateful their attitude toward the "unsaved" becomes as they work toward more pious proselytizing activity. Save your "belief talk" for your private life. One day all religious belief will be classified as a mental illness. That will be a great day indeed.

Posted By: Ant on 09/04/08

Hey Matthew - thanks for the article - i'm a christian designer too and love to see that there are others in love with Jesus and wanting to make a difference for Him. To bc, I'm sorry you feel this way but if your relationship with other christians only showed hate - then I'm afraid that they were just religious Christians and not Sons of God. Also just one thing to add is that you are looking at people - and people will always mess up - but Christianity calls us to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our Faith - others will mess up and fail but Jesus never did. He only loved, He never had a bad attitude towards any unsaved person - only love. I'm sorry if you were hurt by a christian - but Christ's love will never fail so just my 2cents.

Posted By: Andrew on 09/04/08

Thanks a lot for your article. It's such an important message. Really appreciate it. The parts on working hard and family are things I've been thinking about a lot. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding in those areas. Thanks.

Posted By: Matthew Griffin on 09/04/08

Thanks everyone for your comments--especially bc. I think Christians have shied away from this open forum-like setting because we've been afraid of comments like yours. As a whole we've forgotten the strength and resiliency of our intellectual tradition. We are afraid that if we follow our Christ to his rational end, we might fall off the edge of the earth. But if that's the case then we're wasting our time with Christianity. More than anything bc, I'm sorry that you've only had the opportunity to see a shallow kitschy Christianity. And if you want to lock up Christians in the loony bin, I'll be happy to take my place right along site Luther, Calvin, Newton, Alexander Graham Bell, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Aquinas, Augustine, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and all the other crazies.

Posted By: Jason Cochran on 09/04/08

I send a good fist-pumping dog pound "Woo Woo Woo Woo!!" your way for standing up for you beliefs, Matt and BC. BC is right on one hand because it can be quite annoying for any person, no matter their particular belief, to belittle or "bible thump" someone else because their beliefs differ. But, at the same time, to be cynical and hateful towards those that have beliefs is a waste of time and energy. It accomplishes nothing. BC needs to have a more mature understanding and stance. Your concept that religion is a "mental illness" comes from the same place that created that concept; your mind. Belief in a greater good, a higher power, has motivated and captivated man since before recorded time. Cave men buried their dead with flowers which showed a belief. So I guess the "mental illness" began with them. Belief in nothing is what is truly crazy. I know how lonely that can be. You must find the beauty in God. It does not have to be someone else idea of God. There is no ONE correct way of believing or concept about what God should be. In the end, "God" is just a concept created by your mind. No two Christians will have the same concept, for example. This is separate from the actual God that exists. "God" can be a deity, a tree, or just the Universe. Finding the beauty in God is finding the beauty in yourself. Don't give up on faith and don't give up on those that have faith.

Posted By: Matthew Griffin on 09/04/08

Thanks for jumping in there, Jason. And while I agree that our understanding of God varies somewhat from person to person, this does not diminish the fact that without a unified reality, any functioning consciousness would be impossible. As finite beings we are unable to fully comprehend God but that does not mean he is unknowable. Though it takes a full measure of his grace to apprehend him, he is knowable. A beauty found in an admittedly relativistic construct called "god" is meaningless vapor. It's a sentimental postmodern ideal that shatters at the slightest touch. When everything is true, nothing is true. And when relativism does shatter, nothingness is what's left. Relativism is just a last ditch effort before we plunge into nihilism. Plato and Aristotle fought the same thinking in their day thousands of years ago. They failed to finally reach the true God but they danced all around him. Just ask Thomas Aquinas.

Posted By: Jason Cochran on 09/04/08

I agree with you about the unification aspect. Scientists call it "String" theory. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is called "Consciousness" or "Isness". In Christianity and Judaism it is called a "Soul". It is my opinion that all of these great teachings are pointing towards the same Unified Reality, to borrow your language. I disagree with those that say what we do here on this tiny little dirt ball called Earth has nothing to do with the rest of the Universe. We are not just ripples in a pond, but we are the pond and the ripples at the same time. Like you said, we are finite. But I think only in our material existence; in our current form. The rest of the material Universe is finite as well. Everything that exists now will not exist except for existence itself. Our "knowing" of God is relative to our perception of what our sense perceptions tell us about reality. The mind itself cannot directly perceive reality. Our experience is what is relative. Our consciousness, "soul", is absolute.

Posted By: Matthew Grffin on 09/04/08

All other issues aside, Jason, I have to say that I (as well as historical Christianity) disagree completely with the modern Jungian idea that all religions are pointing to the same unified reality. The fact that all religions take a position on what reality is (even if that position is that they have no position) is of no consequence. Christ said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." Nothing could be more exclusive; nothing could be more offensive to the postmodern mind. Christ is the foundation of Christianity, and he says that no one can get to God unless they go through him. I venture to say that a Buddhist monk would disagree with that. A Buddhist monk sees no need for salvation. He is set on ridding himself of the samsura of this world and achieving a state of total emptiness. These two views completely contradict each other. They are mutually exclusive. They don't see the same beginning, middle, or end. And the law of non-contradiction disallows them from both being right.

Posted By: Wilbur Entz on 09/05/08

One reason people do not tell fellow emplyees that thay are Christians is that as soon as you tell them that you are a Christian the fellow employee jerks begin to watch you like a hawk! This is why I read your article, to see what you had to say aout that.

Posted By: gianni Wise on 09/06/08

Agreed totally .. as a non-(north) american.. your country could well listen to these points especially "It's not our number one goal to drag as many people to heaven with us as possible. "

Posted By: rico on 09/07/08

I think religion in the workplace is terrible. It's bad enough it has polluted our national politics, but to poison our offices with mindless superstition is pure insanity. Keep it in your homes or churches. Not everyone appreciates your stupid mind-washing. We are at work to do a job. Leave the preaching to the corrupt pastors living high on the tithes. PS. The earth is round, creationism is a delusion of the insane, and christ never existed.

Posted By: PapaWes on 09/11/08

Rico, it is unfortunate that you are not able to experience a workplace without God, for then you would know what is truly terrible. PS. God created the earth, the insane, and when your earthly existence ceases, you will have an opportunity to meet the Christ.

Posted By: modern native on 09/17/08

Thanx for assisting with helpful guidelines in this walk with Christ.

Posted By: Matthew Grffin on 09/17/08

Thanks, modern native.

Posted By: Stephen Olmstead on 09/25/08

Wilbur- I think what you are touching on is an important point here that a lot of Christians face: a fear of becoming the token outcast when they make their beliefs known in the workplace. However, I would encourage you to remember the words of James 1:2-4: �Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.� So rather than shy away from the judgement of fellow employees, I would contend that we ought to embrace that scrutiny. The watchful (and often cynical) eye of your coworkers is a fantastic opportunity for you to live out the word according to scripture!

Unbelievers are quick to cry 'hypocrite'... and with good reason! This world is full of half-hearted individuals claiming Christ as a trendy brand name, not as an all-powerful Savior. Add to this a multitude of unscrupulous televangelists clambering for money, seeker-friendly churches sacrificing gospel truth for attendance numbers, and Christians hiding their faith rather than shining it, and you can begin to understand why your coworkers are often so skeptical when you tell them that you are a Christian. The term 'Christian' has come to mean a great many things today, many of which are an unfortunate commentary on the state of sinful, unregenerate man. But rather than retreat into the protective shell of societal norms, we should recognize this as an awesome opportunity to shine forth the true call of the gospel and apply our faith to every aspect of our lives... including our professional careers.

You aren't going to live out your life perfectly in front of your co-workers; you're going to blow it sometimes... quite possibly a lot of times. In moments like these Christians ought to be the first ones to step forward and say, �You know what, I'm sorry- I really messed up on that. Would you forgive me for my wrong actions?� Just having an attitude of humility and grace speaks bounds- it shows your co-workers that you realize you are fallen and errant and in no way above them. Your coworkers have the unique opportunity to see how you live out your life over an extended period of time. In a very realistic sense they are often more alert to the motives of your heart than others due to the extended amounts of time that you spend with them. This unabashed picture of you should allow them to see that the only difference between you and them is God's saving grace in your own life. This is something you can't learn in a twelve-step program, it's the power of God at work in His elect.

And to be honest, that's really the point here. We have nothing to offer this world apart from God's grace; we, in and of ourselves, are not worthy of admiration. This is exactly why faith and life are necessarily fused for the Bible-believing Christian: anything apart from God's grace is merely temporal.

Thanks for this post Matthew- it was a true breath of fresh air... I think I'm going to go print out your �Light of the World� list and post it up somewhere in my office so that I'm reminded of the scriptural mandate of how I ought to conduct myself as a Graphic Designer.

Posted By: Matthew Grffin on 09/25/08

Thanks, Stephen.

Posted By: David on 04/23/09

Check out a great blog that has a running discussion about this at:

Post Your Comment

Comments are closed.