How To Talk About Jesus At Work – Dr Sam Chan

Most Christians don’t know how to talk about Jesus at work


From Luke’s Journal Jan 2023  |  Vol.28 No.1  |  Evolving Professionals

Image by pch.vector on Freepik

I work part-time as a surgical assistant.

 One day, the anaesthetic nurse asked me, “What do you do during the rest of the week?”

I replied, “I’m in Christian ministry. I give talks about Jesus from the Bible.”

She looked disturbed.

“Oh no! I’ve offended her,” I thought.

A few hours later, the same nurse approached me.

“I’m also a Christian,” she gladly declared. “I regularly attend church. In fact, I’m going to my church retreat this weekend.”

I thought, “Wow! She’s a Christian.”

Even a fellow Christian didn’t know how to talk to me about Jesus!

I’ll give you another example.

I was a patient attending a hospital outpatient clinic. The doctor asked me what I do for work. I told him that I was in Christian ministry.

“Oh, that explains the Bible verse on your t-shirt,” He observed coldly.

For the next few minutes, there was an awkward silence as he sat a distance from me, writing notes on my file.

Then, without looking up, he asked, “Which Bible college did you go to?”

I replied, “You seem to know a lot about Bible colleges. Do you go to church?”

“Yes,” he replied and named a well-known church in my city.

Again, I thought, “Wow! He’s a Christian.” He too didn’t know how to identify as a Christian while he was at work.

Most of us are the same. We don’t know how to talk about Jesus in the public sphere, especially if it’s in the workplace. This is a problem that we all face. We spend most of our waking hours at work. Many of our friends may come from work. But we simply don’t know how to talk about Jesus to our work friends.

So what can we do about this? I’m going to share four tips that are working for me right now, and I hope they also work for you.

Image by pch.vector at Freepik

Tip #1. Merge our Universes of Friends

In my book, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being THAT Guy), I mention the following scenario. Imagine if I told you a UFO landed in my backyard last night and that it took me to the planet Jupiter and back. Most of you won’t believe me.

Now, let’s flip the scenario. Imagine if I told you that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – born from a virgin. More than that, Jesus died on the cross and rose back to life again three days later. He’s going to come back one day. That’s when your body will be resurrected and reunited with Jesus. Most of you, Christian readers, will believe me.

So why will you believe the Jesus story but not the Jupiter story? They both sound unbelievable. And let’s face it, the Jesus story is more unbelievable than the Jupiter story. So why will you happily believe one story but not the other?

This is because you have ‘plausibility structures’ that pre-determine what you choose as ‘believable’ or ‘unbelievable’. As I tell you the Jupiter story, your plausibility structures are raising red flags and screaming ‘unbelievable!’. In contrast, as I tell you the Jesus story, your plausibility structures are green lighting my statements as ‘believable!’.

So, where do our plausibility structures come from?

They come from three sources: (1) our community of friends, (2) our experiences, and (3) facts, evidence, and data.

You don’t believe my Jupiter story because (1) you don’t have friends that believe in UFOs, (2) you have never experienced a UFO, and (3) you don’t believe there’s any evidence for UFOs.

On the contrary, you believe my Jesus story because (1) you have friends who believe in Jesus, (2) you’ve had a personal experience of Jesus, and (3) you believe there’s evidence to support the Jesus story.

Do you know what is the most powerful determinant of belief?

It’s Community.

Surprisingly, facts, evidence and data are the least powerful.

For example, if I asked you to come now to my backyard to check out the UFO for yourself, most of you couldn’t be bothered. If you did come and see the UFO, you will convince yourself that it’s an elaborate hoax and that there must be some other explanation. You will explain away any evidence.

Now, picture this: We’re now in a room of a hundred of your trusted friends. When I tell my UFO story, the story is unbelievable because I’m the only bozo in the room telling you this story.

But imagine if, as I tell my UFO story, half the room yells, “Me too! That also happened to me last night!”. Now my story is more believable because half the room also believes the story. Imagine if the whole room yelled, “Me too! That also happened to me last night.”

Now, my story is extremely believable because the whole room believes the story. You’re the only bozo who doesn’t believe.

“Now, my story is extremely believable because the whole room believes the story. You’re the only bozo who doesn’t believe.”

That’s why the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 that he wasn’t the only one who saw that Christ had risen from the dead. Peter also saw that Christ had risen from the dead. The twelve apostles also saw that Christ had risen from the dead. Oh, and five hundred others also saw that Christ had risen from the dead.

We’re not talking about the truth status of the gospel. Christ rose from the dead whether we believe it or not. Here, we’re talking about the believability status of the gospel. It’s much easier to believe something that our friends also believe.

You might ask, why am I telling you this?

Well, typically Christians will try to ‘do evangelism’ as a solo effort. We bravely go out solo to talk about Jesus. This is noble. However, as long as we’re the only one telling the Jesus story, our message will be unbelievable because we’re the only bozo who believes it.

Now, imagine if we’re not the only bozo in the room.

You see, typically as Christians, we have two universes of friends. We have a universe of Christian friends and a universe of non-Christian friends. We keep these two universes separate. So, when our Christian friends have a BBQ, we only invite our Christian friends. Or when our non-Christian friends go to the movies, we only invite our non-Christian friends.

What if we merge our universes of friends? What if we introduce our Christian friends to our non-Christian friends and our non-Christian friends to our Christian friends? Now, when our Christian friends have a BBQ, we also invite our non-Christian friends. And when our non-Christian friends go to the movies, we also invite our Christian friends. In this way, our universes of friends are merged. Suddenly, the good news about Jesus, will become more plausible because many trusted friends also believe in the Jesus story.

When I was a junior doctor, I lived in hospital accommodation with three other junior doctors who weren’t Christians. But when my church friends came to visit, they befriended my three flatmates. When my church friends had a BBQ, we invited my three flatmates. When my three flatmates went to the movies, I invited my church friends. Soon, my three flatmates started coming to my church. After two years, all three flatmates decided to become Christians. They decided to know, love, and worship Jesus. Why? This is because the story had become more believable, because they now belonged to a community of believers and adopted their plausibility structures.

Image by pch.vector at Freepik

Tip #2. Coffee – Dinner – Gospel

How do we bring up the topic of Jesus? This task seems too overwhelming.


Break it down into bite-sized, concrete, achievable steps.

What are these steps?

The steps are (1) coffee, (2) dinner, and (3) gospel.

Begin with an invitation to have a coffee. This is a safe invitation. It will be in a public space. It will only take 10 minutes. And the conversation will be about interests. We ask questions like, “What did you do on the weekend?” and “What books are you reading?” After a few coffee invitations, try an invitation to do a meal – lunch or dinner. This is a bigger invitation. It will be in a private space. It will be a one hour investment. The conversation will now move to values. We ask questions like, “Where will you send the kids to school?” and “What do you hope to do in the holidays?”

After a few conversations, if we prove that we’re good listeners and we listen without judgment, the conversation moves to worldviews. We ask questions like, “What does it all mean?” Here, we begin to talk about reality, purpose, death, and God.

If we’ve asked questions and listened to understand, our friends will soon reciprocate. If we’ve listened without judgment, they will likely do the same for us. Soon, they will ask us questions about our interests, values, and worldviews. This is where gospel opportunities will occur.

“Hospitality gives the space and permission for evangelism to occur.”

“Coffee – Dinner – Gospel” is really hospitality in disguise. Hospitality is everywhere in the Bible. Hospitality gives the space and permission for evangelism to occur. Hospitality invites people to be open and vulnerable, and talk about what’s deepest and most real to them. Hospitality earns us the right to share our views in return.

In the workplace, we look for creative ways to do hospitality. For example, we offer to do a coffee run for our work friends. When we hand them their coffee, tell them that we’re paying – after all, the essence of hospitality is that it costs time and money. As we hand them their coffee, ask them about the weekend.

Next, we offer to do a lunch run to the shops. When we hand our friends their lunch, tell them it’s on us. As we eat lunch, ask them what their plans are for the holidays.

In hospital settings, there’s often a cake roster. For example, when I assist a particular surgeon, the nurses take turns to bake a cake. But typically, doctors don’t do any cake baking. So, I bucked the trend and put myself on the cake roster. This earned me trust and a lot of social capital. This opened up opportunities to ask deeper questions as we ate the cake during a break between cases.

As another example, when a nurse had a son, I gave him a “daddy survival kit” – a bottle of bourbon, some parenting books, and children’s books. The parenting and children’s books were a combination of non-Christian and Christian books. As I gave him the books, I explained how my faith made a difference in my parenting. I was able to do this because this act and other prior acts of hospitality gave me the permission to do so.

Image by pch.vector at Freepik

Tip #3. Become the Unofficial De-Facto Chaplain

As Christians in the workplace, we can position ourselves as the unofficial de-facto chaplain in the workplace.

How do we earn this right?

First, we can be a calm and non-anxious presence in the workplace. Have you noticed Jesus during his trial and crucifixion (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19)? He was surrounded by chaos, but he was the calm and non-anxious presence.

Healthcare settings are also places of chaos, but we can channel Jesus and be the calm, non-anxious presence. We trust that God has everything under control. We know Jesus is bigger than our shortcomings.

I once joked with a scrub nurse that I was the least important person in the operating theatre. If anyone else didn’t turn up to work – the surgeon, anaesthetist, nurse – then the operation couldn’t happen. But if I didn’t turn up, the operation could continue – and may possibly go better without me!

“No!” she exclaimed. “You’re the one who keeps everyone calm.”

I hadn’t noticed it but everyone else had noticed it.

I was the peacemaker.

Second, we display wisdom. By being filled with God’s wisdom, by and large, we become good at what we do. For example, we are wise in relationships, health, and work (e.g., book of Proverbs, Colossians 3-4, Ephesians 5-6). We become like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Queen Esther in Persia. We stand out as God’s people because of our wisdom.

Sooner or later, our wisdom will give us entry points into the gospel. Our friends see that life works better if we have the gospel and they will come to us for our wisdom. For example, a nurse asked me for some parenting tips. I gave her some basic wisdom from the Bible. She was delighted with the advice. “You should write this all down as a book!” she happily told me.

Third, we show that we care. For example, I make the effort to learn the names of everyone at work. I try hard to remember the names of partners and children. I make an extra effort to remember the names of those whose names I don’t need to know, such as the cleaners. Whenever I see them, I call them by name and ask how they’re going.

Fourth, I show genuine curiosity. I see everyone at work as they really are – a person in the image of God. They’re the most important and interesting person in the universe in front of me right now. I’m genuinely curious about how they’re going. I ask about their weekends, hobbies, and family. If they tell me they have a family picnic coming up, I check in the following week and ask about the picnic. I also find it useful to ask about a person’s tattoos and what they mean. I also ask what new tattoos they have planned.

Fifth, we ask the follow-up question. I call this the “Power of the Second Question.” For example, I once asked a nurse about his Christmas holidays. He told me that his extended family came to stay. So, I asked the follow-up question, “How was that really?” That’s when he opened-up to share how difficult it was.

“If people feel safe to be vulnerable and share their struggles with us, we can show we understand by articulating their issues, emotions, and fears.”

Sixth, we’re the ones who offer to understand. If people feel safe to be vulnerable and share their struggles with us, we can show we understand by articulating their issues, emotions, and fears. For example, I once asked a nurse about her children. She opened-up that they were having learning difficulties.

I articulated, “You’re worried that they’re going to fall behind.”

Her eyes lit up and said, “Yes! That’s exactly what it is!”

I had both summarised and affirmed what she was feeling. I demonstrated that I understood her. There’s a saying: “Home is where you’re understood”.[i] So we demonstrate that we can be their ‘home away from home’.

Seventh, we offer to pray. After someone has shared their struggles, I say, “My wife and children pray every night for our friends. Is it OK if we prayed for you tonight?” I find that if we’ve earned enough trust, and that our friend has opened-up to share their struggles, then they gladly welcome my offer to pray.

After a few days, I check in and ask, “We prayed for you the other night. How are things?” Often, they will say that the situation has improved. That’s when I introduce the language of providence by saying, “It’s a miracle!”

Eighth, we ask what I call “Nudge Questions”. Nudge Questions do exactly that. They nudge the conversations into matters of faith. My favourite nudge questions are, “What religion did your parents raise you with?”[ii] and “Do you have a faith?”

These are very safe questions. Our friends can choose how deep they want to go with their answer. But it lets us know their faith position. And it now opens opportunities for us to talk about our faith.

Ninth, we talk about our faith. The sooner we ‘come out’ as Christians, the easier it will be to talk about Jesus. Here we simply trust that Jesus is bigger than our awkward attempts. We’re also not responsible for how our friend responds. But, in general, I find that our friends will only be as uncomfortable as we are uncomfortable talking about Jesus.

I deliberately try to be as concrete and precise as possible when I talk about my faith. For example, if my work friend asks what I did on the weekend, I say, “My family went to church, and I was on the audiovisual team. My boys went to Sunday School and studied the Bible.” And then I can redirect the question back and ask, “What religion did you grow up with?” and see where that goes.

Image by pch.vector at Freepik

Tip #4. Network Christians with Each Other at Work

Christians are disproportionately over-represented in the healthcare sector. There are so many of us! But we’re also disproportionately under-leveraged. We’re invisible.

At work, I deliberately ‘out’ Christians to each other. For example, I will say to a doctor who I know is a Christian, “Hey Mark! Did you know that John here, the radiographer, is also a Christian?” The result is that both are pleasantly surprised that they’re not the only Christian in the hospital. They then have great conversations about which church they go to, etc. This also means that the next time they meet, they will have faith conversations rather than talk about the weather.

This happened to Elijah, who thought that he was the only God-follower (1 Kings 19:14). Elijah was shocked to find that there were seven thousand other followers (1 Kings 19:18)!

If I know that a worker is a Christian, I ask them what’s their favourite Bible verse.[iii] This lets us have faith conversations at work. It also lets me know about their spiritual journey and passions.

I also try to have Christian conversations with other Christians within earshot of other people. We can talk about what we’re reading in the Bible. Or we can talk about church. These conversations ‘out’ us as Christians and normalise conversations about faith.

The next step is to network Christian workers with each other, where we regularly pray for each other and for our non-Christian work friends. If possible, the networked Christians can also put on special events for Easter and Christmas and invite their non-Christian work friends. In this way, we can ‘merge our universes’ (tip #1) and introduce our non-Christian friends to our Christian friends.

When I’m not working as a doctor, I work for City Bible Forum. City Bible Forum networks Christians with each other in the workplace. We empower them to share Jesus with their work friends. We equip them to read the Bible with their work friends by using the Word 121.[iv] We also help them to put on special events, where I attend and give a talk.


It can be intimidating talking about Jesus at work. Studies have shown that although a non-believer might have a problem with the abstract idea of ‘Christianity’, they don’t have a problem with the Christian friend in their life. Moreover, a non-believer prefers to hear about Jesus through a conversation with that Christian friend.[v]

When I go to work as a Christian doctor, I like to see myself as Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Queen Esther in Persia. I am a ‘foreigner’ who spreads God’s blessing to those around me. More than this, each day might contain a “for such a time as this” moment (Esther 4:14) where God gives me a chance to own my faith and tell others about Jesus.

Dr Sam Chan
Dr Sam Chan is a cultural analyst and public speaker for City Bible Forum. Author of How to Talk About Jesus – Without Being That Guy (Outreach Magazine’s Resource of the Year 2021) and Evangelism in a Skeptical World (Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Award). Blogger at Karaoke buddy. Follow him on Twitter@drsamchan


More Timeless Articles

Would you like to contribute content to Luke’s Journal?  Find out more…


  1. I first heard this from Craig Springer, from Alpha USA.
  2. Wendy Potts taught me this.
  3. John Ryan taught me this.
  5. Research by