Phil Miglioratti @ The Reimagine.Network Interviewed Rick Ezell on the Importance of Workplace in Making Disciples
PHIL>>> RIck, the process of making disciples emphasizes the global scope of The Great Commission but seems to ignore the in our communities workplace...
RICK>>> Henry Blackaby once said that the next great movement of God would be the workplace. An awakening of sorts is occurring in the marketplace with a variety of ministries targeting businesses and business leaders. And why not. We spend 90,000 hours of our adult lives at work. That's a lot of time to spend with people who for many don't attend church and have no Christian influence. The workplace has become a strategic area for evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission.
PHIL>>> You pastored churches in Indiana, Illinois, and South Carolina before launching Employee Care of America. How did the Spirit of God change the direction of your ministry?
RICK>>> I had always had an affinity for the workplace. My Dad was a business owner. My brother is an entrepreneur. When I pastored in Illinois the church was filled largely with white-collar professionals. When I moved to South Carolina I launched a ministry for the business leaders in our community. I saw fewer and fewer people attending church without the support and care a church offers. Seeing this need, I launched ECA, which is a workplace chaplaincy ministry that partners with businesses and organizations to provide care, counsel, and coaching. One of our chaplains was asked by an employee, "Would you do my funeral?" "Sure," replied the chaplain, "but I hope not anytime soon. Why are you asking?" The employee said, "You are the closest thing I have to a pastor in my life." Consistently our chaplains perform weddings, funerals, make hospital visits, provide guidance, and make referrals to counselors and mental health therapists. We are the church for many employees who will never attend church.
PHIL>>> We don't know what we don't know . . . What have you learned in this new sphere of ministry (employee care) that would have impacted how you thought about making disciples in your congregations?
RICK>>> As a pastor, I thought everyone's world revolved around the church because my world revolved around the church. Visiting workplaces and meeting employees I have learned the incredible stress they have in their lives. With the workforce shortage, frustration has increased as employees are working longer hours while being asked to take on more responsibilities. Several of our clients are trucking companies which we call the drivers monthly and construction companies which we call superintendents. These people are on the road that takes them away from their families and church. They are dealing with crises and emergencies without being home. Often, they don't go to church. I have come to realize that workplace chaplaincy may be the purest form of personal ministry because we come with no agenda except to engage people in a loving and non-threatening way with opportunities to care for people and to share the Gospel.
PHIL>>> Using the Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle format, what steps would you take as a pastor to
- PRAYER - Reimagine prayer for your members' life at their workplace?
- RICK>>> Pray for members, to be consistent in their faith at work. People are hungry for genuineness and authenticity. Christians have an opportunity to live the Gospel while sharing the Gospel in the workplace. Pray for Christian business owners to see their businesses as a place of ministry. I read that the average small business in America influences over 5,000 people each year, extending to employees and their families, as well as, vendors, supplies, property managers, and industry peers. The one common denominator to all the businesses ECA provides its chaplaincy is that the company owner or leadership are believers. They see the value we provide. They care for their employees. They know they can't adequately care due to the size of their business or the multiple locations so they partner with us so we can place chaplains in their various locations.
- CARE - Reformat discipleship to equip believers \with a biblical understanding of their work as service to God and the world?
- RICK>>> Discipleship is more than a six-week class or a weekend retreat. Discipleship is taking people where they are and helping them grow and mature into the likeness of Jesus. For one of our clients, I lead a Bible Study for the employees and others who have learned of it and now are attending. While we do expositional studies of various Bible books, the underlying focus has been to help these men and women to understand their responsibility in the workplace. Their work is a platform for ministry and evangelism. They serve God by serving others. They are called to the business just as I am called to ministry. They represent Christ so integrity, holiness, and love must show through. By the way, the Bible is one of the highlights of my week. These guys come from a variety of religious backgrounds. They come with Bible in hand, opened and ready for study. They are hungry for God's Word. They question and banter. And, they have a strong desire to make a difference for God's kingdom work. I know these kinds of studies are happening all over the place. This is discipleship at its purest level. Imagine the impact of every pastor leading a Bible study in a workplace setting every week.
- SHARE - Refocus evangelism to include workplace relationships and opportunities?
- RICK>>> As I mentioned, church attendance is decreasing but people still have to go to work. The workplace has become not only a place of ministry but also a place of evangelism. Last month I saw one of the truck drivers I call monthly at the garage, waiting on his truck to be repaired. He called me over, saying he need to talk with me. He said, "Rick, I don't get to go to church due to my travel schedule. Rick, I don't know God and know I need to get right with him. I know you can help me." I shared the Gospel with him. He prayed to receive Christ. It was a divine encounter but it only happened because I was on the worksite and because I had developed a relationship with this man through phone conversations. This incident reminded me of the importance of getting out among people. I tell my pastor friends they need to have a ministry in the workplace, even if it is only one afternoon a week. Their they can rub shoulders with lost people and encounter people turned off by the local church. The evangelism opportunities are abundant. People's brokenness provides an open door to share God's love.
PHIL>>> How can churches/ministries learn from and/or partner with Employee Care of America?
RICK>>> You can visit our website www.employeecareofamerica.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 864-770-3560.
Employee Care of America is an Upstate South Carolina-based company that provides corporate chaplaincy, coaching, and care for an organization’s most important asset, its employees. ECAonline.
PHIL>>> One more thing we would do well to think about and pray over?
RICK>>> Pray for God's continued movement in the workplace and that churches will not see ministry in the workplace as a threat but as a way to further Kingdom impact.
PHIL>>> RIck, please write a prayer that will help us rethink the role of the workplace in our disciplemaking...
RICK>>> Father, help us to see the workplace as Jesus saw the fields as white unto harvest. Enable believers to take the risk to move outside the church walls to engage people where they are, especially those in the workplace.
“Hey Rick, do you have a few minutes, I need to talk with you?” I made my way through the maintenance garage of a trucking company toward the driver, whom I call every month. When I reached him, he said, “Rick, I’m lost. I need to get right with God." He told me that his wife was religious, but due to his job and travel, he didn’t go to church. He said that I was the only person he knew that could help him. After sharing with him about why Jesus came and our need to trust in Jesus’ gracious sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, I led this seventy-year-old driver in prayer as he asked Jesus to forgive him. When I finished he thanked me and said, “I already feel better.” That conversation lasted a total of ten minutes, but it was the culmination of five years of consistently calling this driver. For many employees, workplace chaplains are their pastors and the closest spiritual advisors they have. When opportunities like this one avail themselves we step into a sacred conversation that impacts a person for eternity.
Each week we assist and comfort employees facing issues and problems. Our onsite chaplaincy program has helped many people, providing the guidance, comfort, referrals, and encouragement they need.
Employee Care of America
About Employee Care of America
Employee Care of America (ECA) partners with businesses to improve productivity and profitability by providing care, coaching, and crisis management for employees. Our Employee Care Program occurs through on-site visits where we “make the rounds” to know the employees without interrupting their work. We are accessible 24-7 for crises or emergencies. Presently, ECA serves companies from single sites to multi-site locations, from day laborers to corporate executives, and from English to Spanish-speaking people. ECA positively impacts organizational culture and employee engagement. We provide trained professionals to help employees navigate challenges that may currently affect their performance. You can check out our website at www.employeecareofamerica.com.