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Marketplace is fertile ground for sharing faith, NBA exec says

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–Those who work in the business community have opportunities to spread the Gospel that pastors and fulltime Christian workers just don’t encounter on a daily basis, said Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic.

“Whether you’re in the sports field or the legal profession or the medical profession or the banking business, that is our mission field. That is our calling,” Williams said. “That’s where God has opened doors for us, and we need to take advantage of that.”

The challenge is to get the different segments of believers in corporate America excited about sharing their faith in a natural way that is not offensive to those around them, Williams said in an interview prior to addressing the Feb. 27-28 Kentucky Baptist Evangelism Conference in Lexington. Too often, he lamented, people whose goal is to evangelize their co-workers come off in a way that makes people run from them.

“I never saw Jesus doing that. People were really drawn to Him. He was like a magnet,” Williams said, adding that Christians must gain the discernment, knowledge, boldness and strategies necessary to be effective soul-winners.

If he were running a church, Williams said, he’d make thousands of copies of the Four Spiritual Laws available as people walked out the door so they could grab a handful of the evangelistic tracts to leave in strategic places throughout the community during the coming week. He suggested leaving them with a good tip at a restaurant or placing them at pay phones and even in restrooms — any place where someone might pick one up and read it.

And in the workplace, many opportunities to share Christ will arise if only people will look for them, Williams said.

“I think opportunities are always there. I’ve noticed that the opportunities really come when problems hit people — when adversity hits, when tough times come — because they’re seeking answers, and it’s on those occasions that I have the greatest opportunities,” he said. “So if you’re alert to that in people you’re working with or people you know and are sensitive to their worlds, the problems are coming.

“In fact, everybody on this earth has just come out of a problem or they’re in the middle of one, or they’re heading into one,” he said. “Those are the three common things we all have with each other, and it’s in that area of strife and struggle and problems and crisis that we’re going to have our best opportunity to talk to people because they’re open. They’re needy, they’re hurting, and we’ve got the solution for them.”

Another way to reach co-workers, Williams said, is to strike up a conversation with four simple words: “Tell me about you.” Rich Devos, owner of the Orlando Magic and a professing Christian, utilizes this strategy often, Williams said, and has tremendous success because it’s easy to segue into questions like “Where do you go to church?” or “Have you gone to church in the past?” Many times, the person ends up asking Devos where he attends church, and that’s an ideal lead-in for presenting the Gospel.

Pastors and church leaders can focus on becoming more involved in the marketplace, Williams said, by intentionally planting themselves among the unchurched and engaging them in conversation.

“We tend to get kind of set apart in our own little world — those in ministry — but I think pastors have got to be the coolest guys in town,” he said. “They’ve got to be really cool and they’ve got to hang where the unchurched are, whether that’s through local civic clubs or golf tournaments or Little League baseball. They’ve got to be in the middle of things out there.”

Williams knows the importance of living life among those who need to know Jesus because he has spent decades in their midst. He served in the U.S. Army for seven years and spent seven years with the Philadelphia Phillies and three years with the Minnesota Twins before moving to the NBA in 1968. Since then, he has been affiliated with teams in Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Orlando.

At the age of 27, Williams accepted Christ when he realized he had all the success a young sports executive could want but still felt empty. God orchestrated a unique set of circumstances, he said, and someone presented the claims of Christ to him though a Four Spiritual Laws booklet.

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  • Erin Curry Roach