Jessica Chin has spent her career in the fast-paced global retail world. She specializes in marketing and is driven by her dual passions of consumer driven insight and social impact. She’s led a retail expansion for a Fortune 100 company in Asia, and spearheaded a campaign for the 2018 women’s World Cup. But what matters more to Jessica than interacting with big brands, is living out her faith in the place where she works.
can you share an ‘aha moment’ in your life when your vision expands and you realize Jesus is calling you to do more than just go to church?
I got a few of those moments when I graduated from college. I was brought into that Fortune 100 company and I was just planning on staying in the Bay Area doing the church thing. I was really happy about that set up and then that company decided to send me to Asia to a place that I had never been before. When I was there I would say that is where God met me. I ended up meeting some women on the street that were in the red-light district and managed to share the gospel them. I saw their eyes light up as I was able to speak their language and do a heart connection on some deep inner wounds that they had. For the first time in my life I saw someone come to faith and accept Jesus into their heart.
For me it really sparked a bigger picture of what God was doing in the world and what God was personally calling me to–specifically around women empowerment in Asia. That’s really where the small way of thinking about my faith in the Bay Area expanded to my personal culture. I am Chinese by nature and I was born in Taiwan and there is something about having a broader heart for that culture that I’m personally equipped and made for where I can bring Jesus into the lives of those who have never heard of Him before.
Tell us a little more about that season of life working in Asia. what was it like to start spiritual conversations in your natural flow of life?
The workplace was a big one. It is really interesting because the dilemma we have in the US corporations is that talking about Jesus is very hush-hush. You feel a little embarrassed to bring that up. When you’re abroad–in Asian countries–there is a peak in interest. When colleagues find out you are from America, they immediately want to know more about your faith.
I was completely shocked. Co-workers were a bit blunt asking about faith and church. They wanted to know what it all means to me, so having open conversations naturally with co-workers in the workplace was easy. I remember handing Mere Christianity to one of my co-workers and within a week she had read it. We began studying John 1 after that and she just naturally came to faith. I remember that happened within three months. There are no barriers to Christianity because it is completely different to them. It really allows for that openness to the gospel and it’s not like anything I’ve seen before.
You then came back to the states, where it is hush hush to talk about faith in the workplace. Tell us about that transition.
My husband and I came back to the states for our MBA at Kellogg Business School at Northwestern. While there, we joined Christian Fellowship and we had some pretty amazing dialogue with local Chinese. Three of them came to Christ during our MBA–that’s a whole other story–but when I started working at the big retailer company I didn’t tell anyone that I was a believer. That was a bit jarring and disconcerting, because I was very evangelistic when I was abroad with everyone else.
For some reason there was a dilemma in me because I was back in my home base. I was uncomfortable to share my faith. My fear was that my career may be on the line and it was really uncool to talk about Jesus in the workplace, so I just felt that I needed to be hush-hush about it. For the first 6 months to a year, nobody knew I went to a church on Sundays which is crazy when you think about the life I had just lived abroad!
Do you think you were fearful when you decided to tell people you followed Jesus because it had been so long?
I definitely had a lot of conversations with my pastor about it because I didn’t know why I couldn’t open up about it. It was an abnormal fear that I didn’t know why existed so prominently. I think a lot of the reason was I didn’t know any other believers in the workplace and I just felt really isolated. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to express my faith outside of just being by myself so God brought two specific believers into my life without me trying.
The second one was by happenstance. We were both sitting in the cafeteria and this woman was sitting next to me and she was wearing a bracelet that had a cross on it. I remember thinking I have to take this chance; I have to say hello. I remember turning to her when she was leaving and I said, “I really like your bracelet.” She thanked me and stopped, then immediately asked me, “Are you a believer?”
I said,”Yes! I am. I would just love to chat with you about working faith.” We just immediately clicked it. It was amazing because the last two months she had been praying for a prayer partner and had been prayer walking around the campus where all our executives sit. I told her, “You found your prayer walking buddy because I have been wanting to do that and I know God put us together, so let’s do it.”
The very next day we went on a prayer walk and, again, God was gracious to someone like me who was nervous and unready.
What advice would you give to someone who is Searching for just one other believer in their workplace?
First of all, just start to pray. I know that’s a simple answer, but in every work situation, prayer unlocked a situation that I have not seen and it was able to bring God into the midst. There’s some really practical things like fellowships at work or email chains. Just ask around and be a bit nosy. It’s not a bad thing to find out about those things.
One particular story comes to mind when I was at the tech firm in Asia. I didn’t know anyone there and I started praying every other day, “God can you please bring someone to me in this office?”
It was a very simple prayer. I remember standing next to the coffee at work and the woman who was the Director of Marketing was standing next to me. I don’t know what happened, but we started talking about church for some reason and both of us look at each other and she said, “You’ve been who I’ve been looking for. I’ve been praying for another believer.”
The two of us collectively started a prayer ministry in that company in Asia and it really sparked other miraculous work. I really do believe my heart started turning to God more to ask Him to provide. We ask God to provide a lot of physical things, but He asks us to ask Him to provide for the spiritual and He totally does.
“We often feel overwhelmed in the workplace because we think we have to do it on our own, but God is asking you to actually go with someone and not do it alone. It’s amazing.” – Lizzie Burke
I know you are passionate about ‘business as mission.’ what is Business as mission to you?
Business as missions is such a broad theme, but when I think about it I think about this phrase that A.R. Bernard said. He said we don’t realize the marketplace is actually ‘the biggest mission field.’ The marketplace to us, in this generation, is what medical missions was a couple decades ago. When we spread the gospel around the world, all too often we don’t see the marketplace as the big mission force that it is. It’s through business that we’re going to transform a generation.
What people care about are values and ideas in culture. These values and ideas are created and communicated through the influence of the marketplace. For me, business as mission basically means bringing Kingdom culture into the marketplace. I ask: “How do we flip what the world is constantly trying to say with what God is trying to say? And how to we communicate this truth in a very human way?” Once these questions are answered, it’s relevant and able to change hearts and transform cultures in cities.
That’s how I found out that I’m really passionate about business as mission, because I have seen the impact of when God moves in organizations. When a business is run by someone who is passionate about seeing the Kingdom come, we have seen cities transformed. I’ll give an example…
This one man stood up and said, “I’m going to operate my factory differently.” They had worship sessions in their factory; they were seeing people get saved; hundreds get saved on a monthly basis; and the way that the factory operated totally shifted. The workers were paid differently and the profits all shifted. It was Kingdom flipped. Then, the world sees what’s happening in the factory and they see something completely different. We know something has shifted spiritually. That is why I’m so passionate about business as mission, because I desire to see the Kingdom come through the vehicle of the marketplace.
How would you respond to someone who asks: “what can one person–who is not the leader of the corporation–do to bring the Kingdom into their workplace?”
This is where it can get a little more nuanced. A CEO can really drive change from top down, but a lot of us, even myself in middle management, are in a very interesting space. We have touch to way more people than a CEO does because they might have 5 to 10 people that report to them, but we touch peers, colleagues, top-down on all ends we are influencing. The gospel is for people. I believe that as middle management we have a ton of impact and influence we can wield simply because we’re accessing a higher number of people.
I talk to around 30 people a day. When you think about that level of communication that you’re forced to have, you can envision using it for the Kingdom. We get so caught up in the physical, we don’t really see what is spiritually happening in the workplace.
The story I love telling is when I was in Asia, I was working at that big company, and I woke up one morning and I heard God say, “Jericho.” I didn’t understand at first, then I heard Him say, “Walk around your company 7 times while you’re in the office, and pray for the walls to come down.”
I was thinking, “You have to be kidding me.” Our office was situated in a way where everyone can see if I’m walking around it seven times. You know how awkward that would be in a professional setting, but I heard it pretty strongly. I said, “Okay God, if you’re serious, I’ll do it.”
I remember doing my first lap around the building, thinking I was looking ridiculous. Then the third time, this girl that I had known for a while, comes up to me and says, “What are you doing?”
“I am just taking a walk, ya know?”
She says,”That’s cool, looks like you’re getting some exercise. Can I join you?”
“Of course,” I tell her. She joins me and we start walking together. Then she says, “Hey, I’ve been thinking, you know, I know you go to church and I’ve been wanting to go back to church and it’s been a long time. I was wondering if you could take me next week.”
I said, “I would love to! Please come with me.”
Then she said, “Awesome, thank you for the walk. I’m going to go and sit down now.”
I kept walking and on my sixth walk, another brother comes up and says, “Long time, no see. I know we’ve been meaning to catch up, but since I’m seeing you walk around I figured it might be a good time to talk. I heard you have a prayer meeting that you’re doing with the other sister. I’ve been wanting to join but I just haven’t been able to make the time for it.”
I ask him, “Why don’t you join this week?”
He says, “I would love to!”
He goes back to work and then on my very last one, the seventh one, I finished where the secretary was. She is a local, who I hadn’t talked about Christianity with, but I just have the courage to say, “I want to invite you to my women’s Bible study at my house.”
She said, “I’m free, I’ll come.”
What I realized is in that 15-20 minutes that I walked the building, the spiritual walls were falling. Walls I had not seen existed in the office and God was doing something of some magnitude that I could not understand or explain, but He was shifting the atmosphere. Certain things could fall into place and again it’s so much bigger than what we think.
The unseen is way bigger than what we see. I think the devil loves to lie and tell us the opposite. The devil tells us that what we see–the visceral now–is what we need to deal with and what’s important. God is showing me over and over that it is the unseen–the eternal–that matters. And that’s what prayer does. It shows us the unseen in the workplace and it tears down the walls we don’t know exist.
God goes where He’s most wanted and He just shows up.
I truly believe that Satan makes us consumed by busyness, our needs to succeed, and then we can’t see the people that are right here. But our relationship with God makes us want to bring people into our lives. This happens to me a lot where God says, “I’ve called you there to love and to be Jesus in the workplace, but you’re so caught up with this other persona, this other person that you need to be that you end up completely losing sight of your mission.”
“Let’s transition Jess. We got to spend some time together in Dubai. It was a time to gather together with a group called the NXT Move. This group is made up of leaders under 40 representing 40 plus countries. These leaders all have similar passions for the Church, for cities being transformed and for the next generation to be a key part of that transformation.” – Lizzie Burke
Why did you decide to be a part of the NXT move?
One thing that we’ve said a lot is that it’s so rare to be with people who are like-minded and wanting to see God move on the macro-level across ministry, marketplaces, and missions. I love to be around a younger generation who are collectively passionate and unified around this one vision. It’s different than carrying it all on your own. When I heard about NXT Move and I was invited to participate, I just had to see what God wanted to do. Whatever it was–and to be honest I didn’t even know what to expect–I just knew I needed to be with a group of people like that and I was so expecting to see God move.
you were one leader representing the marketplace sphere at NXT Move. the majority of LEaders that came were not from the marketplace. how did you engage differently in those conversations?
I think it’s really interesting that we often don’t bring enough marketplace folks when it comes to these types of conversations. I think some people think they don’t care or they’re not interested. I actually think that I was able to bring a different way of thinking to approaching problems. After working for a decade in the corporate world, there is a certain type of analytical thinking, valuing data, and thinking structurally through an issue that I bring to the table. How marketplace leaders tackle a problem and bring insight on what a for-profit sustainability investment looks like is valuable in gospel movement conversations.
Some of the questions I wondered were: “What does it mean to raise up and mobilize people, but also be able to sustain the trajectory that we want to see? What are the goals we want to see?” The most fun I get to bring comes from branding and a lot of consumer insight–especially consumer insight around the next generation.
Consumer insight is not a negative for any ministry. Because corporations are so hungry for that next dollar they will do whatever it takes to understand the hearts and minds of the consumer–especially the next generation. The research we’ve done is top-notch so we know what the next generation is looking at, why they tick, and what the common language is they’re speaking right now. I’m able to speak and be relevant to them, but also push the envelope of what culture should be and where it should go.
This is really where companies have pushed the envelope because that directly translates to dollars for them. There’s this eagerness and desire that I have internally, because of my corporate background, so I constantly ask, “What does the consumer really want? Who is the target consumer? Are we really talking about the same consumer?”
Because the same level of understanding of who that consumer is is not as common in the Christian dialogue, we end up missing out on really being able to reach them where they’re at. It’s not always as effective and companies are studying this new generation and are seeing that they do not want big companies to define them. They already know who they are. Companies are begging for their time now because it’s not about wearing a nice brand.
No, it is about a brand helping to define their holistic identities. If Christians are saying they need to be this way, need to believe this way, they won’t care about it. People don’t want someone telling them what to do. They want to be collaborators, they want to co-create. If we are coming at the wrong angle, we’re never going to capture the hearts and minds of people we want to come to know Jesus. For me, bringing this perspective to Dubai was great.
How would you translate those principles of Consumer Insight in the church?
In the Bible it says, “the Lord sets eternity in the hearts of man.” When I think about a consumer, I go back to that verse. God has created and wired all of us to desire things, have wants and need identity. A problem is, as usual, people are trying to fill it with the wrong things and companies are very glad to help in that process. I think of us as ministers and ambassadors for the gospel. We are trying to serve and fill them with the reality of the gospel and help them to see that there is something so much more about their identity.
We can actually fill those empty spots with who God is and who God made them to be. That answer will outweigh and be more lasting, sustainable, impactful and helpful. This is what this generation is looking for. Something more useful to them than all these other things that the companies are trying to feed them. None of that stuff will last or be truly practical or purposeful.
What the next generations are looking for sits very squarely in the gospel. Simply being in front of them with their hearts and what they have already been designed for is actually almost a one plus one equals two equation. It’s not when we are forcing or manipulating. It’s the fact that they will be able to see the gospel in a tangible way that resonates in their hearts. We are allowing the gospel to become real in their lives and that’s what I love about thinking about it from the consumer insight angle.
Leaders we speak with take big risks. what advice would you give to leaders who want to take a risk for the flourishing of the kingdom?
I would say we need more of you–many, many, more of you. I feel like there’s not enough risk-takers in the Christian world and I think we need a lot more in the coming days. First, I would encourage you to continue and not to be afraid. Secondly, I would say to not do it alone. One of the biggest issues we see in entrepreneurial types is that we try to push through because we’re driven, rather than forming a strong board of people who are wise, experienced and have done successful startups.
Find peers who are entrepreneurs, who are like-minded and pushing towards the same thing because the things you experience and struggle with will be different from non-believers in an entrepreneurial space. The decisions you make will be different, so encourage each other a lot. I recommend prioritizing being into your community. Do not let busyness be an excuse to take you away from being with the Church body and living life and breathing faith because you will burnout.
What advice would you give to people who are intimidated to talk to business people and ask them to be a part of something like this?
The marketplace people I know would be flattered if anyone came up to them and said, “I have this huge heart and I really want to see this happen but I’m not exactly sure of how to make it happen.” I think every marketplace person would be one, flattered, and two, absolutely excited that God opened the door to have a conversation like this. From my perspective, we know so many marketplace believers and so few of them have really been able to leverage their marketplace experience for the Kingdom and the gospel. It’s appalling how little of us have been able to exercise it.
When we work ministries, of course we can hand out packaged foods, we’re happy to do it because we want to serve, but what’s really sad is we don’t get to use the gifts that God has given us. Gifts that we painstakingly put in 10 years to get and a lot of money and energy to build. Then to not be able to use it for the Kingdom is really a waste. Again I don’t think anyone I know would shy away from that conversation and from doing something. There’s a deep need among marketplace leaders of faith to be utilized in those areas for the Kingdom.
What would you tell your business leaders to encourage them to expand their vision on what it looks like to live in an influential place in the marketplace?
I would say three things:
- Don’t be alone. Find a community and be plugged in your workplace because it’s the unity among believers in a corporation that we see come together to pray and be a city on the hill. It starts to make a world of a difference. Do not get caught up in your own worlds and in your own things that you end up losing sight of what God is doing in your space and the space that He places you for a reason.
- Busyness is an enemy. We love feeling productive. We can’t sit still. We want to be purposeful and be known for something. I would ask you to lay down all that you have every day and ask God how you can be faithful today. How can you be like Jesus today and how can you humble yourself today? Asking yourself this on a daily basis will make a world of a difference in how you show up in the workplace.
- Pray for the workplace, yourself, and for your co-workers. Pray unceasingly so that you may see the Kingdom come wherever you are.
What are you dreaming for personally that we can join you in prayer for?
I’ve had a vision for a long time to see a ton of fruit in Asia, but I’m learning that the US has a place to play. If you can pray with me and ask, “What does it look like, God, for you to move across Asia mobilizing people in the marketplace? What does it look like because I don’t have an answer.”
I ask myself, “What do you want to do to unify, mobilize, and move across Asia in the marketplace to transform and leverage leaders to move into areas that are impoverished and broken so that we see hearts healed, lives transformed, and literally communities changed.”
I think we need God to lead that and not us, so I would just love prayer as we move into the season of asking for vision and purpose.