Steve Hyland has worked for Coca-Cola for over 22 years. He accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior in college. Steve received a job offer to work at Coca-Cola in 1982, just two years after graduating from college while working for Procter & Gamble in sales. Looking back on the circumstances he can see the sovereign hand of God involved in all the details.
During the 1980's and 1990's Coca-Cola experienced incredible success beginning with the introduction of diet Coke in the early 1980's to turning a difficult situation introducing New Coke into a success of bringing back Coca-Cola Classic. They expanded across the world and as a result employees prospered through big bonuses and the soaring value of Coca-Cola Stock. Coca-Cola was a company you could work for your whole career.
During this time of great prosperity, Steve would often tell others about Christ and a few of his co-workers accepted Christ, but he did not sense much desire for employees to discuss God in the workplace. Coca-Cola had an ongoing Bible study led by a man named Dr. Taylor who came faithfully to teach for 25 years, but the Christian walk was definitely an individual walk at Coca-Cola. People were prosperous and pretty self sufficient.
Then, in the year 2000 the situation at Coca-Cola began to change quickly. The Coca-Cola Company announced layoffs of over 5,000 people. Christians at Coca-Cola met to pray together about this situation. God also showed them the power of corporate prayer as they witnessed God's healing power of an employee with a brain tumor. A discrimination lawsuit was filed against the company and was settled. As part of that settlement one action taken was to form employee forums where groups of employees could come forward and apply for official forum status with the company. God had put it in Steve's and Pamela McClure's heart to apply for a Christian Fellowship forum status. They developed a mission statement and guiding principles that were initially approved by the Office of Diversity.
The inaugural event for the Coca-Cola Christian Fellowship took place in February 2002 with Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, as their speaker. Just before this event took place the Diversity leadership was changed. The new leadership tried to cancel their event, but because of customer concerns related to Mr. Cathy the event was allowed to take place. This initial event was attended by over 275 employees who were inspired by Dan's story of how he incorporated his faith into his work and their company along with the benefits it has produced at Chick-fil-A.
After the first event, the Coca-Cola Christian Fellowship was informed by the Diversity leadership that the company was reevaluating their membership in the diversity groups. A consultant was hired by the Diversity office to offer their recommendation. The Coca-Cola Christian Fellowship was informed that it would not be an official employee forum. Instead, they were told they could operate as they always had to conduct Bible Study, prayer events, etc. which they have to this day.
The Coca-Cola Christian Fellowship has continued to fulfill their mission "to bring together a community of Christians to support each other and the Coca-Cola Company's values and goals to achieve balance by integrating their Christian faith at work." Today, Steve has daily conversations with other employees who discuss work and personal issues that ask for prayer or just need some encouragement. Below are five ways Steve's group has seen God's presence working at Coca-Cola on a daily basis:
1) Power of prayer- individual and corporate intercession. They meet for prayer in the courtyard of their
2) Encouragement of the Saints- The Christian life at Coke used to be an individual walk, but now people feel freedom to identify themselves as Christians and minister to one another. The Church in the workplace is building unity at Coke.
3) Bible Study- The Fellowship has Bible study at our headquarters every Wednesday at noon. Other field offices have started Bible studies in the last year!
4) Helping Others- The group has helped meet individual needs and corporate needs. A recent example was donating clothes for
5) Waiting on the Lord vs. Striving. This may sound a little strange, but Steve believes he has really sought God in what they are to do vs. striving to make things happen. One example of this is when God brought a wonderful Christian lady who is a relative of Mr. Woodruff, founder of Coke, who is involved in encouraging us and providing perspective on how the leaders at Coca-Cola in the past used their Christian faith to make a difference. This connected us to the history of our company! She told us how proud Mr. Woodruff would be of our work which has been so encouraging!