Walking through the “Doors of Ministry” February 22 2020

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

In the last blog, we started looking at the meaning of “doors” in the Bible. We learned that, down through the centuries, doors have been used for privacy, security, and protection against the elements, but that the concept of a door has also been used as a metaphor for many different things. We read last time how Jesus is the “door of the sheep” (John 10:1-11) and that He “stands at the door and knocks.” In part 2 of this topic, we’re looking at the biblical metaphor “doors of ministry.” Some examples include:

  • Acts 14:27 – “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” It is worth reading all of Acts 14 to see the context, because Paul had made this statement at the end of his first missionary journey. Acts 14 describes that, while Paul was in Lystra, the Jews came from the nearby cities of Antioch and Iconium “and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Paul and his partners next went to Derbe for a brief period and then returned to the very place where Paul had been stoned – an amazing example of perseverance, love for people, and trust in the Lord’s protection.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:9, where Paul states: “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” There may have been less adversarial doors through which Paul could have entered, but he chose this one.
  • Colossians 4:3 – “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”

So we see that all three examples of the metaphorical “door for effective service” are in the context of tribulation and perseverance. Given that most of the readers of this blog are likely Gentiles, those who are Gentiles have much to be thankful for, that Paul and others were willing to endure so much as part of God’s calling for their lives.

We have been privileged to know many servant-hearted people who have chosen to pass up the conveniences of life in their home country and follow a path of outreach and ministry for Jesus through international missions. Of the missionaries our local church is privileged to support, one couple in their late 60s was called to Malawi, among the poorest countries on earth, to equip pastors and church leaders and to manage feeding programs. They are now in their mid-70s and still serving. Another couple our church supports served in the Philippines for 37 years in a “Life Discipleship” ministry and was involved in multiple relief efforts. Though back home in the U.S., they are continuing to serve other missionaries still in the field. As most of you know, BCF has actively supported missionaries and church leaders on every continent (except Antarctica), through biblical discipleship materials and training. And we have been privileged to see how God has worked through these faithful, committed servants throughout the world.

All of these people are amazing and inspirational examples of the “open door” metaphor. Let’s face it – Christian ministry in general, though rewarding, is also often inconvenient, no matter which country you’re in. Life would be easier if we didn’t take the time out of our schedules to teach Sunday School, to come home exhausted after evening youth programs, to visit the sick, to minister to prisoners, to help a stranger, to pastor a flock, to lead musical worship, to get training in evangelism and discipleship, or to devote lives to ministry in remote and needy parts of the world. We are truly grateful for those who minister in these and other ways, both seen and unseen.

This leads each of us to the central question: “what doors of ministry might be open for us?” It is interesting that in each of the three scriptures above, it was God who provided the open door for Paul and others to walk through. Part of spiritual maturity is being aware of the open door and being prepared to walk through it, not always knowing what faces you on the other side. Any kind of ministry is like that – youth ministry, small group studies, pastoral ministry, Sunday School, prison ministry, international missions, or reaching out to the neighbor next door. There will be surprises, there may be disappointments, there will be times that we are physically and emotionally drained. But one of the ways we mature is to get out of our “comfort zone” so that we have no choice but to exercise faith. This is why in Acts 14:27 the “door of faith” is such a great and appropriate metaphor.  I know that many of you can relate to this, servants that you are, but we know that encouragement comes by the reminder of the benefits of our faith being exercised.

Also keep in mind that it is OK to minister in obscurity. Perhaps it is even better for us that way, which leads me to one more “door verse.” One of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount was that we should “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them …” (Matthew 6:1). Regarding prayer, Jesus says you are to “close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). While we are certainly not to be spiritual isolationists, Jesus here is referring to an attitude of serving others, while at the same time not living our lives for the purpose of being noticed. We are to be encouraging and building one another up in ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:11), but just not letting our own peace and joy be dependent on receiving honor from others. We minister out of gratitude for what God has already done for us, and we can be at peace by knowing that the Lord is also responsible for the results. God bless you as you look for and walk through the “door(s) of ministry” He has prepared for you.

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Steve Smith