“But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:8–9, ESV)
The first church that I ever joined was in a small suburb of Chicago Illinois. It was a mission church in the community that was less than six-months old. The unique thing about this church was that it was started by a core group of about twenty, but the growth in the church came from door-to-door evangelism. About six-months after I began attending the church, the pastor gave me the job of overseeing the door-to-door canvassing ministry, which included the Evangelism Explosion ministry in the church.
In this ministry, we had a plan to canvass every home in three communities. We sent teams of two out every Saturday morning with a simple questionnaire to identify people who might have interest in a church. The teams would record their interest and have the pastor or one of our Evangelism Explosion teams do follow-up. We did wear out a lot of shoe leather or sneaker rubber in the two years we did this. Yet, we saw the church grow to a large size during that time.
In the process, I noticed something very interesting. Someone had mentioned in a seminar I attended, that we should mark on a realtor’s map every home in which we found someone with interest. It was amazing to see that there were certain communities that had clusters of people with interest and others with none. It seemed that God was working in those areas in special ways. Henry Blackaby in “Experiencing God” has indicated that we must look to where God is at work and join Him there. We found that God was always at work and it was our responsibility to identify where and then join Him in the work. Basically, we quite literally discovered places where there were open doors for the gospel through our canvassing effort.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that he would be delayed in coming because “a wide door for effective work has opened to” him. God was doing something in Ephesus and Paul concluded that it would be wrong to leave a place where God was at work. He needed to make his plans align with what God was doing.
What Paul did is an example for us today. Unfortunately, we often get caught up in the routine of preplanned schedules, and programs. We launch out on an agenda like it is a secular business and we will let nothing get in the way of our agenda. To often we make plans and then call upon God to come and join us. This methodology is backwards and will rarely result in success.
To join God where He is at work requires two things, attentiveness and effort. We need to be observant to see what God is doing. Often our busyness obscures our vision. We do not spend sufficient time in prayer and observation. Moreover, even when we do see an open door for effective ministry, we do not go through the door. Too often we spend so much time discussing the obvious door of opportunity, that we miss joining God where He was at work. Let us consider the example of Paul.