Maybe you have had an experience similar to this: ministry is trucking along, and it is clear that the Holy Spirit has gone before you. At every turn, in the proclamation, in conversation and interactions, the gospel is making increasing purchase in the lives of those around you. It seems like the seeds of revival are being planted right before your eyes. Then an email arrives with nothing more than “we need to talk,” or the phone rings and you answer to receive a critical report. You then find yourself riding a roller coaster, sailing down from the excitement at the work of the Lord among you into the despair of distractions from and opposition to your ministry.
Pastoring a replant, revitalization, or whatever “re” is appropriate these days, I find myself living this tension quite often. In the moments when the ride hits the bottom, I run to the words of Paul to the Corinthian church for encouragement. At the end of his first letter he encourages the church to continue to fund gospel ministry and tells them how he plans to visit soon. But not just yet, “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9).
Paul is lingering in Ephesus because a wide door or gospel opportunity has been opened to him. It is as if the doors have been flung open and people are responding to the gospel all over the place. Captives are being freed, grace is being proclaimed and lives are being changed. Who wouldn’t want to stay in that place of ministry?
But the reason for his delay is also explained in the number of adversaries, or opponents he has there. It is as if the opposition is a sign of the opportunity. And Paul wants to remain in the middle of it, continuing ministry.
This reality does not seem to be a singular situation either. Biblical example after example shows ministry opportunity in the face of opposition. It is like grits in the South; no matter what you order, it comes with the meal.
Now when the opposition comes, rather than wallow in the discouragement, I run after the hope of the opportunity. Are people being awakened by the power of the gospel? Are lives being eternally changed by Christ’s work for them? Bring on the adversaries. This is too good to avoid.
I don’t know what your opposition looks like. It might be a senior leader that prefers you preach four points to a better job rather than freedom in Christ. It might be a church member that can’t stand the songs you sing on Sundays. Or it might be the elder that spends more time thinking about "what could have been" instead of "what can be." But I do know this; the field is white for harvest. There is gospel opportunity where you are. There are people in need of the gospel in the same way you are. Preach that. No longer be discouraged by the opposition, pair it with the opportunity and hang around a while longer making much of Jesus.
That’s how I want to do ministry. I hope you do too.