I wonder if this season of ministry feels like an uphill climb for you.
I wonder if you were thinking things this fall might start to feel more like they did before COVID.
Perhaps you were hoping all of the challenges, resistance, and opposition we’ve been experiencing this past year and a half would disappear. I know I was.
How are we supposed to do effective ministry when it feels like there is significant opposition around every corner?
I bumped into something this week from Paul’s ministry in Ephesus that you might find challenging and encouraging.
The Open Door
While he was ministering in the city of Ephesus, Paul wrote to a Jesus community that he had helped establish in the city of Corinth, just across the Aegean to the west.
The Corinthian believers were hoping Paul would visit them soon.
In response, he wrote these words:
…I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
1 Corinthians 16:8-9
Paul has a huge door for effective ministry open to him.
For two years, he has access to the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
Day after day he’s able to teach the way of Jesus and people are showing up to listen, placing their faith in Christ, and joining the growing Jesus community there. It’s a great door for effective work. Awesome!
Paul then goes on to say,
“…and there are many who oppose me”
Not “but.” It’s “and.”
At the same time, there are many who are opposing Paul.
After three months of teaching in the synagogue, he left because there were people who were “publicly maligning The Way.”
It’s almost as if someone started a social media campaign against Paul and his ministry.
This comes from Acts 19, which was written by Luke, about Paul.
Here’s how Paul described the opposition he was experiencing in Ephesus in his own words:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. 2 Corinthians 2:8-9
Opportunity and Opposition
It feels like, at some point, Paul and his companions were saying, “I don’t think we’re getting out of this one alive.” This was real and significant opposition.
There was both a huge opportunity for ministry and intense opposition, all at the same time, in the same package deal.
So often, when it’s working, when it’s easy, when everyone is cheering we think, “God has opened a door!”
But, if it’s hard, if it’s exhausting, if there are resistors and opponents, we think, “Maybe God has closed the door.” Maybe.
Sometimes it’s opportunity and opposition at the same time.
Here’s my point: What if your greatest opportunity for effective ministry is also your greatest season of opposition and resistance?
What if this is the most profound season of leadership growth you will ever experience because of all the ambiguity and frustration?
What if, during this battle with cancer, you experience a powerful season of spiritual growth because of the pressure and strain?
What if the American church will thrive like never before precisely because of the increased cultural opposition?
It’s opportunity and opposition together.
I wonder if you are thinking about tapping out?
Maybe you’re contemplating walking away.
I get it—this season is exhausting on so many levels. Please don’t.
Paul experienced the breakthrough he was hoping for in Ephesus because of his endurance and persistence.