From the very beginning of the evangelistic outreach by the Disciples of Jesus, God has opened the doors. God promised that the disciples would have the power provided by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task that God set before them. They would not be alone; God would be with them and never leave them.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.Acts 1:8
The Great Commission is the work of God using us to deliver the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who need to hear. The way God does this is truly amazing. He is the one who opens the door to bring the gospel message to the people the Holy Spirit is preparing to respond. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they delivered a message to the church proclaiming that God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. They had been commissioned by the church to go on their missionary travels, but it was God who was opening the door to lead them to people that would hear the gospel and respond in faith.
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And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.Acts 14:27
Philip Directed by the Spirit
The Holy Spirit has been leading people from the very beginning of the book of Acts. Sometimes the direction even seemed to be counterproductive to reaching large groups. In the case of Philip, he was preaching to sizable crowds who were responding with faith and obedience.
“But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”Acts 8:12
God used an angel to move him to a remote place away from all the crowds. Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. – Acts 8:26. The instructions would not have made sense to the typical expansionist human concept. We tend to think that to be more significant; we must be reaching the biggest crowd we can gather. But Philip obeyed God, and he departed from the crowds and went out to a desolate place. He was right where God wanted him to be. — And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” – Acts 8:29 The Ethiopian Eunuch was used to take the gospel far away from Jerusalem.
God Leads the Way
The evangelistic teams in the book of Acts practiced obedience to the call of God. There was prayer, consultation among the elders of the church, and an expectation that God would open the door to preach the gospel to the places he sent his ministers.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.Acts 16:9-10
We should focus on praying and listening to God so that he can lead us and open doors to declare the gospel. The White Fields Board of Directors is continually praying and seeking to know where God would have us support new evangelistic outreaches and establish churches. We examine the regions we are serving and seek the Lord in prayer to give us wisdom and guidance. We also call on all our partners to pray continually for our team. That follows the same pattern of the Apostle Paul.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.Colossians 4:2-4
This year we have begun support for nine new pastors. They join a body of faithful pastors that have been planting churches already in our ministry. Those churches are always reaching out to further places into the next village or over the hill to a place where there are people without a witness to Jesus Christ. Often these are rural areas and deep in the villages.
God Still Opens Doors Today
Three years ago, my wife and I visited Myanmar. We were visiting the churches that White Fields supports. Our Fields Director, Thawng, was taking us from church to church so we could observe the progress and bring encouragement to our pastors. We would meet the members of the churches and hear testimonies about how the Lord had redeemed them, forgiven them, and transformed their lives.
We traveled into the mountains very remote and far from any nearby towns. In this rural area, we met Pastor Tha Khup. He was an energetic evangelist and boldly proclaimed the gospel to people who had never even heard of God. We also met his son, Solomon, who was newly graduated from seminary and had been married only a few days. They had the vision to reach into a town in the mountains where there was no Christian church.
We visited the places and met the people. Through a translator, my wife was able to speak with the local women. She asked about their life and how they lived. We had heard of a tradition where women in their adolescence tattooed their faces to avoid being kidnapped by roving warriors. The tour guides said that you would not likely see any of these women since they stay far out of most towns and live in their remote villages. My wife met them and spoke with them and heard the stories of living as impoverished widows.
She asked if she could take a photo, then showed them the picture on her phone. Then they wanted a photo with her. They stood proudly like models, and the friendship deepened. Little did we know what affect that would have in the plan of God.
White Fields began providing financial support to the pastors and their families to work full-time, proclaiming the gospel in Saw Myo this remote mountain village. They shared their prayer requests with our White Fields partners. God answered prayer, and people responded to the gospel and were baptized. Soon there was a small, faithful gathering of new believers. We were able to purchase a piece of property and then provide funds to construct a building for the church to gather and worship the Lord.
This past November, I was able to revisit the village. I was greeted by a large group of church members that have been growing both in numbers and also in their knowledge of the Word of God. They meet regularly for Bible Study, and the church service is filled with children, parents, and elderly members. Families and widows share meals and minister to one another as a remarkable testimony to the whole community.
One of the ladies my wife met three years ago was there to greet me. She was somewhat disappointed that it was just me visiting, and I had not brought my wife too. She was most excited to tell my wife her story. On Sunday morning, during church, I had a Chin cultural experience as she sang her life story during church. There is a cultural tradition where the older adults will write lyrics and sing a song of their life as a testimony. When she got to the part about giving her life to Christ, she came to me and sang.
When we had visited three years earlier, she was deeply moved by the attention my wife had granted to her and the other women. She began to wonder what could be so important that it would make those foreign people come to her remote little village. She decided that she should listen to the pastor and find out why we had come to visit. Through Bible studies, she came to know Jesus Christ by faith and was baptized. She has been growing in her faith, and it all started because we came to that place and responding to the movement of God to start a church.
Open Doors do not Come Without Opposition
Just because God opens the door does not mean that he will remove all obstacles and make the work of spreading the gospel easy. In reality, sometimes, the more persecution proves that we are in the right place. Faithfulness is strengthened through trials, and God receives greater glory by sustaining us through his grace. The Apostle Paul experienced this. “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” – 1 Corinthians 16:9
That is why we need your prayers. Together we can strengthen and encourage the pastors who are working on the front lines by bringing their requests before the throne of grace. Ask God to guide and sustain the pastors and their families. Pray for his protection. Through our partnership, many people from all nations, languages, and tribes will gather together for worship in eternity.