I’ve gotten a little worried lately about how much “open door” theology is going on these days. It’s almost like my pastoral spider-sense is going off, alerting me to danger that I can’t yet see. I’ll try to articulate my feelings as best I can, but I think of this as a work in progress, rather than my definitive thoughts on the subject.
Open Door Theology (as I call it) is the idea that, if an option becomes available, it must be God’s will for you to walk into it. The idea is taken from Paul’s writings about God “opening the door” for effective ministry and evangelism (Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3) and Jesus’s remarks in Revelation about being able to open doors no one can shut (Revelation 3:8). As far as it goes, Open Door Theology isn’t wrong, but it can be misleading.
In a terribly poignant case, I once had a (currently married) woman tell me that God was opening the door for her to be with another (currently married) man. I love this woman deeply, but God doesn’t open doors for people to commit adultery or get divorced. I realize that is an extreme example, but “God opening a door” is the phrase people are starting to use to justify doing whatever it is they want to do.
So, how do you know if it is God opening a door, random chance or the enemy trying to distract you? A couple things come to mind.
1) God won’t command you to do something expressly forbidden in Scripture. While I believe in continued revelation, the days of God giving Peter a vision and commanding him to eat unclean food are over. Your personal revelation does not trump Scripture. If you believe it does, that is on you – the community and leadership cannot support actions that violate the most basic premises of Scripture.
2) In Revelation 3:8, Jesus says about himself “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. If Jesus has opened a door for you, it cannot be shut – not by time, not by other people, not even by you. This has two consequences:
a) There isn’t any rush. If the door is open, it is open, and isn’t going to close any time soon. I certainly believe in timing, you might have to wait to walk through a door for awhile, but there shouldn’t be any pressure to make a decision immidiately. Hasty decisions are usually prompted by fear, anxiety, self-promotion or greed. None of those have the finger prints of God on them.
b) Try closing that door. If you really want to know if an opportunity is of God, try messing with it. Does God really want you to take that promotion that will move you and your family to another city? Maybe. It might also be your own desire for advancement. Has God called you to a long term assignment in your area? Is this promotion in accordance with your purpose and vision in life? Question, poke, prod. God has amazing ways of confirming His word. Trust more in God’s ability to lead you than in your ability to miss it.
3) God primarily opens doors for those too weak to open them for themselves. Continued reading in Revelation 3 shows that God opened a door no one could shut for the persecuted church of Philidelphia, who had little strength. When everyone else was against them, God was for them and made a way. If you aren’t currently being persecuted, the open doors you encounter are probably neutral opportunities rather than God’s will.
Which brings us to the second idea I’d like to discuss, Green Lights.
I live with the assumption that all the lights in my life are green because I’ve been commissioned to “Go”. As I continue to walk out my call and vocation, I’m starting to narrow down on the things I’m supposed to focus on. I have lots of open doors, but only a few of them are going to take me where I want to go.
I view most opportunities as neutral – simply opportunities that have come because of my choices, gift mix, favor with man, or chance. I rarely ask the question “Which one is God’s will?” I rather ask, “Will this help me accomplish my purpose on the earth?”
I could easily make more money working in the marketplace than in ministry, but more money doesn’t help me fulfill my call of leading and loving God’s people. I could easily step out of ministry to pursue full time writing, but I don’t want to write about good theories, I want to write about what actually works in congregational life.
The primary difference I see between Open Doors and Green Lights is where the power lies. People living out of an open door, or red light, mindset are powerless people at the mercy of circumstances and situations. They don’t believe they have the power to act or initiate, so they wait for “God’s will”. People living out of a Green Light mindset are powerful people. They believe they have been commissioned to “Go and make decisions” I mean “disciples.”
Green Light people have a totally different outlook on life. They realize they have an abundance of choices, but that only a few are going to lead to a fulfilled and satisfying life. Green Light people say “no” to lots of good things so that they can say “yes!” to the best. Green Light people exercise their free will and the fruit of the Spirit known as “self-control.” Isn’t it fascinating that relationship with God is supposed to result in you being able to govern your own self better, rather than make you dependent on Him to control you?
Discerning God’s will for your life isn’t supposed to be complicated. Do the things He has expressly told you to do in Scripture (heal the sick, feed the hungry, etc.) and that He has revealed to you about how you’re made (to be a doctor or a techer, to make music or create art) and don’t worry about the rest. God’s also given you desires and a free will. Act on them. He is a Good Shepherd, a Perfect Leader, He will let you know if He wants you to do something else or in addition.
What do you guys think? Anything I missed? How do you navigate the open doors you face in life?
As always, thanks for reading.