Watching for Doors of Opportunity

Kent and Davidene Humphreys

From: Show and Then Tell (Moody, 2000). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jesus showed love and compassion everywhere He went, every day. The writer Matthew wrote that Jesus went through all the towns and villages, “teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 4:23). The apostle John told how Jesus met the needs of the woman of Samaria, then His disciples, and finally a grieving father (John 4). He met each at their point of need and met those needs, whether they were for healing or for teaching.

Each person had a different set of circumstances, but over and over through the Gospels we see common ground. Jesus dealt with people’s illnesses, death, mental anguish, and skepticism, and He attended special events, such as weddings and holidays (“feasts”), and all these factors seemed to create stress and crises that He was able to defuse.


The Stress of Our Lives

A big event in people’s lives triggered needs, and the same is true today. Often a felt need is the open door that prepares a person to acknowledge his deeper, real need and Christ’s solution to it.

When we become sensitive to what these are, we can more accurately observe people’s felt needs and pray that God would use each need as an open door to share Christ. The results are God’s responsibility; our responsibility is to be available and faithful.

One instrument, the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, has evaluated the big events in people’s lives and developed a scale assigning stress level for each event. The scale is helpful in sensitizing us to the levels of stress that people feel relative to other events in their lives. The greatest upheaval would, be 100 points, and descending stressful events have lesser numbers. The next page shows the top thirty events.

These stress values were prepared by Insurance Underwriters’ Institute to prepare actuarial tables on persons likely to be bad risks for medical and hospital insurance. If a person’s total values for a twelve month period are 100-199, he has a mild crisis and has a 17 percent chance of a serious health problem within two years. If a person scores 200-299, he has a serious life crisis and has a 51 percent chance of a serious health problem within two years. If total values are more than 300, the person has a critical life crisis and has a 79 percent chance of a serious health problem within two years.












Stress is an indicator that there are needs in a person’s life. These needs are “open doors,” or opportunities to love and care for that person as Christ did. The greater the stress level, the greater the need.

We have found that there are at least seven types of circumstances that swing open the doors of opportunity to love and help people. They are:

  • Physical needs, specifically illness or hospitalizations
  • Grief caused by any great loss such as death or divorce
  • Marital difficulties
  • Birth of a child
  • Financial difficulties
  • Problems with children
  • Holidays

Any change is an instigator of stress, whether that change is good or bad. But when the change is major, the door is open wider. The door may provide an opportunity for evangelism, but often when the person is experiencing the stress of change you will have opportunities to show compassion, give comfort, and offer encouragement. During a devastating crisis, your door of opportunity could be all of these. For Angela, we found opportunities to be the giver of renewing spiritual truth.


Angela’s Story 

Years ago Angela worked in our office. She was young and bright, just out of high school when she entered employment. During her first year with us, her dad died of cancer. He had been a wonderful man and she was extremely close to him. Four years later, her mother died of cancer. She had been through two major life-changing episodes in four years. I watched her closely and prayed that God would make me sensitive to her and her pain. But every time I asked her how she was, she answered in a positive way. Davidene and I had discussed her situation several times and had grieved with her. We did not know how to help her through her pain except to pray and encourage her. So we waited, observed, and prayed for her.

Several months later she appeared at the door to my office, broken and sobbing. I listened as she agonized over her feelings of isolation. She truly believed that God had left her. My own heart broke for her and soon tears were streaming down both of our faces. I shared with her that she was of great value to God; He loved her and had not abandoned her. We ended our conversation by praying aloud, a new experience for her.

When we finished, her countenance had changed. There was a look of peace rather than sorrow, and joy had replaced fear. Angela was a different person. Later, she wrote to explain how that time of expressing her anger and grief helped her understand God and her own feelings. She was convinced that such times of listening and praying with those who are hurting can help.

After losing her mother at age twenty-two, only four years after her father’s death, Angela wrote, “I felt completely alone. Who could I turn to; whom could I trust? Now I was not only disappointed with God; I was angry. I had convinced myself that I was being punished for something I had done, or maybe something I had not done. . . . I struggled with this for some time and my faith was diminishing. I seldom prayed, and when I did there was not that ‘connection’ I had known before.

“Over a year later, I muscled up all my courage and went to see the one man I knew could give me the advice and wisdom I needed, our CEO. After sitting in his office for an hour, crying so hard I could barely be understood, I became convinced that it was not my fault, I was not being punished. I was only punishing myself for letting my relationship with God fail. Before leaving the office, Kent asked me to do something I felt very uncomfortable doing; he asked me to pray aloud with him. For the first time in months, I prayed for God to forgive me for turning away from Him when I needed Him most.

“Because of this, I am a better Christian today than ever before. I honestly believe in my heart that if this man had not been openly demonstrating his beliefs so strongly, I would never have gone to him.”


The Provision for Our Lives

I (Kent) must admit that even though I knew that Christ could meet Angela’s needs, I was uncomfortable. I believe that if I had not been observing Angela and praying for sensitivity, I would not have been prepared when she appeared at the door. I had to trust fully in God because my only confidence was in Him.

Have you ever been nervous when put in a position like the one I just described? Is the thought that you might have to come up with the right words to say to a person in crisis frightening to you? The disciples felt the same way. Jesus’ answer to them is His answer to us, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).

We may not be literally arrested and sent to jail, but we do feel sometimes as if facing such situations is a trial. But it is not our responsibility to plan everything. The Holy Spirit will bring to our minds exactly what we need at that time. The key is to be available to the Holy Spirit, walking with Him daily so that our lines of communication are open. The more time we have spent with Jesus in His Word the Bible, the more prepared we are. With God’s Word in our heart and minds, the Holy Spirit has a lot He can use. Jesus told His disciples, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Preparation is not easy, but it can be done with a commitment to study God’s Word and a passion to know Christ’s character. Being aware of the needs of others, however, is sometimes more difficult. Such awareness may not come naturally, yet God can develop your sensitivity as you look for opportunities and ask Him to make you more sensitive. I realized early that sensitivity is not a natural strength of my personality type; in fact, normally it is nonexistent. Being a hard driver who tends naturally to run over people on the way to a goal, I work hard at developing this characteristic.

You may need to focus on developing that sensitivity. Sometimes we aren’t as sensitive because we have focused on a project or find other duties distracting us. My assistant of eighteen years told me that I did not recognize her as a person for the first six years of her employment. I pray for sensitivity and I make a conscious effort to slow down so that I can observe others more carefully.

Here are several methods to help us increase our sensitivity to others.


Increase Our Sensitivity Through Prayer

First, we can pray for people, especially by name. Such prayer helps us to focus on others rather than on our own daily concerns. Beginning your day with prayer can be as simple as saying a short prayer while you are still in bed, or as time-consuming as you desire. Either way, the important thing is to begin each day focused on God and on other people. It sets the tone and motivation for everything said and done that day.

Prayer is hard work, and for years I had no method to help me pray regularly. Over time, a system developed that has revolutionized my prayer life. I would like to share it with you.

Often I would hear of a family in need, and I promised that I would pray for them. A week or two later, when I would see them again, I remembered that I had good intentions, but had not prayed. It has been said that the smallest good deed is better than the grandest intention. So, I began the practice (nearly fifteen years ago) of writing down needs on a 3×5 card, taking seriously my commitment to pray. When God began to answer these prayers, I started to get excited and wanted to do it even more. First there were friends at church, then coworkers, business associates, those involved in spiritual ministries, and even casual acquaintances.

Over the years as I wrote down specific requests and prayed for them, I became more interested in people’s situations and wanted to do more. This was particularly true when someone was involved in a long-term illness or grieving over the loss of a loved one. Then Davidene began to bring other names and requests to me, and a mutual sharing of those needs evolved. It all starts with prayer.


Increase Our Sensitivity Through Acts of Encouragement 

Second, give encouragement. Look for ways, however small, to encourage others. For example, at work we tend to be constantly in a hurry, on a mission with a goal in mind. So it is encouraging when someone will stop by another’s desk for a brief “good morning” and a smile. A person feels special when a friend inquires about his child, his progress on a project, or his spouse’s ball game last night. A note of support, encouragement, or congratulations left on a coworker’s desk or a teenager’s table does wonders for the person’s outlook.

When we show kindness during the good times, we will be more sensitive to a person’s trauma during the hard times. We are developing a relationship, and conversations can follow.


Increase Our Sensitivity Through Giving to Others 

Third, offer well-written tools. Giving a card, magazine article, or book puts your focus on others, and finding the right one will make you more sensitive to their needs. When possible, choose greeting cards and other literature that ate based on God’s Word.

Surprisingly, we found that this simple encouragement was so rare that people were overwhelmed. God began to heal them physically and emotionally; many were able to receive specific promises from cards, the Scriptures, and booklets. We began to understand that we were just a conduit for God’s love to those around us. These were people that we saw everyday where we lived, worked, and played.

It is amazing how this simple ministry has expanded. In one recent month, five different coworkers lost a family member. We were able to offer them prayer and other helps. We have learned that critical times in a person’s life do not end quickly, so we tailor what we send and the length of time we send them to each person. A person in grief may receive items from us once every few weeks, then once a month for up to a year. Over a period of years of looking and reading, we have compiled a list of our favorite pamphlets, bookmarks, cards, and books. We update the list constantly as new material comes on the market. We have included our current list in Appendix 1, as well as an offer to help you obtain these for yourself if you are interested.

You may be thinking, “If I give that much stuff away, I will the one in financial crisis.” Let us assure you that such is not the case. These items can be as small as a thirty-nine-cent bookmark or a one-dollar pamphlet. We have, however, found that it helps to have an amount for “ministry” in our budget. We have personally budgeted for ministry since our earliest days of marriage. In our company, we set aside a specific amount to minister to our employees. Let me share just a couple of the reactions we have received as a result of this endeavor.

“Thank you for sending us the book on hope,” wrote a father who lost his son to suicide. “Each day is a struggle as we deal with grief. Some days we don’t leave our house or answer our phone. We are praying hard to God for strength to endure our terrific loss of our special child. We take each day one hour at a time, and hopefully one day we will start functioning normally again. Thank you for caring about us. Believe me, the book helped.”

An international student attending one of our universities was going through an emotionally distressing period. We found out about her situation from a friend, and so we sent her some encouraging cards. She responded, “The Scriptures on the card you sent were water to my soul.” She went on to give enough details about her life and her willingness to receive help that we were able to contact someone who could help her where she lived. It is often true that when you are in a situation when you cannot help the person, you can make arrangements with someone who can. God orchestrates that kind of cooperation among Christians a lot.


Habits of Sensitivity 

As we look for ways to be sensitive to people, there are at least three habits to incorporate into our lives.

The first is the habit of prayer. Earlier we mentioned prayer as one way to develop sensitivity. Now we want to emphasize prayer as a habit of sensitivity. As we pray for people, we develop a spiritual focus in our interaction with them. We cannot overemphasize the value and necessity of prayer in the process of becoming sensitive to people. Prayer changes our focus and unleashes God’s tremendous power. Recall two powerful promises of prayer in Scripture:

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

The second habit we need to develop is to stop and talk to people at every chance. That sounds obvious, but it is not easy because we are so often in a hurry. Instead of racing into the house when returning home from work, we can go over and talk to the neighbor who is standing outside for a minute. Instead of jogging to be the first one at the office copier, we can say hi to the person at the next desk as we pass. It is shocking how often we do not even see someone we could interact with because of our focus on our goal.

The third habit to add to our lifestyle is to ask others for help, especially in the neighborhood. We are a prideful people, and we resist asking for help. But people are usually glad to help, and it opens opportunities for conversation because the other person can talk about something he knows about. That, in turn, opens possibilities for relationships.

These three habits can be used often by God to open doors for ministry to people. As we watch for the door of opportunity to swing wide, as we are sensitive, as we care for others, we will have chances to show and tell of God’s love. We close this chapter by presenting several ideas for opening doors, based largely on opportunities we’ve experienced. Most of these are from our world of business. They are not meant to dictate how God will use you in your world of work, school, neighborhood, etc. As you read them, ask God to give you ideas that will touch others as you work, play, raise your family, and interact with friends.


Doors of Opportunity During Marriage Difficulties

Difficulties in a marriage can become a crisis that opens doors of ministry. For example, consider asking a troubled couple to go with your spouse and you to a marriage or parenting conference. You may want to help them financially if this is possible for you. You may tell them, “We want to help you go with us by providing baby-sitting for you. This is really selfish on our part because we want to spend this time with you.”

Maybe you could give anonymously to your church and then say, “Our church has scholarships. Let’s both go!” If you cannot help financially, plan far enough in advance that both couples can save for it.

We have offered to send couples to marriage conferences, and the results have been great. Some couples are willing to go by themselves, but we have been known to get a group together to go just so that we can invite a couple we are concerned about as our guests. As CEO of our company, I can also offer this benefit to my employees, and many have taken advantage of it. As one employee wrote recently, “I thank God that you have the marriage conferences, the parenting conferences, and the children’s camp programs available to your employees.” (See Appendix 2 for offerings from Family Life, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and from Eagle Lake Camps, a ministry of the Navigators.)

Another thing we do at work to help families as well as individuals is the chaplain program that we initiated through Marketplace Ministries (listed in Appendix 2). Many of our employees do not attend church regularly, so when they face a crisis they have no church of their own to call. Marketplace Ministries provides our company with a chaplain who visits once a week and gets to know the employees. He or she becomes a friend, being available and holding Bible studies before work hours. When employees face a problem, they can call on the chaplain at any time. Our chaplains have helped our people through some terrible times in their lives.

The company chaplain has been present for births and deaths, trouble with teenagers and spouses, and happy times such as weddings. Since the information of who sees the chaplain and what is said is confidential, employees have great trust and freedom getting the help they need. If you have the authority in your business to look into having this program, or to suggest it to someone else, I would strongly recommend it. The return on your investment in employee morale, productivity, and loyalty is tremendous. Best of all, lives are changed.

We want to be involved with our people when they are in the hospital, and we have spent many hours and days sitting with folks who are there. But with several hundred people that we care about, we cannot be there in person for everyone. Our chaplain really helps the employees and our company.


Doors of Opportunity During Hospital Stays  

Most of us, however, do not have a company chaplain. What can we do as individuals? Here’s a second suggestion, a second door of opportunity. When a neighbor or coworker is in the hospital, we can go to visit them, rather than simply sending a card. We can offer to pray with them, and do so right then in their presence. As the conversation in the hospital room unfolds, there may be a natural opportunity to talk about stress, life’s crises, family reactions, and other problems.

We can then make a request: “Do you mind if I share this with my pastor so that he and my church family can pray for you?” In some cases, we could even look for an opportunity to ask if we could bring our pastor with us for a visit. The important thing is to go with a prayer for sensitivity to that person’s needs and an awareness of the chances God will give for us to minister.

Be bold. In asking a person if you can pray for him or her, you are not imposing on the person, but showing the depth of your care. We have never seen a case in which an offer to pray was not appreciated, and it often opens the way for more spiritual conversation.


Doors of Opportunity During Holidays

Another open door God provides to care for people is during holidays. It is easy to imagine how Christmas lends itself to giving of ourselves to others, but don’t forget the less emphasized holidays. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are often neglected holidays except by a parent’s children, but these are great days on which to surprise someone you care about with a small token. If they do not have children, tell them that the gift is because they have a mother or father!

We decided to emphasize the week before Mother’s Day at work. We gave each woman a different small gift each day. The gifts included cards, candy, a flower, and a small book. The morale in the office was sky-high for a long time. On Father’s Day, I inserted tracts about Father’s Day in the paychecks. Another year we sent a letter, and a third year we sent a small book. I sent these not only to our employees, but also to our contacts in the business world. One letter I received back from a supplier said, “Thank you for your letter. What pleased me most was the information that was inside, the tracts on being a better dad. Raising a family is often difficult. “We have found people to be highly appreciative of any effort to make them feel special, especially since daily life does not often produce that effect.

Good material on the family, children, or marriage is usually freely received. Later on, when we want to say or send something that is spiritual in nature, people are receptive.

The Fourth of July is another overlooked opportunity as a rule. One year we sent a letter, along with the book Preserve Us a Nation, by Charles Crismeier, to friends and business associates. This book relates many stories about the heroes of our nation’s early years. It emphasizes our nation’s biblical roots. The reaction to that book from our suppliers was eye-opening. One supplier wrote,” As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, this book is indeed an appropriate reminder. Because I travel quite a bit, I am never far from a book. This book will be with me on my next trip.” Another replied, “This book will remain among my treasured readings. Thanks for thinking of me.”

Of course, the holiday that means the most personally is a person’s birthday. How long has it been since you have received a birthday card from someone other than your family? Another holiday like that is a wedding anniversary; not even family members remember that one. It means a lot, therefore, when someone remembers your special day. We make it a practice to send birthday cards, and once in a while, we send a card or an encouraging note to someone, not realizing that it will arrive on their birthday.

On one such occasion, the lady involved wrote back, “Bless you for your kindness to me in sending the precious book, A Mother’s journey. I’ll attempt to explain to you the significance of your obedience to the Lord’s prompting. The book arrived on my birthday. Because of the nature of our schedule, it was the only acknowledgement of my birthday. Also, the Lord told me that He had something for me when I opened your package. I knew what it was; the Lord was kissing me through you. Thank you for your sensitivity. Every time you have given to us it has met an exact need.”

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that a card or pamphlet has arrived at an exact moment of need. Of course, there is no way I could know that; it is God’s work. He is faithful and true in His love. The awesome knowledge that He is willing to use me to touch others keeps me on my knees in gratitude to Him. What a privilege and a joy it is to be His child.


Doors of Opportunity During Crises 

Crises are often severe and heartrending. Such things as watching a loved one waste away with a disease, or hearing about the tragic death of a child, tear us apart. It may even make the local newscast or the front page of the newspaper. We wonder what we can do that would really help, but there is always something we can do. At times, history creates its own special days, usually out of crisis.

We will never forget one such day in Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.The terrorist bombing of the Federal Building down- town created a chaos and opportunity to minister to people unparalleled in our state’s history. Within three days of the event, we sent out a letter to several hundred friends, missionaries, and business contacts to tell them about it and to thank them for praying. People responded from all over the world.

It was a time to share our grief with others, and out of it positive influence was built. Of course, no one in Oklahoma City was personally untouched by the tragedy. If a resident did not directly lose a loved one in the event, he knew someone who did. We all attended funerals for weeks, and we helped friends recover for a year. One such person, Richeal Thatcher, worked in our office. Her sister, who was seven months pregnant at the time, was killed in the building. To make things worse, her body was not recovered for days. The torture one goes through while wondering if her loved one is still alive and suffering is terrible.

We tried to uphold Richeal in every way we could, and two years later we were still sending cards. In the meantime her dad was diagnosed with cancer, and she was told that she would be a witness at the trial in Denver. She had been through a lot in a short time, and we wanted to minister to her. In December of 1997 she wrote us, “Thanks so much for all the lovely cards you sent, as well as the prayers. Thank you also for the books you continue to send. I share them with my mother. Max Lucado has become a favorite.”

Last year, Richeal wrote to the employees of our firm this letter:

“In life, we are constantly reaching out to grasp whatever we can. We start as infants reaching out and up to latch onto whatever objects lay within our reach. We hold tight to our parents’ hands as they teach us to walk. We hold on first to them, then to God as we go out into life. All that my parents have taught me and all that God continues to teach me have helped me savor life and realize that material objects are never permanent nor to be depended on. The foundation of my life has been my faith, trust in God, values, and morals. When I came to work for Jacks Service Co. in 1985, I noticed that the management clearly demonstrates that God comes first, family second, and your job third. I observed that they put the company on the line with a Mission Statement that they stand behind, values they are frequently called upon to uphold, and morals that are tested daily.

“The friendships I have made at Jacks are a constant support in my life. Friends have held my hand after surgery, celebrated with me on my wedding day, comforted me when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, quietly prayed with me (and for me) the morning of April 19th when my sister was missing, and later cried with me as we laid her and my unborn niece to rest. They were there with me in thought and prayer as I took my turn on the witness stand. . . . The cards and inspirational readings J have received (and still continue to receive) tell me that Jacks’ foundation is indeed God and that they want to share this with all of their employees. My stay at Jacks has enriched my life. I’m glad I latched on!”

You may wonder what effect one Christian trying to love people can have in a company. But one Christian influences others to do the same, and after a period of time, a company culture is developed that can really minister to people and honor Christ. Did you notice that although we as management had influence, most of Richeal’s help came from her many coworkers? Just ordinary people, showing God’s love to others.

Ask God for creative ways to meet the needs of the people you are in contact with everyday. As your sensitivity toward others increases, you will find people coming to you for advice. They want to talk to someone who they feel cares about them. Then you can take them by the hand and bring them with you to Jesus.

The way you do this will be different for each person. For example, I have given many stories about sending cards and books. That is just one way, one well suited to me, to minister. How each of us ministers is influenced by our backgrounds, personalities, gifting, experiences, abilities, and talents. The point is that when a door of opportunity is open, walk through it.

The key is not how we do it, but that we do it. If someone is in grief, four different Christians may help that person in four different ways. One may give a book, another may cook a meal, another goes by to sit and listen, another may sit by the phone and organize relatives coming into town for the funeral. Do not limit God by thinking that a method that is natural for me is what you should do. God probably has plans for you that you will be much more comfortable with, based on what He has gifted you to do.

The creativity of our great God is unlimited. Each of us is unique, placed by the Father to be His personal representative to those who need Him. The Creator of the universe has chosen to work through us. How amazing! As we become more sensitive to those around us, we will experience the words of Jesus in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

From: Show and Then Tell: Presenting the Gospel through Daily Encounters (Moody Press, 2000). Used by permission.

Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. While owning and operating a nationwide general merchandise distribution business, he worked with the nation’s largest retailers. Since selling the family business in 1997, Kent continues to be involved in real estate, private equities, and a medical distribution business. From 2002 through 2007, he was president of Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, an organization that equips and encourages Christian business owners who desire to use their companies as a platform for ministry. Kent now serves them as a worldwide ambassador for FCCI (Christ@Work).

For many years, Kent has spent much of his time ministering to business leaders, pastors, and students across the country through speaking, writing, and mentoring. He has spoken in seminaries across the United States and overseas and at numerous international conferences. He travels extensively overseas. He served for many years on the board of directors of The Navigators, Integris Hospital, a couple of seminaries, and other charitable organizations. Kent and his wife Davidene have written a number of books including: Show and then Tell (Moody Press, 2000), Shepherding Horses Volume I, 2006, Shepherding Horses, Volume II (formerly Lasting Investments) and Encouragement for Your Journey Alone, Meditations for Widows (Tate Publishing). Most recently, Kent is developing a Christ@Work series with the first two books entitled Christ@Work: Opening Doors, and Christ@Work: In Your Transition. Kent and Davidene have three children and eight grandchildren, and make their home in Oklahoma City.