By Stanley W. Green
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Many of us happily welcome God’s guidance into ministry, leadership and service. Where most of us get stuck, however, is how to recognize the prompting of the Spirit. We struggle to know when God is guiding us to more than being open, to actually leading or serving. I have sat through, or taught, enough classes on “How can we know the will of God?” to know that this can be a peculiarly perplexing question. I also know that the question never goes away. We are always yearning to know God’s specific purpose in our lives at every stage.

 

 

​Discerning the will of God is an important process with which every follower of Jesus needs to grapple. One of the powerful tools for this work—one that was critical to opening me up to God’s purposes for my life and, by all accounts, has been helpful to so many more—is the testimonies of others. Here’s how it happened for me:

I grew up in the church. I was powerfully inspired by the church’s commitment to bring healing and hope into broken, hurting lives. I greatly admired the role of the pastor in the formation of a vision and consciousness within the members of the church.

Even though I positively regarded the role of the pastor, I never aspired to become one myself. Then, in my later teens, I experienced a life-transforming series of events. One day, my family was on a road trip to visit my older brother. On our way, we were involved in a serious accident that landed all of us in the hospital. After being stabilized, I was sent home the next day while the rest of my family remained hospitalized. I arrived home and found myself in the company of just my older brother.

One day, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, I saw Mr. Pratt, an elder in my congregation who had watched me grow up. After an expression of gratitude for God having saved my life, he proceeded to share with me his conviction that “God had saved my life for a purpose.” He went on to read the passage in Isaiah 6 that recounts the call of the prophet into service after a particular crisis he and others had experienced. Then, without further comment, he instructed me to consult with our pastor on the meaning of the passage for my life. This led to a discernment process that resulted in my saying “yes” to full-time ministry.

What Mr. Pratt did for me that day changed the whole course of my life, for good. I am grateful for him and for so many throughout our church who are not formal leaders, but whose encouragement has released so many preachers, teachers, and other leaders to walk in the path of leadership and service.

Over the years, I have been privileged to listen to many testimonies that recount the ways that people’s lives have been influenced, and how they were led to say yes to God after others in whom they trusted had spoken to their potential and opened their eyes and their hearts to new possibilities. And what a return on investment! For the small investment of observing and inviting persons to pay attention to God’s particular purposes, lives have been changed and ministries have been unleashed. I know; it happened for me.

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Stanley W. Green is executive director for Mennonite Mission Network.

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