by Mark Herbster
The subject of God’s Will seems to be a much debated one, with some saying that God has a general will for all Christians and they are free to make decisions within certain parameters, and others believing that God has a very specific will for each person. I am firmly in the latter category; I believe that the Scriptures are clear that God has a specific will for each of us and that we ought to earnestly pursue it. Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure.” I do not believe, however, that God’s will is a mystical thing that is somehow “revealed” to a person at some point in time; rather, I believe that God reveals His will for a person’s life in a variety of ways.
My purpose in sharing the following thoughts is not to give a comprehensive study on the subject of finding God’s will, neither is it to provide a lengthy discussion on spiritual gifts. My desire is to share my personal experience of how God led me into evangelism and to communicate in a practical way how other young men may determine what role in ministry they should take. Before I begin with that, however, I want to acknowledge the grace that God has abundantly bestowed upon me. I am so grateful for the salvation I have freely received! And I am forever indebted to many, many people who have helped me along the way! I realize as did Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” (I Corinthians 15:10)
I have met many young men who, knowing God is calling them into the ministry, struggle with the specifics of God’s will in regard to ministry focus and direction. For instance, they have questions such as, “Should I be an evangelist, a missionary or a pastor? What are my gifts? How can I be confident that I am doing God’s specific will?” The answers to these types of questions can be invaluable in assisting young preacher boys to discern God’s will. Perhaps my own story will help someone else in his search for God’s will.
I was blessed to be born into a Christian home, and when I was still very young, my Dad was called into ministry. I cannot remember a time in our family when life was not about ministering to others. Dad was a school administrator, assistant pastor and Christian school specialist during my early elementary years. When I was in fourth grade, Dad became a pastor, and I, therefore, became a PK! As I watched him function in ministry, I saw the joy that ministering to others brought him (and to my Mom as well), and I saw a consistency in his life: he was the same man at home as he was at church. In short, he practiced what he preached! The biggest factor in my decision to enter the ministry was the example I saw in my Dad.
As I grew and understood more of the ministry, the more I desired to be involved in it when I grew up. My brothers and I had opportunities as the pastor’s kids to see aspects of the ministry that other kids do not have so young. We got to meet and fellowship with some of the greatest preachers in the country! We spent time with almost every evangelist who came to our church, we went on countless mission trips, and we participated in various church ministries. We felt as though we were an integral part of Dad’s ministry, and I believe that is why none of us ever resented the ministry. God started to cultivate in me a desire to preach when I was in elementary school. I am confident that that desire was from God: I Timothy 3:1 says, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” I believe that God uses a person’s desires to lead him into the specific will He has for his life (Psalm 37:4; 84:11). By the time I was in sixth grade, there was no doubt in my mind that God was calling me to preach.
Once I knew that God wanted me to preach, I needed to discern His will as to what specific type of preaching ministry. Was I to be a missionary, a church planter, a pastor, an evangelist or some other minister for God? Obviously, God does not audibly speak or write down his specific will for anyone, so how is one to determine his specific role in ministry? I believe that God uses an individual’s personality and gifts to direct him.
I knew from an early age that my personality was very intense and aggressive. I was the one in the Herbster house that had a quick temper! With my parents’ and the Lord’s help, I was able to get this intensity under control and channel it in the proper direction. Mom and Dad told me early on that if I would allow Him to, God could use my intense personality in His work. As I listened to hundreds of preachers growing up, I began to notice that the ones with my personality were typically evangelists. I remember hearing them preach at camp and in revival meetings and wondering if someday God could use my intensity in the same way! Of course, a particular personality does not automatically categorize a person in ministry, but it can help. Since “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23), I believe that God also uses the opportunities and activities of life to lead a man. Also, the counsel of others in ministry is invaluable to a man seeking God’s will. A person who does not seek and heed godly counsel for a major decision is very foolish: (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6)
By the time I was in 8th grade, I knew that God was leading me to be an evangelist. I had a strong desire to follow that path, and I understood God had given me a personality conducive to that type of ministry. I made a commitment at that time to preach any time that I was given an opportunity, and I have kept that commitment to this day.
Immediately after I graduated from high school, I began serving the Lord at The Wilds Christian Camp. Without a doubt, the eleven summers that I spent at The Wilds solidified my call from God to be an evangelist. The first several summers that I worked at camp, I tried to meet with almost every evangelist who came to speak. I would ask them for their counsel, and they were so gracious to give it! It was a privilege to call these great men of God, these spiritual heroes, my friends! Their passion in preaching and burden for souls was obvious and impacted me in a major way. God was beginning to knit my heart to these men and to the ministry of the evangelist.
One of these evangelists that I was able to get to know very well was Evangelist Tom Farrell. Next to my Dad, Brother Farrell is the man who has impacted my life in the greatest way! Shortly after I graduated from high school, he told me that, when I was ready, he would allow me to travel with him in order to learn from him and become acclimated to the itinerate ministry. He kept his promise, and my family and I spent our first year in fulltime evangelism traveling with him. I consider him to be my mentor in evangelism. Having a mentor is a key, I believe, in ascertaining God’s will and in preparing for a specific ministry.
In the spring of 2002 I officially began in fulltime evangelism. I look back with great joy and thanksgiving for the grace of God that has led me to this ministry. I truly can say as Paul said, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (I Timothy 1:12).
This is my personal story, but each person’s story will be different. However, God does lead people in similar ways. He will always use your background, personality, talents, the counsel of others and ministry opportunities to point you down the right path. Sometimes, I believe, some young preachers may look at evangelism as a glamorous opportunity and hastily choose this role. I would recommend answering the following questions before deciding to be an evangelist:
1. Do you have a particular passion to preach the gospel?
2. Does your personality seem to be a good fit for an itinerate ministry?
3. Do other people whom you respect see this ministry as a good fit for you?
4. Do you have an overwhelming burden to see people get saved?
5. Are you willing to leave the discipleship ministry primarily to the pastor?
The answers to these questions and others can help with decisions about the specific will of God. God wants to direct His children. Psalm 84:11 says “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
I can say with all sincerity that being an evangelist is a good thing! It is a privilege to be a servant of Jesus Christ and a servant to the local church.