By Charlie Wear

I grew up attending a denominational church every week. My mother, who did not regularly attend church herself, made sure that I was dressed and delivered to the hands of my teacher every week. For that reason, years later, I was unable to identify the “moment” of my salvation. As was my church’s tradition, I was baptized at my request when I was 13 years of age. Some years later, I had an airline seatmate who expounded the Four Spiritual Laws and lead me in the Sinner’s prayer. However, I didn’t get personally interested in evangelism until I had stopped attending church regularly in my mid-30s.

I am not sure what peaked my interest. As my children reached their teenage years, I became concerned that my oldest son was not willing to make “a commitment to Christ.” I was worried that my lack of interest in church had something to do with his reluctance. My daughter had been baptized at the age of 8, and then again when she was older. My oldest stepson made a decision at a Calvary Chapel baptism and then was later baptized again by his denominational-pastor father. My youngest stepson made his decision early.

At the age of 39, tired, burned out, depressed, I was invited to attend a denominational church that was starting to reach out to people who had given up on church. The pastor eventually determined to “hive off” a new church that was targeted to reach people like me with contemporary music in worship, message-centered dramas and a heart to express love, acceptance and forgiveness to “backsliders” like myself. I came back to church, and to God. I got involved in leading worship, small groups and heard about church growth for the first time

In my quest to hear more about worship and church growth I became exposed to hours of teaching tapes by John Wimber, the leader of the Vineyard movement, and the founding consultant of the Fuller Institute for Church Growth. I heard John and Peter Wagner expound, “The single most effective tool for evangelism is church planting.” With those words I began a journey that eventually found me pastoring a Vineyard church in the mid-90s. It was then I discovered that church planting did not always lead to evangelism. I learned that transfer growth can be the basis for church planting and that churches birthed in this model seldom grow from new conversions. I also learned that it is difficult to lead an established church into a season of evangelism if it has not been birthed from the evangelistic harvest.

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