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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This is a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

If students are experiencing this type of disconnect in educational settings it should be a message to those who are in ministry attempting to reach young adults.  Our approach will not be successful if we continue to use 20th century approaches.  The way that we communicate the essentials of our message must be relevant and in a media or presentation form that fits the lifestyle of 21st Century young adults.

Making Disciples requires  adaptability to the culture without compromising the message.

Early Christians made the marketplace the focal point of their ministry because their occupations regularly took them there. As they conducted business, it was natural for them to present the Gospel to the people they encountered. Marketplace people played a vital role in the emergence, establishment, and expansion of the early church—in fact, most of the followers of Jesus Christ remained in full-time business while simultaneously conducting full-time ministry. This was possible because they saw the marketplace as their parish and their business as a pulpit, to them witnessing was not an occasional activity but a lifestyle.

Generals, Not Privates

Today, millions of men and women are similarly called to full-time ministry in business, education, and government—the marketplace. These men and women work as stockbrokers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, farmers, chief operating officers, news reporters, teachers, police officers, plumbers, factory foremen, receptionists, cooks, and much more. Some of them have great influence on mainstream society, others are unsung heroes with low profiles, but each of them has been divinely called to bring the kingdom of God to the heart of the city.

Unfortunately, many of these marketplace Christians feel like second-class citizens when compared to people who serve full-time in a church. This should not be the case. No matter the occupation, Christians who work at secular jobs need to know that they are not perpetual privates in God’s army just because they have not gone to seminary. They have the potential to become full-fledged generals whose ministry is in the heart of the city, instead of inside a religious building.

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I am absolutely convinced that as clergy in the UMC, we must reclaim the foundations of our Wesleyan  heritage. Our practices of ministry must include marketplace ministry. Our ordination to Word, Sacrament , Order and Service implicitly includes witness.  Clergy must model living our witness in the marketplace intentionally and consistently.  I will be looking for models of marketplace ministry and sharing over the next few days.


If the mainline church is going to revitalize its urban churches we need to look at new ways of reaching out to the communities around our dying churches.  We first need to get over the phobia of evangelism, it is scriptural and a mark of being a disciple.  Servant evangelism seems to be a non threatening way to develop this discipline.