The Great Lakes Region (GLR) of The Wesleyan Church is piloting a method of planting new expressions of church work that don’t look like traditional congregations. From gyms to coffee shops to restaurants, the GLR is focused on raising up Christian ministers who are “sent” into every domain of work.

So far, those fresh expressions are often explicitly not local churches. One of these enterprises — “The Main Ingredient“ (TMI) — is a food truck in Detroit, Michigan, that sees their work as an opportunity for discipleship, not only of their staff, but also their customers. Pastor Michael Newton started TMI with the idea of being both a pastor and a chef: training people in cooking and providing nourishment for the body and the soul.

“You’re out with people and these kinds of conversations just come up,” said Pastor Michael. “There are people who come to the food truck who would never show up in a church, and we have the opportunity to talk with them about Jesus.”

For Revs. John and Danielle Freed, GLR directors of Church Multiplication, Pastor Michael’s model for ministry is a prime example of what the GLR is hoping for: sustainable, innovative ministries that meet people in their communities. “We are hoping people build missional communities of faith. We have different definitions of that, but as simple as possible: ‘Tell enough people about Jesus, they’re going to gather to give God glory and learn to live on mission.’”

The leaders of these works often do not see themselves in local church ministry; and because they feel called to church work, but don’t see their career in the church, many wonder how to pursue a calling with no clear pathway. “We have had adults weep because they felt less-than — not really a part of the church, but to tell them, ‘You are just as important as a traditional congregation,’ has changed their lives and their direction,” said the Freeds.

While traditional pastoral credentials may not fit these new works, the Freeds and GLR are discovering the relevance of appointing these leaders as evangelists: missionaries on domestic soil. Previously a designation mostly held by those in itinerant preaching ministry, this kind of appointment feels appropriate for the role of leaders of these fresh works that are carrying good news into their communities.

But most importantly, the credential serves as a consistent reminder that each of these works —different as they are from a traditional ministry appointment — is a context in which God can bring new life.

“We have pastors who are launching churches in jails and prisons, who can run separate from the congregation, but they run in tandem with the congregation — churches can have a broader expression of faith and church … there are places people can launch into that churches could never touch and that opens up new opportunities for leaders, too. We’re seeing retired pastors, under-resourced people groups and others starting new works that reach new people and new places with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” shares Pastor John.

The GLR has set a goal of launching 300 of these communities in the next nine years — so look for more innovative ways the church will show up in the years ahead.

For more stories about how The Wesleyan Church is doing innovative work on mission, visit

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.