Marketplace Ministry Counsels People with God’s Wisdom

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Rob Ellis235Rob Ellis has been director of Marketplace Ministry for seven years.Rob Ellis, director of Marketplace Ministry, flips through the New Living Translation of the Bible so he can read out loud a certain scripture from the Old Testament.

"Get all the advice and instruction you can," Proverbs 19:20 reads, "so you will be wise the rest of your life."

Ellis knows there are a number of people who need a rudder to guide them through life's challenges and heartaches. That's why Marketplace Ministry is here.

"There are a number of people who have not learned this yet," Ellis said.

Which is a big reason why the Marketplace Ministry was founded 45 years ago.

Ellis, who holds a masters in counseling psychology from Georgia State University, counsels a weekly average of 15 people who are grappling with "the difficulties of life" that range from depression, financial woes, parents' concerns on the cultural influences on their children, gender issues and marital disputes.

Plus, there are "people wondering what life is about," Ellis said.

Shopping for the truth

Marketplace Ministry gets its name because of where it initially was located when it was a combination Bible-based counseling storefront/coffee shop in Eastbrook Mall, now CenterPointe Mall.

Much of its foot traffic was generated from passersby who would drop in for some friendly advice or to pickup religious literature on a broad spectrum of topics the Christian counseling ministry offered.

Two Reformed Church in America pastors started Marketplace Ministry in 1970, born out of a realization that a great number of people would rather shop in malls than attend church services. Among its founders was Rev. Ken Navis, who served as the counseling ministry's director for 25 years, and died in 2014.

"He really built the ministry," Ellis said of Navis.

Marketplace Ministry eventually relocated to Breton Village more than 10 years ago, and then moved again to its current location at the office complex, Atrium Building, 3351 Claystone St. SE. Its phone number is (616) 949-4911. Although biblically based, Marketplace Ministry is not affiliated with any denomination or religious body.

For many, life becomes a tough row to hoe, Ellis said.

God is with us

"Life lived on a fallen planet in a world system like ours can be cruel at times," Ellis said. "An alliance with God is always a help and a support. People need to know God is with them."

Sometimes it means learning to let go as well.

"(Apostle) Paul makes clear in the New Testament of our need to leave the past behind and move forward to a high calling," Ellis said. "What we have for the rest of our lives is most important."

As a counselor, Ellis sometimes needs to show people the error of their ways, such as a woman who marries again and again abusive alcoholic husbands.

"A lot of times, life pushes us into a role that we play that leads to consistent outcomes that are not satisfying," Ellis said. "Some people need that help that shows them how not to fall into the same outcome."

Ellis primarily counsels Christians but his door is open to those who are not.

"We welcome those who might be curious or have a spiritual void," Ellis said. "It's always up to them."

Not just an opinion

Ellis' said Marketplace Ministry counseling is a marriage between biblical insights and wisdom and psychology "with an edge toward the biblically based so I'm not just a guy with an opinion," he said.

Cost for each counseling session is $10 but those unable to pay aren't required to.

"It's important for them to have some skin in the game and to feel they have a hand in paying for the service," Ellis said.

Pro-ball player turned counselor

In his younger years, Ellis played outfield and third base for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1971-75, was assistant baseball coach for Michigan State University from 1986-1991 and coached several minor league baseball teams from 1993-2000.

But yesterday is gone and Ellis is grateful for the work he's accomplishing through Marketplace Ministry today.

"It's a more meaningful way to work," he said. "I enjoy presenting the Lord to them whether they want to take it or not. It's satisfying to work for the Lord, to be a part of His cause."

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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