Not long ago someone asked me why they should choose to come to the Fresh Expressions National Gathering over some of the other larger events related to the church and mission taking place this year. That’s a great question, especially when you consider that if you go to those events you will have the opportunity to access a greater number of workshops, hear from a hefty slate of nationally known speakers, and be in the room with a few thousand other people. As a matter of fact, those are all the reasons I used to attend conferences just like that!
Other than the fact that those events will cost you a great deal more than the Fresh Expressions National Gathering, here are a few reasons why you should join us in Alexandria March 28-29.
Fresh Expressions is Exceptionally Normal
I’ve found that most conferences I have attended over the years, much of what is put on display is for the 1-2% of churches that are larger, have pastors who are authors, and are quite well-known. After all, most conferences are formed around having a high percentage of people who run the speaking “circuit” that people want to hear. While we try to have at least one person who falls into that category (and brings expertise with them), we try to gather leaders that you can’t hear in any city or conference around the US. They are usually people who are plugging away on the ground, trying to figure it out and learning along the way (just like the 98% of us who come to conferences). Fresh Expressions is formed around the core belief that when people attend our gatherings, they need to be able to walk away and say … “I can do that” … or “I may not be able to do that, but I sure know someone in my congregation who can”.
Fresh Expressions is Practically Missional
“Missional” is the new buzz word around many parts of the Church today. Yet, most leaders walk away from ‘missional’ conversations wondering what exactly they should do. Rooted in our belief that the work of cultivating a fresh expression of church is “normal” we strive to make the idea of a mission-shaped church incredibly practical. We always include a variety of stories, principles, diagrams, and how-to’s to help leaders discern a context and develop a community of faith that might authentically emerge from the group of people around whom it takes root. These communities are simple or else they’re not normal.
Fresh Expressions is a Movement (not just an event)
This gathering is much more than an event. While it will have a beginning and ending time, it truly is an entrée into the work of the Holy Spirit to cultivate a modern day mission movement through the mobilization of the everyday people of God (i.e. the everyday church). Fresh Expressions is not an event to attend; it’s a movement to join. Even in the way we are structured as an organization, we’re attempting to demonstrate that our goal is not to get everyone to use our “services” but to work alongside those who share a common heart for the Gospel to “serve” the whole church. We don’t want the central operations of Fresh Expressions US to get bigger and bigger. We want to put fresh expressions onto the hard drive of every tribe who joins the movement. In other words, this is not just a para-church effort, but an intra-church effort. It is an effort joining the broader church together and moving forward with a united vision for mission.
Fresh Expressions is Spiritually Attentive
The basis of Fresh Expressions is listening to God and listening to the people around you. Having an ear (and a heart) open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit are bedrocks of everything we do. If people walk away from one of our gatherings without having their heart touched by God, we’d be disappointed. So come eager to be refreshed in God’s love for you and for His mission through you.
Fresh Expressions is Locally Grown
One of the ways I have come to talk about our work is that we are attempting to “Put the church that Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are.” In other words, we believe that the church has to get even more “local” than it ever has been. It needs to be in the gym and in the school and in the home and in the bar. It needs to be where life is lived. But, it needs to be there as a tangible and visible expression of the community of Christ and not simply as individual Christians. Of course, if this is going to happen, it must happen by the thousands of churches that are scattered across our nation, mobilizing their church to get even more local than they are already.
So, whether or not you can join us for the National Gathering, we invite you into a movement of normal people moving with an anything-but-normal-God and carrying out the missionary heart of the Holy Spirit to put the church that Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are.
Chris Backert is National Director of Fresh Expressions US. He lives in Harford County, Maryland. Register at the standard price for the National Gathering today!
Working with church leaders to develop new expressions of Christian community is the passion of Chris’s life. In addition to his role as National Director of Fresh Expressions US, he serves with the Baptist General Association of Virginia the area of church planting and serves as the Director & Organizational Architect for Ecclesia, a national network of missional churches. Previously, he served as pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, a large university congregation in Blacksburg, Virginia. Chris holds a D.Min. in Missional Church Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with wife Rachel, daughter Elliana and son Jase. ￼