NextGen Church: West Windsor, New Jersey
As is the case with most new churches, our understanding of NextGen Church’s mission and vision has evolved since its inception. In retrospect, we now realize that God led our small group of fledglings on an unexpected journey that very much echoes the mission of Fresh Expressions. At the time, however, we did not understand that our new endeavor was “fresh” nor an adequate “expression” of our faith. We were frankly inexperienced and ill-equipped for ministry. Our small team of young Christians was simply compelled by our love for God and for one another and to experience God together and extend His grace to others around us.
Author Angela Shier Jones states that most fresh expressions of church arise naturally out of a local church’s participation in the Missio Dei. When a congregation looks outward and commits to going beyond the safety of its familiar form and structure, it becomes newly empowered to extend the gospel message in an authentic, culturally relevant and Spirit-directed way – and thus, fresh expressions of church are born. This intentional movement gave birth to and drives the growth of NextGen’s ministry. NextGen launched as an English speaking ministry for second generation Asian Americans in the greater Princeton region. Since launching with a core group of three families, more people came to join and, quite organically, the ministry experienced slow but steady growth. NextGen’s vision became more clearly defined and firmly developed during these years.
The vision is no longer limited to second generation Asian Americans but has evolved into that of a multicultural, multigenerational church that reaches out to the unchurched people of the greater Princeton region. This is on display most Sundays when multicultural celebrations take place at lunch time. There is typically a beautiful array of colors and tastes as Korean kimchi, pasta from Italy, Irish soda bread and Nigerian jollof rice are enjoyed on a single plate while conversing in one of 16 different languages. It is not uncommon to see people eating spaghetti and meatballs with chopsticks!
We are grateful for this incredible journey that God has called us to partake and look ahead with much anticipation of where He will take us next.
May this fresh expression of church be evident through and in spite of us.
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.