On Nov. 14, 2014, pastors and lay-leaders came from all around our region to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to attend a Fresh Expressions Vision Day. Having originated in the Church of England ten years ago, Fresh Expressions is a movement which encourages the formation of new Christian communities that connect with our changing culture. Though they exist alongside and are complementary to existing forms of Church, these new communities exist primarily for the benefit of people who aren’t yet members of the Church, a segment of the population that continues to grow in the United States.
As we heard leaders of Fresh Expressions US share lessons they’ve learned from Fresh Expressions in the UK, I was struck by the wisdom and simplicity of their relational approach to forming new Christian communities. In ministries like the Tobacco Trail Church and The Gaming Grotto, Christian community emerged among groups of people who gathered around common interests like running or video games. These new communities weren’t started by larger churches seeking to extend their brand or by denominations trying to strategically position themselves in growing neighborhoods. Instead, they were started by people who followed as God led them deeper into relationship with real people in their contexts. By taking postures in which they listened and obeyed, they allowed God’s desires for these new communities to emerge.