One of the things I most love about the ethos behind fresh expressions of church is that almost any church can start a fresh expression. In fact, I am quite sure that many churches could start several fresh expressions of church!
Back in 2009, on our initial trip to the UK to try and understand what Jesus was doing in this developing movement, perhaps the reality I was most impressed by was the “scalability” of fresh expressions.
In just two short weeks, we visited urban fresh expressions and rural fresh expressions. There were churches that were just a few years old starting fresh expressions of church and churches that were 1400 years old (yes – you read that right) starting these new gospel communities. I talked with leaders in churches of 70 people who had started 2 fresh expressions and churches of 1600 that had started 30.
The Secret Weapon Inside Every Congregation
I am convinced that almost any church can do this because I am convinced that almost every congregation has pioneering leaders. There are leaders in whom Jesus has planted a dream in their soul to bear witness to the reality of the kingdom of God to a specific group of people or place.
That is – quite simply – all that is needed to begin.
I am certain that there are a handful of people in almost every congregation who, if they had a specific mission focus, could start a fresh expression of church for 25-40 people. I am certain that if properly guided, many of the people within that fresh expression who learn to follow after Jesus Christ (i.e. become disicples), will find ways of naturally bowing their life before God together (i.e. worship), sharing a common life with one another (i.e. fellowship) and demonstrating and sharing the good news of God’s in-breaking kingdom with the world (i.e. mission/evangelism).
I am certain of all this because I see it and hear stories of it every week – in just about every type of congregation.
Five Simple Steps
Here are a few simple steps to get started:
- Start by asking yourself, “who do I know in my congregation that could start a group that might eventually grow to 20-30 people around a shared mission or passion?” Invite those people for coffee and show them a story of a fresh expression of church. Let them know that you believe they could do what they just saw/heard.
- Consider the existing ministries of your church. Are there any that are “ripe” for a transition from a programmatic way of operating to a communal and relational way of operating? We find that many churches have existing ministries, that with proper coaching and support, can be developed into a fresh expression of church.
- Develop a short list of both the “real” and “felt” needs within your neighborhood and community. Are their people both inside and outside of your church that you believe could form a shared mission around that arena?
- Gather intercessors who begin to pray that yours would be a church that helps put the church Jesus loves closer to the people Jesus loves.
- If none of these seem right, call a fresh expressions staff member, find a Vision Day in your area, or consider hosting a Vision Day in your region.
If even ¼ of all existing churches could start one fresh expression of church that reached just 20-30 new people. In 100 years, historians looking back on our time would call that a revival!
May it be so.
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. ￼