Worried About the Future of the Church? Don’t Be.

In 2013, a document titled Report on Strand 3b: An analysis of fresh expressions of church and church plants begun in the period 1992-2012 was released (a summary of the report can be found here), providing very helpful data to Fresh Expressions church planters. The information, gathered over two decades, is encouraging.

The Fresh Expressions movement wasn’t named until 2004, and in many ways didn’t gain widespread traction for some time after that. But God had begun to raise up these new forms of church in England years earlier. So, after two decades or so, researchers asked hard questions about the effectiveness of these new forms of church.

They found the impact of fresh expressions of church to be deep and wide. The number of people deciding to follow Jesus, the percentage of British worshipers attending a fresh expression of church, and the overall return on investment are thrilling.

Some Encouraging Results

Here are a few of the findings noted from the report:

  • “It is striking and notable that in 7 out of 10 cases the growth attributable to fresh expressions of Church attendance more than offsets (the ongoing decline in average worship attendance in the Church of England).” While we cannot yet declare a turnaround for the Church of England, there are genuinely hopeful signs.
  • Of all Church of England congregations, about “one in seven to one in eight” now is a fresh expression of church. Furthermore, on a typical Sunday about ten percent of the people in Anglican churches are in one of these fresh expressions of church.
  • “For every one person sent, at least another two and a half are now present. This is a 250% increase over time. There is nothing else in the Church of England that can do anything like this.”
  • 40% of those who are now part of fresh expressions of Church were previously not at all part of any congregation.
  • Fresh expressions of church have been effective in engaging young people. “On average at the fresh expressions of Church, 41% of the attendees are under 16. This is significantly higher than in inherited church and is a promising beginning.”

The data is in: In England, God is using fresh expressions of church to begin reversing the decline of church attendance and to reach people inherited congregations probably never will reach. Michael Moynagh, a leading Anglican researcher, reflected on the report and declared that, “in terms of outreach and evangelism these new expressions of church must surely be considered our best chance for a renewed impact of the Gospel in the West” (Moynagh, Being Church, Doing Life).

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Travis Collins

Travis Collins is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and Director of Mission Advancement for Fresh Expressions US. He holds a PhD in Christian Mission and is the author of From the Steeple to the Street and Fresh Expressions of Church.

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