Jay Smith

Our Friends Asked Us the Wrong Question. Here’s How Fresh Expressions Helped.

When we started Convergence, we didn’t know anything about this concept called “Fresh Expressions.” After all, we started merely a year after Fresh Expressions US was founded in response to the already-present phenomenon growing in England.

Some say we were ahead of the curve. Maybe. Sometimes there is a cost to being ahead of the curve.

A New Start

Convergence began in response to a need and a call about which we were passionate. The opportunity to restart a struggling church, as well as their two buildings was dropped in our laps. We felt deeply affirmed that our calling was indeed from God and thus started our journey.

Although we received amazing support and encouragement, it quickly became evident that no one was completely prepared for how “new” the new organization would look.

Why? – Because it looked like an arts center. Our supporters scoured our papers and presentations as if they were “Where’s Waldo” puzzles. “Where is the church?” we were constantly challenged.

Where is the Church?

This is, of course, the essential question when you are creating a church. For a responsible group of people handing over a multimillion dollar piece of property to a bunch of artists doing a church restart, there should be a church. It’s a great question, but one that began to confuse our initially clear vision and frankly stress us out.

“Where is the church?” became a daunting question tucked into the back of our heads at every strategy meeting, every leadership meeting. It took us years before we realized what was really being asked was: “Where is the model of church we are used to?”

This easily confused us because, even though we are forward thinkers, we too were used to the same sort of church that our supporters were looking for. It’s hard to let go of an embedded idea of church.

A New Question

Thankfully, God showed us a new question: “What model of church is necessary to respond to the people I have called you to?” This new question took us from confused and stressed to completely terrified.

Why? Here is what happens when you ask this question. All your metrics go out the window! You no longer use the same measurements of success for church growth, church health, or church whatever, because it’s no longer about the institution “church.”

It’s about the people. The mission. It’s all on their terms and what the spirit is doing in them. The conversation moves from one about becoming successful to one about becoming faithful. Honestly, that was new for me (as I sadly suspect may be the case for many “successful” churches).

Finally Not Alone

Enter Fresh Expressions US. When my wife Lisa (Convergence’s Founder and Senior Pastor) told me about Fresh Expressions, we were ready to listen to someone else. We had been reinventing the wheel for years and it was refreshing to learn that there was an international movement of churches like our own.

Participating in a learning community was incredibly heartening. We received a two-inch binder full of affirmation of our struggles, as well as some much better ways of doing things. Maybe even more importantly was the opportunity to be around like-minded people.

People who are all asking what model of church is necessary to respond to those God is calling us to. Embracing the Fresh Expressions community has created a new confidence in us. Seeing what God is doing in other communities is amazing.

We realize now that God is doing a new thing, an amazing thing in our world. We get to be a part of that!

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Jay Smith

Jay Smith

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