Although I’m a newcomer to Fresh Expressions—it’s a movement and framework that I only heard about a few months ago—it has already made a significant impact on the way that I think about my life in ministry.
I’ve had a crash course of sorts in Fresh Expressions that started by meeting with Gannon Sims, and then flying off to London to observe and participate in Fresh Expressions UK with Shannon Hopkins and the lovely people at Matryoshka Haus.
Functional but Not Fitting
Most recently, my foray into this movement came as I participated in the US Fresh Expressions National Gathering this weekend. I enjoyed hearing from thoughtful practitioners who are discerning the work of the Spirit in creatively bringing about fresh forms of church in their contexts.
As a student at Baylor’s Truett Seminary, I’ve been privileged to read, think, and discuss what church is, and what it can be. I feel led into a life of ministry, though the details and particularities are still hidden from me. As I’ve envisioned pursuing work in a traditional church setting, and even as I volunteer in one, I’ve felt like I’ve been trying on suits at a department store, and while all of the suits are functional as clothing, none of them feel like a perfect fit. That’s discouraging at times.
Hope for Contextualization
My time in London and my time at the Fresh Expressions National Gathering this weekend have opened my eyes. While I know that forming contextual expressions of church is not an easy road, Fresh Expressions dares me to hope that ministry can be different than anything I’ve seen before. It dares me to hope that being faithful to God and being faithful to who God has created me to be could put in places of ministry I’ve never dreamed of before.
One church pioneer I met told me that some of us have been given the gift of not fitting in. While my life in traditional, institutional church has been good and formative, I’ve increasingly felt like I haven’t fit into traditional ministry roles.
For the longest time, that’s felt like more of a burden than a gift. Spending time with like-minded people at the Fresh Expressions National Gathering was a source of great encouragement to me, and it reminded me that there is a place and a form where I fit. I felt a kinship with the people who were there, and I appreciated their willingness to cross denominational lines for the sake of witnessing to the glorious and hopeful reality of Christ. The future feels less like something to be feared, and more like something to be welcomed with open arms.
Luke Stehr is a student at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, where he studies Christian witness and spiritual formation. Luke and his wife Kelsey live in one of Baylor’s residence halls where he serves as a Resident Chaplain, providing an incarnational, pastoral presence to the students they live with. Luke and his wife have served churches in Denmark and Waco, TX, and have worked in full-time camping ministry.