Inspiring novel forms of church. Sharing our stories. Incarnating Christ.
Before hipster-ness was totally co-opted…it seemed to revolve around a simple and meaningful criticism: We lose something fundamentally human when we give up the ability to make our own goods or form our own opinions. The twin tragedies of bland suburbia and relentless consumerism tell us that we have everything we need, except for an identity. These criticisms can easily be applied to the American church.
While there are substantive distinctions, both movements influence younger generations of leaders and churches; therefore, an understanding of both of them is necessary in order to craft a church network or association comprised of those that are influenced by these streams of Christianity.
A century before Methodism became the largest single denomination in the United States, it was a fresh expression on life support.
Jonny Baker, a leader of pioneer mission training in the UK, says pioneers “have the gift of not fitting in.” He insists that they’re not “the awkward squad.” They just look around at the conventional ways of doing ministry and can’t help but ask, “This is great, but what else can we do?”
“You do know what the Bible says about tattoos don’t you? Do you understand that people will leave our church for this?” she admonished. All valid cautions, yet this time there was something really stirring in my soul—a stirring I recognized as the Holy Spirit.
[I]t became clear that we would not be a typical church, at least, not typical of our denomination. Our folks had a desire to maintain the intimacy of smallness, so we began a network of small worship gatherings. I knew something powerful was happening, but I didn’t have the theology to back it. I knew I needed a church planting model to lean on, but finding one that fit was harder than I expected.
Just like any specialization, fresh expressions of Church has its own lingo. Drawing from Luke 10, a “person of peace” is a person who is intricately connected to a population, who is willing to introduce the missionary to that population. I’ve also heard it called a “gate-keeper.” Both terms feel a little lame to me, but what can you do?
You may be thinking, “Seriously I thought being missional was cool?” or “I thought being missional was going to grow my church plant?” Well, I have good news and bad news for you.
Church planters are prepared for barriers. Books, trainings, and good friends warn of budget challenges, leadership struggles, and working with finicky committees. Yet no one warned me about the biggest barrier I would face in my first two years of planting a network of fresh expressions of church.
The categories of “nones” and “dones” (Pew Research Center, U.S.), “non-churched” and “de-churched” (Church Army Research, U.K.) make it clear that the renewal of the church will not occur as we add new and different worship services or develop clever advertising campaigns (the British call them “schemes”!) to attract the outsiders to come in. Indeed, the conversation about “attractional” and “missional” church is at the heart of the Fresh Expressions movement, although a missional church is not a Fresh Expression, and vice versa.