Ever notice how many ordinary people are pretty sure that God is talking to the wrong person?
They are convinced they don’t have what it takes! But God flips that script and advances the kingdom, despite…even through…their uncertainties and insecurities.
- Moses was shy, fearful, and not a gifted spokesman
- Jeremiah felt he was too young
- Isaiah was convinced he was too impure
- Peter knew all the mistakes he’d made
Apparently, feeling inadequate, unworthy, or unqualified for the task is normal! If you are feeling like you don’t know what on earth you’re doing….well…you’re normal.
Most pioneers feel inadequate. But they also feel an unrelenting instinct that SOMEONE needs to come alongside THESE PEOPLE and connect with them. They know the church needs to break out and join in the mission of God already in motion in the community. They feel that they have little to offer, but they become open to offering it anyway.
So a young adult begins to make soup and invite the neighbors to connect during a long, hard winter. A single mother begins to gather other single moms and their kids to share a meal, and to laugh together, to share struggles, find purpose, study Scripture, and pray for one another. A couple begins to offer lemonade and cookies on their porch after school for latch-key kids. A guy starts hanging out with the homeless and listening to their life stories. A young woman start tilling the soil for a community garden, welcoming others to join in, and in the cultivating and planting of a garden, community begins to form.
A couple drops their kindergartner off for the first day of school, and in commiserating over the milestone with neighbors over coffee, begin a weekly connecting point for neighborhood parents. A young pastor brings a box full of bag lunches to the day laborers who didn’t get work that day and sits down to eat with them.
Most pioneers don’t start with a well-developed strategy or a 5 year plan.
1. They start with an awareness that there is a need around them.
2. They follow the Holy Spirit, and they trust that somehow God is in this, as they do the kinds of things that serve the need of people around them.
3. Along the way, they respond to the Spirit’s nudge to foster community.
4. They seek out help and support (and training) along the way, as they get more intentional about discipleship in the forming community.
5. And they learn to trust that if God is in this, then nothing, not even their own perceived limitations, will be a barrier to the mission of God.
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”—Matthew 4:18-19 (The Message)
Have you ever thought about how the ordinary parts of your life can be used by God?
Do you like to… cook?
Listen to blues music?
Play video games?
Run for fitness?
Get involved in community organizations?
Advocate for social justice concerns?
Take your dog to the dog park?
Coach a little league team?
Volunteer for service projects through your church?
Believe it or not, there are fresh expressions that have grown out of all these shared interests and more. These are all potential points of connection for a fresh expression of church. It all begins with relationships and a willingness to engage in spiritual conversations along the way.
Do you live in a particular place… an apartment complex? a neighborhood? an active adult community? a residence hall? a trailer park? prison? a high rise? a marina? Fresh expressions of church can also develop through fostering intentional connection with people who share the commonality of place. Neighbors connect with neighbors and community is fostered.Fresh expressions of church can also develop through fostering intentional connection with people who share the commonality of place. Neighbors connect with neighbors and community is fostered. Click To Tweet
In sharing lives and caring for one another, opportunities develop to step into discipleship together. It often just takes someone who is committed to the neighborhood and his or her neighbors, and new community can begin to take shape. Are you in a particular life circumstance… single parent? special needs family? recovery? raising teenagers? married? single? caring for aging parents? enduring tantrum-prone preschoolers? unemployed? empty nesters? learning English as a second language? Fresh expressions of church can also develop through connecting with others who share similar stages of life and similar challenges.It often just takes someone who is committed to the neighborhood and his or her neighbors, and new community can begin to take shape. Click To Tweet
Because you are living through (or have lived through) similar situations, you are acutely aware how you could love and serve people going through the same kinds of things. Networks, hobbies, passions, neighborhoods, life circumstances…these can all be natural starting places for fresh expressions of church.
Fresh expressions of church may grow out of:
1. Relationships you already have with people that either share your vision or are easily invited into your vision for a fresh expression of church. An endurance runner who already had relationships within the running community was able to gather friends around a shared interest in running as well as a vision for a church along the local fitness trail. Others joined them along the way, but it started with a group of friends who wanted to deepen their connections with one another and with God.
2. Relationships that you build through natural connecting points or shared passions.
A young leader had a vision for a new form of church that would connect with other young people living downtown. He began to meet his neighbors and fostered meetups at the nearby bar. Conversation about life turned into conversation about things they cared about in the community.
As a group, they began to frequent the local homeless community and get to know the people there. They shared stage of life and geographic proximity led to shared passion for the needs of the community led to crossing economic barriers led to a fresh expression of church.
You don’t have to quit your “normal life” to start a fresh expression of church.
You just have to be willing to see your “normal life” as a potential place of connection and discipleship…and see what God does with that!
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.—Ephesians 12:1 (The Message)
Why not you?
Fresh Expressions US wants to help you dream and discern how God might be wanting to use YOU in your local context. Through Vision Days, Local Church workshops, Learning Communities and more, FXUS is ready to partner with you to see fresh expressions of what God is doing birthed in your local context. Click here to find out more about how.
Shannon serves as Director of Training, leading our team of mission strategists and trainers in the development and implementation of the Mission Shaped Ministry course through Pioneer Learning Communities. She is also a pastor on staff with Riverside Church in Sterling, VA, a Church that worships in two languages and engages in several Fresh Expressions of Church. In the last several years, Shannon has been involved with the Presbyterian Church’s New Worshiping Communities initiative, and has directed the coaching network that supports pioneer leaders. Shannon lives in Springfield, VA with her husband Patrick and teenage daughters Catherine and Suzanne.