Ann Marie Carley

Fresh Expressions: For Such a Time as This!

Have you ever been asked if you would rather have lived during a different time period than right now?

Before answering I normally pause and imagine how amazing it would have been to witness a miracle performed by Jesus himself or to hear the inspiring words from John Wesley first-hand from a coal field. However, my answer is always the same. I truly believe that each of us are created for such a time as this.

These six words are ones that if you’ve been in the church world at all you’ve probably heard a time or two. And if I’m honest they used to annoy me before I became involved in Fresh Expressions of Church. Now I’m guilty of uttering these six words from time to time myself.

A Familiar Story

For such a time as this! These words come from the middle of the familiar story of Esther. She finds herself in between a current reality that is quite comfortable for her and either destruction or a future full of freedom for more than just herself- a time in which she has to decide to either play it safe or step out on faith.

As it reads in the Message translation of Esther 14:13-14,

“Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

You see, Esther’s current reality was actually getting ready to change drastically. She had to decide which risk she was willing to take. Would she risk her life to save others or would she risk doing nothing so she could enjoy her stay just a bit longer? Mordecai simply encourages her to seek out the truth for herself.

A Metaphor

To me, this part of Esther’s story is a perfect metaphor for the place in which so many churches find themselves. I know the church I have the privilege of serving was here when I arrived. It seemed as though each meeting I walked into upon my arrival brought rooms full of people just like Esther. Faithful people of God who have been feeding their souls on worship, programs, fellowship and potlucks for years but now had some big decisions to make. Would they continue to enjoy their life together and ride things out until their institution no longer existed… or muster up the courage to engage those outside our four walls.

Now is the Time

It became clear that without altering our expectations of what church had to look like, our church as we knew and loved it would be in danger of no longer existing. This is how Fresh Expressions became our Mordecai. Through Vision Days and Dinner Church Encounters we were encouraged to see things we’ve never seen before, listen in ways we’ve never done before, and embrace a future reality that expanded the Kingdom without eliminating the things we hold dear.

We quickly set goals of having 24 people engaged in this movement by the end of the year. God has surpassed those by providing over 60 individuals, who like Esther, can see that God has placed them right where they are for such a time as this begin experimenting with what church can look like. Twelve of them are our pioneers embracing the idea that God has called them to their workplace, gym, nursing home, neighborhood or group for such a time as this. Over 45 of them are supporters and permission givers, our faithful people of God ready to fast and pray because they believe our church and this movement has been placed perfectly in time.

If you think cultivating a Fresh Expressions movement within a traditional, institutional church is hopeless,  I would simply say… Who knows? Maybe you’re reading this today for such a time as this.

Ann Marie Carley

Ann Marie Carley

As a UMC Deacon Ann Marie’s ministry focus is helping churches walk through sacred change. She is currently living out this call by serving as the Executive Pastor (and overseeing Fresh Expressions) at Trinity Church in Chillicothe, Ohio. She and her husband are passionate about sharing Jesus, cycling, cycling to tacos and exploring new ways to connect with others.

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