Over the last few years, Fresh Expressions US has been experiencing tremendous growth, due in part to the inclusion of likeminded initiatives such as the Dinner Church Collective.
This growth came, partly as a result of Dinner Church founders Verlon and Melodee Fosner visiting the 2016 National Gathering. Learn more about the 2020 National Gathering, The Future Present HERE.
From the moment Melodee and I walked into the first session of the Fresh Expressions National Gathering, our hearts began to stir within us.
Though we had been in many large, momentous denominational gatherings throughout our 35-year ministry, neither of us had ever been in an environment like this before.
How Isolation Led Us from Seattle to D.C.
We pastor an 94-year old church in Seattle, Washington that had been in steep decline until recently. Our turn-around came when we felt directed by the Lord to find a completely different path and a completely different way of doing church. And though our church family boldly navigated from its deep roots to this different way, we found ourselves without friends.
Our sister churches no longer understood us and took a step back from us. It was surprising and odd how alone we suddenly felt. None-the-less, we reversed our declines and started to reach unchurched Seattle people. It felt good to be thriving in the gospel, but it felt bad to be so isolated.
That is what was going on inside of our hearts when we walked into the National Gathering in Alexandria VA in the Spring of 2016.
Unlike Any Other Room
When we walked into the first session of the National Gathering, it only took us a few minutes to realize that we had never been in a room like this before. Not only were we struck by the denominational diversity that was present, we were immediately moved by the presence of the Lord that was descending upon the crowd.
It was beautiful.
But beyond those first impressions, there was a very significant core vision that each presentation and each message endeavored to communicate. We felt our hearts and minds directed toward a “way of doing church” that matched what the Lord had been showing us for the past few years.
Chris Backert, the Fresh Expressions US national director says,
Churches that are going from declining to thriving are following one of three paths: Revitalization (which is increasing the quality of traditional worship gatherings, programs, and facilities), Renewal (which is a Charismatic visitation that inspires the congregation and sweeps the unchurched into their midst), and ReMissioning (which is a group being sent to a new people and doing church for them true to their sociology while not assuming any traditional sociologies).
That insight was remarkable for us. It accurately defined the different path we had been directed toward in the previous years. And now we were in a room full of people who were discovering and navigating that same path!
We were home.
We had found hundreds of leaders who understood us. We had found our people. The tears rolled as my wife and I walked away from the final session and said to each other, “we are not alone after all!”
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God dinner church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when eighty churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 85-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.