“Excuse me, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation, but I wanted you to know I don’t go to church but would go to something like that.”
The man’s interjection initially caught both of us off-guard, since we had been seated at the table behind him in Panera, had just gotten up, and he hadn’t been involved with our conversation. I had been meeting with a local pastor to talk about what it would look like for their church to start fresh expressions of church in their community, and for the last hour and a half, had been describing different examples of fresh expressions. The man apparently had overheard my telling of the story of a Kayak Church, and his entry into our conversation became one of the most convincing examples of why our churches should seek to start fresh expressions of church.“Excuse me, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation, but I wanted you to know I don’t go to church but would go to something like that.” Click To Tweet
Looking back, I wish we would have taken the time to ask this man why he would be interested in checking out a fresh expression of church instead of visiting an established church. After all, there was far from an absence of churches in the area. Further reflecting on our interaction, I think whatever answer he would have given to that question would demonstrate another reason why we NEED fresh expressions of church in this day and time we find ourselves living.
Four Reasons Unchurched People NEED Fresh Expressions of Church:
Church (as we know it) is foreign to more and more people.
As our culture becomes more and more secularized, fewer and fewer unchurched people reach adulthood with a “church memory.” Their parents never took them to church, and they don’t “go back” to church because they were never there in the first place. A millennial friend of mine once shared with me how he grew up believing Easter was about the Easter bunny and nothing else. Most of these people drive by church buildings thinking nothing of it—assuming church is for a certain type of people, which they are not. Their assumptions about Christians and about Church come from what they watch, read, and see. Church is the last place they would look to have their spiritual questions answered; they would sooner seek out a palm reader, a book, or a trusted friend. Fresh expressions of church connect with people for whom experience of an established church feels foreign. They are safe places to question God and faith, as well as connect in community with other questioners who are in the same boat. Most likely, the people who will connect with a fresh expression of church will not be coming to your church any time soon anyway.Fresh expressions connect with people for whom experience of an established church feels foreign. They're safe places to question God and faith, as well as connect in community with other questioners who are in the same boat. Click To Tweet
Church (as we know it) has barriers.
Barriers have been one of the key things the Church has sought to overcome in the last century. These barriers include things like who is welcome, worship times, gathering location, accessibility, language, practices, and understanding. Some barriers are physical (a church that can’t be walked to, people who are less than friendly), some are temporal (some people work on Sundays), and others are mental (bad experiences, thoughts of judgment). Fresh expressions of church are known to “bring the Church Jesus loves closer to the people Jesus loves” by gathering at different times, in different places, through different means and forms. They are started with the mission of minimizing barriers to Christ, which is easier to do than in an established church because those practices have not solidified.
New things have the greatest capacity to connect with new people.
Church planters are always questioned “Why are you starting a new church if there are so many existing churches already? Wouldn’t people go there?” Quite simply, the answer is no. Church planters know that new churches are proven to connect with far more unchurched people than existing ones simply because they are new. Think about it—if you were going to start taking aerobics classes and had a choice between a class that has been meeting for 20 years and a new one, which would you choose? Exactly. But in the sense of typical church planting, not everyone has the budget, staffing, or time to be able to launch a new church. But fresh expressions of church make church planting accessible for just about everyone. Some fresh expressions of church have been started with $0, in public space, by non-clergy people. Some churches have started multiple fresh expressions of church simultaneously. These tend to be small yet limber, with a great capacity for multiplication and expanding the Kingdom in new ways, among new people.Fresh Expressions tend to be small yet limber, with a great capacity for multiplication and expanding the Kingdom in new ways, among new people. Click To Tweet
Fresh expressions of church are not a means to an end.
Often churches host community events as a means of attractional “outreach,” with the goal of getting a certain number of attendees to join them on Sunday morning. This is a good thing, and I should know; it’s part of my job to create fun activities like Outdoor Movies that will connect with people. But the downside is that we often view these events as a failure if they don’t “produce” results. To the community, it can often feel like we are trying to “lure” them in. But fresh expressions of church are started to fully BECOME church where people are. They are not a means of getting people to worship on Sunday morning. They are not a stepping stone to “big church.” Instead, they form real, authentic church in a way that makes sense for the community they are connecting with. Nobody is being “used” or discarded for never making it to Sunday morning.If all we do is what we are currently doing now, even if we do it well, who will we miss? Click To Tweet
Maybe you’re new to the fresh expressions conversation. Maybe you’re beginning the journey of starting a fresh expression. Or maybe you’re trying to convince your leadership or board or pastor or people why unchurched people need fresh expressions. A classic question to ask is “if all we do is what we are currently doing now, even if we do it well, who will we miss?”
Fresh expressions of church are for the benefit of those people.
Kris Beckert is a Mission Strategist/Trainer with Fresh Expressions US. She serves as Pastor of Innovation and Multiplication at Salem Fields Community Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.