A Fresh Expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet part of any church.
Fresh Expressions is an international movement of missionary disciples cultivating new kinds of church alongside existing congregations to more effectively engage our growing post-Christian society.
Beginning in 2004 as an initiative of the Church of England and the British Methodist Church, the movement has resulted in the birth of thousands of new communities in the UK alone and brought renewal to scores of established churches. The movement has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Germany. In 2010, the movement began taking shape in the US through the vision and generosity of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and a growing number of partners committed to a new era of missional ecumenism, a unity around the mission of God the Father through the resurrected Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is a fresh expression of Church?
A Fresh Expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet part of any church.
Around the world, Christians are stepping out in faith and beginning fresh expressions of church, new or different forms of church for a changing culture.
Each fresh expression of church is unique, and designed for their particular context. They can be rural or suburban, in public spaces, housing projects and college dormitories. Some are aimed at specific groups, ranging from “Messy Church” for families with children to “Amore Groups” led by married couples. There is biker church, cowboy church, church for artists, church at or after work; the sky’s the limit. Each is an adventure in bringing the power of the Gospel to people who might never experience Christian community and the transformational and self-giving love of Jesus.
Four guiding principles tie fresh expressions together. Each one is:
- Missional – Joining God’s mission by going to those not currently served by any church
- Contextual – Grounded in the language and culture of the people in and for their particular context
- Formational – Focused on discipling people in the way of Jesus
- Ecclesial – Forming local, tangible Christian communities that are able to step out as church in their own right
Why Fresh Expressions?
Our world is rapidly changing. It needs a church, rooted in scripture, orthodoxy and tradition; but fluent in the language and culture of the world today.
What sets Fresh Expressions apart is a focus on forming faith communities especially for those who have never been involved in church (un-churched) or who have left the church (de-churched). But this doesn’t mean giving up on the established church. There is a great inheritance in the established church that can and must be passed along to future generations. We believe the key to doing this is by partnering with pioneering leaders, dynamic pastors and existing churches denominational streams and agencies who are committed to make disciples who make disciples, raising up leaders with a passion to join with God in the mission edges where new forms of church can flourish.
Chris Backert National DirectorRead Bio
Working with church leaders to develop new expressions of Christian community is the passion of Chris’s life. In addition to his role as National Director of Fresh Expressions US, he serves with the Baptist General Association of Virginia in the area of growth and venture development. He also serves as National Director for both Ecclesia, a US network of missional churches, as well as Missio Alliance. Previously, he served as pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, a large university congregation in Blacksburg, Virginia and has been involved in the planting of three new congregations.
Chris holds a D.Min. in Missional Church Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with wife Rachel, daughter Elliana and son Jase.
Gannon Sims Director of Ministry Formation, Amore Project DirectorRead Bio
Gannon serves as Director of Ministry Formation, developing our cross denominational networks, The Amore Project (Church at Home) and the Ananias Project (Prayer Ministry). He also coordinates the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, an association of 1400 churches in Virginia and 16 other states.
He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican.
Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they help foster fresh expressions of church through The Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Shannon Kiser Director of TrainingRead Bio
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.
Sarah Keasler Director of Innovation & Ministry EffectivenessRead Bio
Sarah Keasler serves as Director of Innovation and Ministry Effectiveness with Fresh Expressions. Keasler is a leader in non-profit management and user experience design, and received her undergraduate degree from University of Miami and her MBA from Friends University. She is married to Keas Keasler and they live in Wichita, KS.
Jane Linton AdministratorRead Bio
Jane is an Administrator for Fresh Expressions and also for the Ecclesia Network. She holds the a BA in Political Science and History from Virginia Tech. During her time in Blacksburg, she was active with New Life Christian Fellowship.
Jane and her husband Brandon have three children. She enjoys spending time cooking, crafting, cheering for the Hokies and playing with her kids.
Chris Morton Director of Strategic InitiativesRead Bio
Chris works across the organization to help get new projects off the ground and into the world. He also helps to manage our email, social media and other digital communications. He helped plant Austin Mustard Seed, where he served for five years as Community Developer. He also works with several other non-profits and businesses to tell their story with content and social media. In 2012, he graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Global Leadership. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Laura.
Jeanette Staats Coordinator of OperationsRead BioJeanette has been in full-time collegiate ministry since 2000. Some of her responsibilities include general oversight, coaching and development of staff, and discipleship. She also ministers to international students through an English Conversation Group. Jeanette holds a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Professional Writing from Virginia Tech as well as a Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies from John Leland Center for Theological Studies. She also serves on the board for The Ecclesia Network. Jeanette is an avid Hokie fan and rarely misses an opportunity to watch a collegiate sporting event.
Wendy Chinn Coordinator of CommunicationsRead Bio
Wendy has worked in public and higher education as a public relations specialist, crisis counselor, academic advisor and instructor. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia. Wendy periodically teaches on Sundays, in addition to serving with her husband David on the community congregation equipping team at New Life Christian Fellowship in Blacksburg, Virginia. Together, they have been volunteer staff members since 2002.
Wendy holds bachelor degrees in Communications and Psychology from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in Counseling and Human Development from Radford University. She is currently taking seminary classes through the John C. Leland Center for Theological Studies. In between playing dress-up and hosting tea parties with their daughters, Daisy and Rose, they enjoy cheering on the Hokies and all things Chicago.
Cheryl McCarthy Director of The Ananias Project and US Coordinator of Prayer MobilizationRead Bio
Cheryl serves as the Director of The Ananias Project and the Fresh Expressions US Coordinator of Prayer Mobilization. She brings over 25 years of Intercessory Prayer experience as she and her husband, Bill, have served in Anglican church plants. They began at Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, VA then served in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) for 7 years. Cheryl served as the ACNA Canon for Church Planting of the Anglican Mid Atlantic Diocese and Executive Director of Titus Institute, Tom Herrick, as his Head Intercessor for 5 years and was the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The SEEDS Ministry for 6 years in New Bern, NC. SEEDS established Kingdom Transformation across denominational lines by Prayer, Connecting, and Empowering the community fueled by the Holy Spirit. Cheryl and Bill lead Ananias Retreats for FXUS and Ananias Project Encounter Prayer Rooms for FXUS and Missio Alliance National Gatherings. Cheryl and Bill reside in New Bern, NC with their quiver full: Caela, Isabella, Daniel, Gracie, and Liliana.
David Fitch Theologian-in-ResidenceRead Bio
David Fitch is B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary Chicago, IL. He’s married to Rae Ann and they have one child, a son Max. He’s pastored and participated in many church plants including Life on the Vine Christian Community a missional church in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Most recently he and his family have joined Peace of Christ Church, Westmont, a church planted from Life on the Vine. He writes on the issues the local church must face in Mission including cultural engagement, leadership and theology. His theology combines Neo-Anabaptist streams of thought, his commitments to evangelicalism and his love for political theory. He has lectured and presented on these topics at many seminaries, graduate schools, denominational gatherings and conferences. Dr. Fitch is the author of numerous articles in places like Christianity Today, The Other Journal, Missiology Evangelical Missions Quarterly, as well as academic journals. He has been featured in places like OutReach Magazine, Anabaptist Witness, Homebrewed Christianity. He is the author of The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission (Cascade Books, 2011), The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from American Business, Para-Church Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism and Other Modern Maladies (Baker Books, 2005) and Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass 2013) with co-author Geoff Holsclaw. His latest book is entitled Faithful Presence: How God Shapes the Church for the Sake of the World. It is due Summer of 2016 with InterVarsity books.
Verlon and Melodee Fosner Directors of Dinner Church Collective & Northwest Regional CoordinatorsRead Bio
Lead Presenters, Verlon & Melodee Fosner have been in church leadership for 35 years, and for the past 18 years have served a 93 year-old church in Seattle, Washington. In 2004, their long effective church began to decline, and they were faced with the decision: move to the suburbs or become an urban church. They felt called to not only stay, but to dive further into the urban neighborhoods of Seattle – especially the ones with a sparse church presence. After numerous failures, they decided to try the Agape’ Feast church model talked about in the New Testament. And to their great surprise they found an immediate intrigue among the unchurched Seculars living in Seattle neighborhoods. Within a year, they had hundreds of Seculars as friends, gathering around their tables, and talking about Jesus. What began as an urban Dinner Church spread into a multi-site Dinner Church, and then expanded into a national Dinner Church Network. In 2014, Verlon received a Doctoral degree for his research on “The Dinner Church of the Apostolic Era”, and has written three books on the subject – all of which are available on this website. Then in 2016, Verlon and Melodee joined the Fresh Expressions US team to lead the DinnerChurchCollective initiative.
Eliseo Mejia Leiva Director of Expresiones DivinasRead Bio
Rev. Dr. Eliseo A. Mejia is a pastor, missiologist, and a church-planting leader. He has been planting churches the last 29 years in different cultures, contexts, and countries. In the last 19 years with God’s help and an exceptional team of pastors he led church plating efforts in the heart of Kentucky where he served as the Associate Director of Hispanic, multiethnic, and international church planting ministries with the New Church Development team.
His passion to reach the lost moves his heart to equip young and seasoned leaders in the USA and internationally. He is an ordained elder in the Kentucky Annual Conference where he serves as the senior pastor of Paris First UMC. Dr. Mejia, similarly led Mosaic UMC, a multicultural and multiethnic merged congregation in Louisville, KY.
He served as the President of The National Association of Hispanic Leaders and is now the Director of Expresiones Divinas for FXUS.
Dee Stokes Director of Cultural Intelligence & TrainerRead Bio
Dr. Dee Stokes is a spiritual advisor, speaker, coach, author, and educator who is known as a program builder. Dr. Stokes utilizes her apostolic gift to repurpose organizations and build influential people who change the world and live out the Gospel practically. Dr. Stokes serves on the teaching/preaching team at Christ Wesleyan Church, Greensboro, NC. She is President/CEO of a cross-cultural non-profit ministry, owns a consulting company, and is a team member for Luther Seminary’s Faith + Lead innovation team. Dr. Stokes serves as the Director of Cultural Intelligence & Trainer for the Fresh Expressions US movement.
JR Briggs Mission StrategistRead Bio
J.R. Briggs is a National Trainer & Equipper for Fresh Expressions U.S. He is also the Founder of Kairos Partnerships, a ministry that seeks to love the Church by caring for Her leaders. His role with Kairos Partnerships is expressed through coaching, consulting, speaking, equipping and writing serving a wide variety of leaders, pastors, churches, non-profits, ministries, companies and denominations. He is also an adjunct professor at Missio Seminary, and guest instructor at Friends University, specifically with the Apprentice Institute. He also serves as the Director of Leadership & Congregational Formation for The Ecclesia Network. He is an author, co-author and contributor of nine books that seek to equip and care for kingdom leaders. J.R. and his wife Megan have been married for over 18 years and have two sons, Carter and Bennett. They live in the heart of Lansdale, PA.
Michael Beck Director of RemissioningRead Bio
Michael Beck is Director of Re-Missioning for Fresh Expressions US and Cultivator of Fresh Expressions for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Michael serves as co-pastor of Wildwood UMC with his wife Jill, where they direct addiction recovery programs, a jail ministry, a food pantry, an interracial unity movement, and a network of thirteen fresh expressions that gather in tattoo parlors, dog parks, salons, running tracks, community centers, and burrito joints. Michael earned a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Semiotics and Future Studies at Portland Seminary with his mentor Dr. Leonard Sweet. He is the author of Deep Roots, Wild Branches; A Field Guide to Methodist Fresh Expressions; and Issachar’s Secret. Jill and Michael currently live in Wildwood. They have a blended family of eight children, four grandchildren, and two pugs.
Travis Collins Director of Mission Advancement and Southeast Regional CoordinatorRead Bio
Travis’s service as Director of Mission Advancement and Southeast Regional Coordinator brings together his calling and experience as missionary and pastor. He serves as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama and was previously pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.
His twenty-five plus years of ministry have included missionary service in Venezuela and Nigeria. He is a graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and earned the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.He is the author of Directionally Challenged (2007), Tough Calls (2008), and From the Steeple to the Street (Seedbed 2016).Travis and his wife, Keri, have three adult children.
Luke Edwards Mission Strategist & TrainerRead Bio
Luke Edwards is the Associate Director of Church Development for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and a trainer for Fresh Expressions US. He was the founding pastor of King Street Church, a network of fresh expressions in Boone, NC. Participating in local, regional, and national levels of the Fresh Expressions movement has given Luke a unique perspective into the future of the mainline church in a post-Christian society.
Craig Williams Mission Strategist & Western Regional CoordinatorRead Bio
Craig has worked in the arena of fresh expressions of church for over 25 years. He was the organizing pastor of Trabuco Presbyterian Church of the PCUSA and pastored that congregation in Southern California for 19 years. Since, Craig has served the PCUSA both regionally (in the Pacific Northwest) and nationally (as Catalyst for 1001 New Worshiping Communities in the Western States). Craig developed a process for assessing potential church planting leadership, Discerning Missional Leadership and has assessed hundreds of individuals who have expressed interest in new expressions of church. He also helped develop the PCUSA’s national coaches network and was one of the authors of “Starting New Worshiping Communities: A Discernment Process”. Craig continues to coach and mentor those engaged in starting new work.
Craig has recently accepted a new call as Pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Thousand Oaks, CA. He says it’s time to assist an inherited congregation with embracing a mixed economy of Church for a changing context.
Craig has his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary.
Jon Davis Mission Strategist & TrainerRead Bio
The Rev. Jon Davis PhD, an Episcopal priest is a known and recognized leader in the Episcopal Church and beyond. He has expertise in youth ministry, worship and liturgy (PhD dissertation), church growth and planting, missions, conference leadership and more. He is now on staff with Fresh Expressions. He is a sought after, dynamic and engaging speaker, writer, worship leader and ministry trainer. He and his wife Beth live on a little farm in Oviedo, Florida with a couple of horses, a number of cats, chickens, English Bulldogs and other critters.
Kris Beckert Mission Strategist & TrainerRead Bio
Kris is an associate pastor at Vine Church a church plant in Fairfax, Virginia and serves as our Coordinator of Operations. She completed the M.Div. at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC and has served at churches in the Baptist, United Methodist, and Nazarene traditions. Prior to being called to ministry, she received an M.S. in environmental science from the University of Maryland, where she also worked in the field, researching coastal environments and enhancing science communication. Kris is an avid runner, cartoonist, and archer and enjoys cheering for her Carolina TarHeels and Philadelphia Phillies.
Jim Pace Mission Strategist & TrainerRead Bio
Jim has been on staff with New Life Christian Fellowship (NLCF) at Virginia Tech for 23 years and has been one of its pastors for 18. He and his wife Tracy have three kids that are all in college so now a few of his hobbies are to pay everybody’s tuition and keep an extensive fleet of aging cars semi-street-legal. Jim is pursuing a doctorate from Northern Seminary in Contextual Theology and received his Masters from Leland. When he isn’t making payments to various institutions of higher learning and pastoring, he consults with churches, coaches other pastors, and speaks on emerging cultural issues. He wrote “Should We Fire God?” in 2009 and looks forward to writing again once the endless process of post-graduate education is finished.
Keisha Polonio Mission Strategist & TrainerRead Bio
For the past 20 years, Keisha Polonio has worked in diverse leadership roles that have served some of her communities’ most vulnerable individuals. She is a results-driven leader, certified growth coach, speaker and missionary, whose expertise and global heart extend to both the private and public sectors. Currently, Keisha serves as an activist, chief storyteller and champion for Created Women, a ministry committed to supporting vulnerable women caught in the sex industry in Tampa, Florida. In addition, she passionately works as a trainer and mentor to missional leaders throughout the Tampa Bay Area.
Keisha is also the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Roots and Branches, a ministry specifically committed to training leaders of color to cultivate a deeper understanding of their ethnic and cultural identity. This foundation informs their leadership and engagement in the work of racial reconciliation and justice. Keisha embodies the work that she calls others to as a proud Belizean woman, who is a wife and mother of two boys. She co-leads a house church with her husband, loves cupcakes and is a Kidney cancer survivor. For those wanting to grow as faith leaders, Keisha is available for leadership development training, conference speaking, as well as individual leadership and growth coaching.
Isaac Olivarez Mission Strategist & TrainerRead Bio
Isaac Olivarez is from Fort Collins, CO, and is a huge Denver Broncos fan. He also enjoys skiing, running and hiking Colorado’s 14ers.
He and his wife Jaime founded Urban Outreach Denver in 2012.
Bob Hyatt ContentRead Bio
Married in 2002, to Amy, Bob is the co-author of two books from IVP, Ministry Mantras and Eldership and the Mission of God. His children include Jack, Jane and Josie. Bob helped plant a church community, The Evergreen Community (evergreenpdx.org), in 2004 in Portland Oregon. Beyond his family and pastoring, his passions revolve around coaching other ministry leaders towards Jesus-focused success in ministry- success being defined not by numbers but by clarity around and achievement of personal, spiritual and ministry goals. Bob currently lives in Boise, Idaho and serves as the Director of Equipping and Spiritual Formation for the Ecclesia Network (ecclesianet.org). He has an MA in theology from Western Seminary and a DMin in Leadership and Spiritual Formation from Portland Seminary.