Three Essentials in a Fresh Expression of church...
Before you attempt to start a Fresh Expression of church to reach people in our post-Christian society, it is best to first prayerfully address these essentials. I had the privilege this summer to spend 6 days with Rev. Graham Horsley, the Connexional Fresh Expressions Missioner for the British Methodist Church. He was involved in the originating group of Anglicans and Methodists that came together with Archbishop Rowan Williams of The Church of England in 2004 to imagine and pursue a fresh approach to being the church in the post-Christian, western world. Graham and I traveled to Fresh Expressions churches so I could see example places and leaders that are having Kingdom success, and one place that is struggling and about to regroup & relocate to better engage their growing metro area. As we drove through the idyllic countryside of the rural Cornwall region west of metro London, I asked Graham to summarize what is essential in starting a Fresh Expression of church.
He immediately referred to the teachings and exercises from a book British Methodists follow when they establish a Fresh Expression community. Michael Mynah and Rob Peabody's refresh, published by Monarch Books in 2016, is an excellent 92 page overview and guide that a team can use to get started. This book leads your team through the stages of prayerful reflection, discovering God's preferred future for a community, imagining a process to engage people and develop processes that enable the fresh expression church to be effective as to a specific area of need and hope.
Graham instructs his leaders to first address the Context. What are the needs here? And what's the culture of this community? What kind of fresh expression will speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts and lives of people in this community?
Then look at Missiology. A fresh expression that succeeds in Kingdom effectiveness will have a handful of people from the start who continually bring new people to gatherings, service projects, information sessions and introductory events. These folks are contagious because of their love for each other and new people they are meeting in their neighborhoods, workplace, sports field, school, everywhere! They are known for their loving, non-judgmental presence and warmth. Bottom line: they are people who love other people and their love influences the emerging fresh expression of church to be a contagious people of love. Nobody has to even say it - folks simply experience being loved in this new community.
And a fresh expression leads to church - a group of people who become a body of Christ like the early church we read about in the New Testament. So we need to address Ecclesiology. A fresh expression of church has a process for intentional discipling of people coming into the new community. They are intentionally building a Christ-centered community. They are united as a body around a simple vision to be the love of Christ wherever they are and to whomever God brings into their lives.
A Fresh Expression of church trains mentors for people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. This new community offers relevant worship in a style that speaks to its specific community. The leadership is committed to worship that communicates the Gospel of Jesus in a way that ministers to who is in their community. They will together work for justice and mercy, live out the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to every follower of Jesus and be prayerfully looking for ways to assist another team somewhere else start a fresh expression of church in their community.