Monday, 21 October 2013

Fresh Expressions - Stale Church, protectionism and misunderstanding

One of the most obvious things in the whole of Christendom has to be what we call a 'Fresh Expression' of Church! One of the most depressing things has to be those people who consider them to be of limited value or a means of gathering people together so they can be shepherded into 'proper' church', especially when they consider themselves to be missionally minded.

Fresh Expressions provide an opportunity for people who 'aren't Church' to become 'Church' and this means that it happens when, and where, those who aren't can make be there. Not only that but it also does church in a way that those you're doing it for can understand it and make it theirs, as you lead them to a place where God makes them theirs!

Now there appears to be some who have misunderstood these Fresh Expression in that, using 'Messy Church' as an example, they see it as outreach rather than church and this is wrong, the Fresh Expression IS church and therefore, being a Cranmer fan, includes .bath and bread. - yes I defy people, the aim of the Fresh Expression is to build a sacrament entity - that's why it's called church!

So a few foundational thought and the erasure of a few lines that some appear to have drawn:

1. All clergy are pioneers - would that they were, but of course they should be in terms of hearts desire and in the equipping and enabling department too (which means supporting 'Mission Shaped Mission' course to their members and perhaps even signing up yourself!).

2. Fresh Expressions are hard - but they are valid and effective. They take time and should have as the subtext the understanding that it is Church that's being built, not some parachurch club!

3. It's all well and good being an 'entrepreneur' but that's not permission to be other than Church and something where it's hard to identify what you're doing as less than Christian. We do what we do in the name of Christ and if we neglect to proclaim Him or preach His crucified and risen we have to ask what we're doing and why?

4. Missioners, Pioneers and church-based Clergy are part of the same Church with the same goals and should see that we can only be effective when we are effective together - take a quick reminding glance of 1 Corinthians 12 - then realise the strength of the Church is in the engaged and effective, and deployed, laity

5. Mission, and especially Fresh Expressions, are best done across parish and denominational boundaries - stop making Parochial ( in its worst sense) and start being Kingdom minded.

So there we are - Monday is with us
let's need the difference where we are this week - be blessed out there :-)


TR said...

Some of you are critical because many Fresh expressions are just parachurch club!

If they're sacramental we have no problem with it!

Anonymous said...

Pioneer ministry is a flawed and valueless concept which licenses arrogant 'entrepeneurs' to play at building church and ignores the fact that all clergy are true pioneers and church-planters.

The sooner we return to a proper sense of ministry and move away from faddish high jinks the better off the church will be.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I think some have a poor understanding, and theology, of Pioneer ministry and this, coupled with a 'get full quick' mentality over what they hope Fresh Expressions are about causes some real conflicts.

That said, the point of Church is focussed on the cross and centred in the Eucharist and so anything that misses these two misses it all.

Thanks for comments,


UKViewer said...

Surely Fresh Expressions is about being Church differently?

It's about providing opportunities for those who aren't Churched or Christians to engage in ways that they can relate to, to make them disciples who can than be empowered to do more of the same.

If we stick to the tradition and ignore how the world and people are changing so quickly around us, we might as well lock ourselves in our churches and become a sect, doomed to die out.

It needs innovative, original idea's to be seized on in a way that is attractive and genuine, and that brings about sharing and prayer among those joining, lovely to do the Sacraments, but in a way that has meaning for these new inquirers, and is understandable to them.

In the context of the military, Chaplains hold 'Drumhead' services and I've seen Communion done from a tent, on a table in the open with minimal trappings. Necessity means that Chaplains need to be flexible, to meet and minister to their disparate flocks in strange places, often on operations - seizing those opportunities to provide the sacraments when needed or asked for.

To my mind, it's this attitude of can and will do that makes military Chaplaincy much like Fresh Expressions. Bringing the 'fold' to people, not building a permanent building, but living in tents like the early Shepherds from Abraham onwards.

Anonymous said...

So we get 'out there' and avoid talking about Jesus

we send tattooed, pierced and barely saved people out to make others like them but as they are, unlike Jesus and we do it by fresh expressions of the world in churches clothing.

Stuff that -theyre wong and killing the church in their wrongess

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

No, that's not totally fair (or unfair either perhaps, but that's for later!).

I think we have made a number of errors and pinned our hopes on unprepared or perhaps wrongly chosen people (not a comment on them as much as the process, expectation and realities)>

This needs more dialogue and discussion.

Watch this space!


Anonymous said...

The old structures need to be put aside if the church is to grow and this is where Fresh Expressions come to the fore. Those who are content to reside in archaic structures are the reason for the situation we are in today.

Collars, cassocks and choirs are so 50's and so limiting and dated. The Vicars around me view us with mistrust and work harder at keeping their distance than they do building their churches. We are water and oil. We don't mix.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Raise the temperature and give it a good shake and water and oil do mix :-)

Soup D said...

One of the missing points here is the mixed economy of church: traditional and Fresh Expression living side by side, united in the common goal of reaching the lost. It is arrogant and felonious to say that any expression of church other than the one we belong to is incorrect. There have always been mistakes made in the name of innovation, but the trick is to learn from the mistakes and move forward, not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In our Diocese, there was experimentation with Fresh Expressions, where Pioneer ministers were deployed into city centres with little training and less support and expected to produce growth. Many of these early Pioneers were anti-clerical and anti-church. They were disillusioned with the old way of doing things and convinced that they could do better. By and large, they failed (for a variety of reasons, not all their own fault!) Their successors have learned from these mistakes and the ministries begun by them have evolved: most are now led by lay ministers who are engaged with local churches, working in partnership with their ordained colleagues - and are seeing fruit.

Like all church-based initiatives, Fresh Expressions need time to grow and mature, and require occasional pruning. They are missional in nature and therefore focussed more closely on reaching those outside normal church circles - the members of our communities who would not otherwise come into contact with church. That is not to say that traditional or established churches are not missional (although there are undoubtedly some who are more focussed on paying Parish Share or protecting the status quo than reaching the unchurched) but just that Fresh expressions are by nature purposefully engaged in evangelism. However, as the original post says, their ultimate purpose is to be church in all that it means; not to replace traditional forms but to exist alongside. A workable analogy is that of restaurants in a town: each attracts its own clientele based on their tastes and preferences. Some will eat at the Chinese, some at the Indian and others at the Mexican - no single restaurant will attract all of the people, but between them they will feed a greater number.