Friday, 29 May 2009

Fresh Expressions - First Thoughts

Church Growth is not all about maths for me. Yes it is my primary research project in university and it takes me to academic conferences. And it is a joy to use my trade of maths to bring some understanding to the way churches grow and decline. But church growth is practical: how can we see the world won for Jesus Christ? So I get involved with the churches too, my own and the wider church.

So I have ended up on a Fresh Expressions course with 4 others from my church. Fresh Expressions, also called Mission Shaped ministry, is an Anglican/ Methodist initiative to explore "new" ways of doing church in a postmodern climate. A denominational version of Emerging Church, of which I knew very little until recently.

We have only had two sessions so far and I must say my first thoughts are mixed. A lot of it makes sense. Mainstream church is way out of touch with society. You don't need any of my mathematical models to realise the likelihood of it influencing people, let alone seeing a conversion, is very low. But would a fresh expression church fare any better? So far we have just not heard enough to answer that question.

What we have had is a lot of justification, theological and sociological, for a church that can engage with postmodernism. Now I read a lot of academic sociology for my research, and it is loaded with buzz words whose definitions can be quite complex. But I am finding that Fresh Expressions, like the Emerging Church, is full of jargon much of which is difficult to be clear about. E.g. missional, incarnational, organic, intentional. Base Ecclesial community!

Hopefully we will make progress over the next few meetings and get some concrete examples of what is going on. Maybe I can even get a model going to explain some of the dynamics of this movement, if that is what it is. In the mean time I feel somewhat relieved that going back to the Bible I see that Jesus did keep things remarkably simple without ever losing spiritual depth!

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