From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Since late last year our Presbytery has been running a course in Mission Shaped Ministry. The course aims to equip participants to start and grow fresh expressions of the church. The course defines a fresh expression as follows:
“A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
- It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples.
- It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the Gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.
The course anticipates that current expressions of church that include our regular Sunday morning worship services (whether they be online or gatherings in church buildings) will continue to be important for existing members and newcomers who join our congregations. The course also makes the point that there are many other people who find current expressions of church to be obstacles to faith in Jesus Christ. Still there are others whose regular relationships don’t bring them into contact with any churches. The course encourages us toward fresh expressions of church for these other people.
Such fresh expressions of church will be established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. So, in working toward a fresh expression we will necessarily need to be in relationships with people who are not yet members of any church.
This is one of the places where the five habits of highly missional people in Mike Frost’s little book “Surprise the World” start to come in handy. The habits are designed to move us into missional relationships with people who are not already members of our churches. You see this in the habits about blessing and eating: “I will eat with/bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church”.
Practising the five habits of highly missional people lines up really nicely with finding our way into starting and growing fresh expressions of the church. You may have begun to see this in the series of “what ifs” in these articles over the last couple of weeks. In the “what ifs” about a congregation becoming missional in blessing the many community groups that use their buildings during the week, we imagined a small group of building users emerging who together are interested in learning more of Christ and listening more to the Spirit. This is an example of an emerging fresh expression. In the “what ifs” about the basketball group, we imagined a small group who will want to explore questions of life and faith together. Again, an example of an emerging fresh expression. In each of those “what ifs” the congregation members resisted the urge to give an invitation to the regular Sunday services. You may have found this odd. But they resisted because they were imagining that in some way a new form of church might grow out of their relationships with the building users and basketball players. They were imagining fresh expressions of church established primarily for the benefit of these people. Such fresh expressions of church may surprise the world.
They may even surprise the church!!