following on from my post reporting on the church of england synod report reflecting on the impact of the response to mission shaped church - hoping the church prioritises mission - here's a little more...
steve taylor helpfully posted from the other side of the world on how he viewed the report and what a church in a different context might learn. as part of that he drew out/highlighted themes in it. i actually wished i had given my post a bit more thought but it was hastily written on a train journey and e-mailed to the blog. i wanted to get something out on the day. anyway the wonders of the internet mean i can simply point you to his reflection and point out his themes which are
- the value of the notion of mixed economy
- the value of a pioneer stream including selection, courses, context
- importance of lay pioneer training
- the value of church groupings
- diffusion of mission shaped vision throughout the system
- future challenges
there was a second part of the response to mission shaped church at synod of the church of england (i don't go by the way - just got my ear to the ground). graham cray who is now the team leader for fresh expressions presented a report on fresh expressions which you can download and read (it's a lot shorter than the other report). that links to the report that was on the synod pages that presumably people had in advance. then the actual report that graham presented is here. both are definitely worth a read. fresh expressions was a team set up by the archbishop to spearhead the response to mission shaped church and take forward its recommendations. i have taken the liberty of cutting and pasting a hefty quote below on the progress so far of fresh expressions. this seems to me to be distilled wisdom from 5 years of practice.
A fresh expression is a church plant or a new congregation. It is not a new way to reach people and add them to an existing congregation. It is not an old outreach with a new name (‘rebranded’ or ‘freshened up’). Nor is it a half-way house, a bridge project, which people belong to for a while, on their way into Christian faith, before crossing over to ‘proper’ church. This is proper church!
Fresh expressions are a response to ‘our changing culture’. This movement assumes that the church is shaped by both the gospel and the culture it is trying to reach. It is not meant to be conformed to culture, but it is meant to be appropriate for reaching and transforming a culture.
This initiative is primarily for the non-churched – for those who have never been or for those who have stopped going and are not willing to go back to what they experienced before. We are trying to win those who are not reached by church as we know it. At least a third of the adults in the UK and the majority of children and young people have never been regularly involved in any church in their lifetime – so this is a big mission field and a growing one.
Because there is no standard model of fresh expression of church. They should not be cloned! Rather there is a process, which is normally followed, when they are established. It begins with listening – to God and to the community or network you are trying to reach. It is more about discernment than strategic planning: Looking for the Holy Spirit’s opportunities and obeying his call. Out of the listening – which may take some time – comes service: a way of serving the people you are trying to reach. Christians who want to share good news need first to be good news, to show genuine concern for others. This is the start of ‘incarnational mission’. Which means following the example of Christ and seeking to evangelise within the community you are now serving. In that context we can begin to make disciples. The very last thing that is decided is the nature of the worship service. Fresh expressions are not about planting a congregation which worships the way the planters prefer and then hoping that other people like it! Listening comes first, decisions about worship styles last.
These are fledgling churches and congregations. They have not had the time to become mature. But they have the potential to grow into a mature expression of church. Traditionally the marks of the church have been listed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic. But maturity will not mean they become like the churches which planted them. They must remain relevant to their cultural context.
This language assumes that all local churches are ‘expressions of church’. No one local church can fully express Christ and his gospel. Each needs to be related to others, which have different gifts or contexts. In particular the fresh expressions of church are not meant to replace existing forms of church and they are certainly not in competition with them. We use the expression ‘the mixed economy church’ as a way of saying that the one economy of God’s church needs both our inherited approaches and fresh ones.
holding this against the other report, the biggest challenge is in reaching communities that are currently completely outside the orbit of church rather than simply reshaping or planting church for those that struggle to relate to the culture of church. (i actually think both are important but it's clear we are still better at the second than the first).
graham's presentation highlights three main factors as being
- a new imagination about the form or shape of church
- the provision of relevant training resources
- an era of permission and encouragement by church leaders
and again emphasises the need for the long haul and that this is not just a fad
the synod voted to continue to encourage fresh expressions of church, alongside more traditional forms of church, as the most promising mission strategy in a fast changing culture. and forgive a bit of self interest for a moment on behalf of cms but encouragingly accroding to the freshexpressions web page
Synod also pressed for a more imaginative policy of recruitment, training and deployment of ordained and lay pioneer ministers.
that is exactly what we are trying to do - so i hope they are serious about it!!!!!!!