Making it up as we go along!
This is how many practitioners describe the process of starting and growing a fresh expression of church. Doing what is appropriate in their context means that they cannot download what others have done and hope it will automatically work. No how-to-do-it blueprint for founding a fresh expression exists. Every context is different. Plans are often blown off course by changes in circumstances and unexpected opportunities. The Spirit frequently leads in surprising ways. But this does not mean that midwives of church cannot learn from the experiences of others. In this section, we bring together some of the wisdom gleaned from fresh expressions over a number of years.
No how-to-do-it blueprint for founding a fresh expression exists - every context is different
We have organised the material into six themes, six threads if you like, each addressing a different question. These threads are a shorthand way of tapping into the experiences of many who have gone before. In practice, these threads overlap and get jumbled up together. Not every item in each thread is relevant to all situations. But within each thread, there may be wisdom that you will find helpful, whether you are involved in a large fresh expression or a tiny one.
How should we start?
Keeping in mind that the Spirit should be the starting point of all our actions, we suggest you begin with:
A mission heart
Are you really committed to serving people outside church?
A mission team (or 'missional community')
You need to find at least one other person to work with.
These are 'emotional rudders' that guide how the missional community operates and keep members on the same page.
A mission focus
You can't serve everyone, so who are you going to focus on
What form should it take?
What sort of fresh expression should we aim for? The Spirit will answer that question as you spend time in listening. 'The experience of being listened to is so close to the experience of being loved as to be indistinguishable' (Sara Savage).
We suggest that the missional community listens in four directions:
To God directly in prayer and Bible study
Times of prayer and Bible study may help to focus what God is saying as you listen to the people described below.
To the people you are called to serve.
Listening can involve:
- experimentation (trying something and seeing what you learn);
- participation (joining in with what people in your mission context are doing);
- conversation (with some of those you are hoping to serve);
- observation (Where do people gather? What do they do? What do they value?);
- investigation (researching particular issues in some depth);
- imagination (asking 'what-would-happen-if...' questions).
To those you are accountable to
These could include leaders of the church(es) on whose behalf you are acting, and Christian friends and others who are praying for you.
To the wider church
What can you learn from other fresh expressions? Read their stories or watch the DVDs. Might you visit one? What can you learn from church planting in other countries or in church history?