It's been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.¹
If you've been involved in mission for a while and are connecting with Fresh Expressions you might well be asking, what do I do next? Maybe you've begun developing ideas and community around Fresh Expressions values but what is the next step?
We've created a handy set of steps that guide you in the way a Fresh Expression develops. It's called the Fresh Expressions journey. This isn't necessarily a five point plan to success or a linear set of steps. However it does provide a handy guide to what your next step might be.
Any Fresh Expressions journey begins with listening. This involves discerning a number of different voices. Firstly what is God saying? Any Fresh Expression responds to the concept that mission begins with God, we join in with what God is doing. Spend some time in prayer and ask what god might be doing in your area. What do you observe is going on around you, what groups of people might need to find the love of God? This prayerful listening is vital.
Listening also happens with your team/community and with local people's needs. What do people what when they think about church? What are the areas you might serve them? You could conduct a survey, take a walk round your area, consult census results or listen to local people over a cup of tea. Listening takes many forms but being willing to listen changes our perspective of mission and makes sense of all that comes afterwards.
Once you've listened you may feel it's right to get started with a service or event. But in the Fresh Expressions journey our next step is to serve. This can form part of the listening process too as we meet a local need or show loving service to others. Who can you help? What act of service could bring about a change in your local community?
Next step is about building community. It's impossible to start a Fresh Expression on your own so this step might be about gathering a team. However, if there's already more than one of you this step is about gathering people who share ideas or values with you and beginning to build friendship. Gather people for food. Connect over an issue or need that's important. Throw a party or festival. Relational community is the seedbed for everything that comes next. Make friends and build a loving community around you.
From there conversations usually begin to form around exploring discipleship. People may ask you about faith or want to have their questions answered. Maybe as a group you begin to discuss what it means to be a Christian. Let conversation, questions, doubt and latent faith express themselves.
At this point church is taking shape. You may choose to create a regular pattern of gathering, create collective prayer or worship together and invite others. Take your time over this phase and don't feel pressured to deliver something that looks like other churches. If you've been true to each of these steps what you see developing may look very different.
And what next ...
After time you might want to do this all over again.
Check out this great movie which shares more.
¹ Lao Tzao