Our Story

“It's rather fun that after just 15 years, there are more Messy Churches than the 3,400 branches of Tesco in the UK. Admittedly, our stat of 3,915 is worldwide, but it's still something to smile about.”

Lucy Moore, Messy Church Founder & Team Leader

In the late 1990’s and into the New Millennium, things were changing and stirring…. Disciples of Jesus were trying new and different things in response to where they saw the Holy Spirit at work. People in a number of denominations and mission agencies worked together reflecting on the 90’s church-planting movement and beginning a process of investing and pioneering new forms of church. These fresh expressions weren’t simply a fad or an attempt to be cool but looked to address a rapidly changing culture in the UK and a change in attitude to attending church and to a spiritual life. New things were taking place in different contexts, locations, times, as these different expressions sought to re-imagine church for this new environment, whilst staying true to a missional and Christ-centred gospel.

In 2004 the Mission Shaped Church Report, instigated by Archbishop Rowan Williams, listened and noticed what was happening, and new language began to develop such as ‘the mixed economy.’ The report went on to make recommendations for the future practice of this pioneering mission movement. It has gone on to be one of the most widely read and purchased Church of England reports ever. It argued that…

“The time has come to ensure that any Fresh Expression of Church that emerge within the Church, or are granted a home within it, are undergirded with an adequate ecclesiology”

Mission Shaped Church Report

All of this was exciting and encouraging for many practitioners at the time who were working hard to disciple people and develop new and imaginative expressions of Church but found them hard to be accepted as ‘church.’ The report recognised their importance, placed value on their role in a ‘mixed economy’ or Church and furthermore recognised the need for the “identification, selection and training of pioneer church planters, for both lay and ordained furthermore recognised the need for the “identification, selection and training of pioneer church planters, for both lay and ordained ministers” (MSC pg.147.)

From this the Fresh Expressions initiative was born, as a partnership between the Church of England and the Methodist Church and initially led by Bishop Steven Croft (now Bishop of Oxford) with Revd Peter Pillinger as the Methodist Team Leader. Over the next 15 years new denominational partners joined the movement – the United Reformed Church, the Salvation Army, the Church of Scotland and the Baptist Union of Great Britain – all of whom identify growth and encouragements in these new experiments in Church. 

The initial team identified:

“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”

FX Denominational Partners, 2006

The movement developed, first connecting with those projects already developed and then encouraging others to take first steps. These new forms of church ranged from family focused Messy Churches to New Monastic Communities and to Social Justice Projects. For a snapshot visit our YouTube page to see them in action.

“the fresh expressions movement within the Methodist Church has been extremely successful in welcoming previously unaffiliated people into Christian faith exploration and participation. Nearly two-thirds of the participants in… Methodist fresh expressions are new to Christianity! I know of few other missional orientations that bear such amazing fruit.”

Revd Trey Hall, Director of Evangelism & Growth, Methodist Church of Great Britain

Studies conducted between 2012 and 2016 showed 1109 Fresh Expressions of Church in the Church of England alone, identified in 21 UK Dioceses and with 50,600 attending. When the Methodist Church “research was carried out in (2016-17), there were estimated to be over 1,000 fresh expressions complementing around 4,500 local churches.” The Salvation Army lead on pioneering, Major Andrew Vertigan, comments there are more than 50 Salvation Army fresh expressions of church across the whole UK region catalysed through the partnership with the FX movement.

“Nothing else, as a whole in the Church of England has this level of missional impact and the adding of further ecclesial communities, thereby feeling ecclesial re-imagination.”

George Lings, 'Day of Small Things'

As we step into the future, Fresh Expressions is now developing as a network of networks – enabling practice and encouraging pioneering across the country. We are excited to see what happens next.

“It's rather fun that after just 15 years, there are more Messy Churches than the 3,400 branches of Tesco in the UK. Admittedly, our stat of 3,915 is worldwide, but it's still something to smile about.”

Lucy Moore, Messy Church Founder & Team Leader

THEOLOGY

‘The traditional wing of the Church has involved withdrawing from the world for short periods. Believers have withdrawn into God’s family in Sunday worship, small groups, conferences and retreats to be immersed in the Christian story. With their faith deepened and invigorated, they have re-entered the world to serve God.’

Read this article by Mike Moynagh about the theology behind Fresh Expressions

FX VALUES

FX Associates are the core of the movement. They’re a growing community of hundreds of Fresh Expressions practitioners across the UK who are passionate about equipping, encouraging and championing fellow pioneers and Fresh Expressions. If you’re currently involved in a Fresh Expression and looking for your tribe then come and join us!

TEAM

The fx movement is served by the charity, leadership community and contractors. The leadership community listens to the fx movement and communicates vision and strategy to the fx board who then make decisions about funding, governance and deployment of the fx contractors.

RETHINKING CHURCH

Thinking afresh about church is a mission priority. To re-imagine church requires a clear picture of what church is. What can change and what has to stay the same?

REIMAGINING WORSHIP

Reimagining worship starts with our understanding of what worship is. A crucial word is ‘indigenous’ – in other words, how can you take activities that your community feels passionately about and turn them toward glorifying God? It’s about not forcing assumptions about church onto communities.

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