The Fresh Expressions Journey
'The Fresh Expressions journey is not a theoretical idea. It is what we have observed more and more Christians doing across the globe. They know the gap between the world and the current church is too big for their friends and contacts to leap across. So they are starting new Christian communities in the nooks and crannies of people’s ordinary lives.'
The fx journey is a 6-part framework used by practitioners. Whilst there is a natural progression from one stage to the next this doesn’t mean it’s prescriptive. Pioneering is a creative process so you can often find yourself going backwards before you move forwards which is why the whole journey is underpinned by prayer, ongoing listening and a grace-filled relationship with the wider Church.
Listen lovingly to God and to people round you
Every Fresh Expressions journey begins with listening. This involves discerning a number of different voices. A Fresh Expression responds to the concept that mission begins with God; we join in with what God is doing. As you spend time in prayer you may find it helpful to ask the following questions:
- WHAT IS GOD SAYING?
- WHAT DO YOU OBSERVE IS GOING ON AROUND YOU?
- WHAT GROUPS OF PEOPLE MIGHT NEED TO FIND THE LOVE OF GOD?
- WHO IN MY COMMUNITY IS NOT CONNECTING WITH CHURCH?
- WHAT DO YOU OBSERVE IS GOING ON AROUND YOU?
Listening also happens with your team/community and with local people’s needs:
- WHAT DO PEOPLE NEED?
- WHERE ARE THE POINTS OF PAIN?
- WHERE ARE THE AREAS I 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.
LOVING AND SERVING
Through listening, you prayerfully discover a simple way to love the people around you
The next step focuses on building meaningful relationships with people who do not attend church.
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?
To start a Fresh Expression among our neighbours outside the church we must first get to know them.
You build community in the process of loving and serving those around you
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.
As relationships are being built, a group with a specific identity begins to form. The group begins to meet regularly. Many of these groups begin with a few Christians who are comfortable around non-
Christians, and they grow by bringing in non-Christian friends.
As trust deepens, you find natural opportunities to share Jesus together, as part of a richer life
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.
Not everyone will jump straight into faith conversations, but this is where the listening comes in again. As you find those who are open and interested you can explore discipleship and community together in ways that make sense in that community.
CHURCH TAKING SHAPE
A new Christian community with the character of church takes shape among those coming to faith, where they are
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.
The Church of Scotland defined the core calling of the church as “(being) people with Jesus at the centre, travelling wherever Jesus takes us.” As a new Fresh Expression takes shape, the group will identify how it can participate in this calling. Discovering what church looks like for your community should all be done shaped by the culture there, not the church from the outside. It won’t be smooth or straightforward, take time and give it space to breathe.
DOING IT AGAIN
New believers repeat the journey in their own
What happens next?
Ideally, Fresh Expressions multiply. This isn’t all down to you though! Part of the discipleship journey is to grow into leadership and this is equally important in a Fresh Expression. As your community grows, you need to identify local people you can pass leadership onto, either to grow the existing Fresh Expression or start something new.
Of course, life is more messy than a diagram! So the circles may overlap, pile on top of each other, or sometimes happen in a different order. One circle is not a mere stepping stone to another, to be forgotten when you move to the next. Each circle has kingdom value in itself and listening is always an integral part of every step of the journey; every pioneer will tell you they never stop listening.
So if you don’t travel through all the circles, don’t despair! Each step has its own intrinsic worth. You introduce each circle as an end in itself, not as a means to reach the next stage. What’s more, the Great Commandment (to love others) and the Great Commission (to share the gospel) are brought together in a single, integrated form of discipleship.
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Pioneering is all about growing new forms of church where church isn’t.
Fresh Expressions don’t take a model and replicate. We let the place we’re in and the people around us shape what church looks like – an fx is all about doing church that makes sense to the people and place it finds itself in. So the best way to equip you for the journey you’re about to begin is to give you some tools to help navigate the next steps in this adventure God is calling you into.
Fresh Expressions of Church take several different forms; from new housing to rural, urban to suburban, messy church and third age to forests, coffee shops, beaches, pubs, barns, online and even church buildings. However, several key features unite them to provide further clarity around what a Fresh Expression is..
EXAMPLES OF FRESH EXPRESSIONS
Fresh Expressions are rooted in and shaped by the context in which they’re established which means no one Fresh Expression is the same. If you’re looking for inspiration of what’s possible or some new ideas of ways in which you can grow or develop your fx then these stories are a great place to start….
TURNING A DREAM INTO A REALITY
At its simplest pioneering is a combination of seeing and building. The seeing is a gift of imagining possibilities and dreaming up ideas. The building is the work to make something happen out of that seeing. Illustrated by Gerald Arbuckle’s term ‘dreamers who do’ which pulls the two together.
One of the four key activities of fx is to enable the resourcing of the movement, by providing and sustaining a framework that empowers practitioners and pioneers within the movement to co-create and resource one another. Check out the wealth of resources and training available to you wherever you are on the fx journey.