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"

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”

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.”

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.”

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.

Related content

What is a Fresh Expression?

“Fresh Expressions are new forms of church that emerge within contemporary culture and engage primarily with those who don’t ‘go to church.” Mission Shaped Church Report

Get Equipped

The fx journey is a great place to start. This 6-part framework underpinned by prayer guides you through listening, loving & serving, building community and exploring discipleship to church taking shape and doing it again!

Get Connected

Fresh Expressions is a movement that works on connections. We aim to be a network of networks, drawing people together from across the diversity of the church and from all kinds of experiences and perspectives.

Get Inspired

Fresh Expressions are contextual models of church so they’re all different: new housing, rural, urban, suburban, messy church, third age, forests, coffee shops, beaches, pubs, barns, online and even church buildings.
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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

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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!

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fx Structure & Team

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!

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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?

Messy Church Walsall

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.

Getting started

Pioneering is all about growing new forms of church where church isn’t.

We’ve been doing this for over 18 years and we have a vast community of practitioners and loads of resources.

Start here

fx Values

Fresh Expressions of Church take several different forms; 

from new housing, rural, messy church, forests, coffee shops, barns, online and even church buildings. Several key features unite them to provide further clarity…

Learn more

EXAMPLES OF FRESH EXPRESSIONS

Fresh Expressions are rooted in and shaped by the context in which they’re established

No single Fresh Expression is the same. These stories are a great place to be inspired.

Learn more

fx Resourcing

One of the four key activities of fx is to enable the resourcing of the movement

We’ve developed a sustainable 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

Start here