Fresh Expressions according to Church Army

from Church Army ‘SHARE’ website:

Fresh Expressions defined by Church Army

Fresh expressions are:

  • missional – serving people outside church;
  • incarnational – listening to people and entering their culture;
  • educational – making discipleship a priority;
  • ecclesial – forming church.

If a local church is describing an initiative as a fresh expression, again does the venture meet these criteria? Let’s be relaxed if it doesn’t – it could still be a worthwhile project. But at least the church wouldn’t be raising false expectations.

So if you are doing something new mainly for churchgoers or are running a parents and tots group but have no plans for it to become church in its own right (perhaps forming a cell church among the parents and carers), both could be really valuable. But they would not be fresh expressions according to our definition.

Might we all be helped by using ‘fresh expressions’ in a careful way?

Other terms that cover fresh expressions of church are: emerging church, new forms of church, new ways of being church and church plants.

Here are three examples of fresh expressions:

  • An Alpha course was held in a teashop in a former mining town in Nottinghamshire. Several years and several Alpha courses on, a new church continues to meet in the teashop on a weekday evening, its members now leading and supporting successive Alphas.  (Fellowship @ Grannies)

  • A Church of England minister wanted to build church without a building. With his bishop’s blessing he now leads a network church centred round students and young professionals in Bristol.Meeting in a coffee house is just one way in which this new church is made accessible to newcomers.
  • A central Birmingham network church meets in bars and cafés. It drew on members’ personal contacts to create a community where all are welcome whatever their stage of faith. Accepting the transitional nature of city life, this church seeks to accompany growing Christians.

Society has changed and church must change too

Are ‘fresh expressions’ the same as ’emerging church’?

Emerging church has become a popular term, especially in the United States, to describe all sorts of new ways of being church, though we detect signs that the term is beginning to go out of use. (Has it become too broad to be helpful?)

There are at least three groups within the ’emerging church’ family:

  • Those who think and write about Christianity and our changing culture. They are wrestling with the challenges presented to the Christian faith by ‘post-modern’ thought and behaviour. How can the gospel connect with today’s world? What might be the implications for church?
  • Those exploring new forms of church mainly with people who still go to church (but who are often about to leave). Typically they are into alternative forms of worship and authentic community. Many have a missional heart, but their starting point is to work with Christians who are dissatisfied with existing church.
  • Those exploring new forms of church mainly for or with people who don’t attend church. Some of these innovative forms of church have a fruitful track record, but others are small, young and fragile. Though not everyone would use the term, we would describe these communities as ‘fresh expressions of church’.

All three strands acknowledge that society has changed

and church must change too.

For an up-to-date report see Fresh Expressions Defined according to Phase 2 (June 2009) with New Monasticism