24 February 2006

Fresh Expressions / Changing Church?

At college the other night, we were privileged to have a presentation by Steve Croft of Fresh Expressions.

None of this is new to a
fellow student who works as an evangelist to New Agers, but for an old fogey like me, some of the "Fresh Expressions" that we heard about were gratifyingly fresh. When I hear the term 'new ways of being church', it usually seems to be connected with old ways of being church with a few Graham Kendrick songs and a guitar. None of what I saw before looked to me to be the kind of thing that the unchurched would connect with.

Whilst this might be old hat to people like my colleague Sally, old fogeys like me need to see what real 'fresh expressions' look like. And some of this stuff doesn't fit easily into our old categories of 'church'. For example, there was a community skateboarding project with an intentional youth church at the centre; most of the attendees of the skateboarding centre do not attend the intentional worship, but some do (we did not see what their worship looked like).

There was some talk amongst students after Steve left that these Fresh Expressions are quite threatening to ministers who are engaged in ministry in the traditional mode. I think the Fresh Expressions are threatening to the tradtional-minded and not just to ministers/priests/presbyters. It seems to me that the reason that most Christians these days want to reach out to the unchurched is so that more people will join our club and we'll be able to fill our buildings.

It was quite clear to me the other night that the Fresh Expressions are inherently fragile in that they are likely to change with time and fashion - will the world still want coffee shops in 50 years' time? It also seemed clear to me that the church is simply going to have to learn to deal with this situation instead of whining about post-modern culture. We seem to think that because God is unchanging (and that's a whole separate discussion!) that the church should be unchanging as well. Sometimes I think the church worships Inertia instead of the Living Trinity.


Sally said...

Some good thoughts here Pam, your thoughts revealed to me that as one of those involved in Fresh Expressions of church my tendancy is to bemoan the fact that traditional church does not understand the new movement...interseting huh...for I find I am being intolerant of those whose faith is being supporetd and nurtured by traditional structures. I need to take a step back and hear myself when I talk about the need for mutual love and support.
I'd never have put you in the old fogey category by the way!!!

PamBG said...

Sally, thanks for your reflective comment.

I think that what came through to me the other night was the need for the whole church to work together and to value the work of those who have different gifts.

If you think about the model that Steve used: 1) Sharing the message with the unchurched; 2) Nurturing, sustaining and equipping those who have come into the church; 3) Co-ordinating communication between all those doing 1 and 2 -- it seems pretty logical that no one person could do that.

And, if you think it about the situation in the terms I've used above, you'd probably stand up and say: "Yes! Sounds great!" However, if we put it in terms of: 1) Deacons and 2) Presbyters coming under 3) the discipline of the church, we seem to get defensive and say "Stay off my patch and don't tell me what to do!" Why is that?

We - all - really have to see beyond our own little patch. The Circuit has to value the community coffee shop that the Deacon is running even if it isn't bringing in lots of new people so that "Our Neighbourhood Methodist Church" can increase its membership from 10 to 20 and stay open.

see-through faith said...

" It seems to me that the reason that most Christians these days want to reach out to the unchurched is so that more people will join our club and we'll be able to fill our buildings."

Is this good or bad though?

PamBG said...

I think that people sense when we want to do something for our own benefit or for theirs. And I think that 'increasing numbers' falls into doing things for our own benefit. That's my personal view, though, and others are free to disagree.