What statistics are you basing your activities on?
Our work isn't really based on statistics but, we hope, rests on the person and teaching of Jesus. However there are three relevant sets of statistics for those developing fresh expressions of church.
The first are the statistics about the decline in membership of the churches in Britain over many years. These are collected by the denominations and by Christian Research. They show the need for fresh and creative thinking about mission.
The second are two sets of work done on the segmentation of the whole population which shows how many attend church, how many have a church background but no longer come and how many in our country have no church background at all. Initial research on this was done in 1996 by Philip Richter and Leslie Francis and adapted for the Mission-shaped Church report.
- Philip Richter, Leslie Francis, Gone but not Forgotten, DLT, 1998, ISBN 978-0232522365.
- Mission-shaped Church: Church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context, CHP, 2004, ISBN 978-071514013-2.
A much more substantial piece of research was undertaken by Tearfund in 2005 and 2006 and revealed a similar picture to that painted by Richter and Francis. A large and growing proportion of the UK population is beyond the reach of the traditional congregations. The gap is too wide to be crossed. Christians need to go to where these people are in love and service and begin new communities: fresh expressions of church.
Finally, we are beginning to see research on how many fresh expressions of church there are and how many people are involved. We have statistics from fresh expressions that contact us directly. The Church of England and Methodist Church carry out an annual census with a questionnaire to every parish/circuit. This research shows that a significant proportion of these two demoninations are beginning to actively engage with the fresh expressions movement.