Welcome to the December 2011 edition of e-xpressions. Stories and updates on our website this month include:
- Sunday Sanctuary - update (an update to the story of Sunday Sanctuary);
- Zone2/Dream - update (an update to the stories of Zone2 and Dream);
- St Paul's Café Church, Dorking;
- Unlimited Church;
- Surf's up for Jesus Longboard Classic at Tubestation (an update to the story of Tubestation).
New On demand audio and video this month includes:
- Rachel Jordan on fresh expressions in the Church of England;
- See what you can do;
- Fuzz Kitto on a 'prophetic movement';
- Colin Brown reflects on making mistakes.
Back to the future?
The theology of the church (ecclesiology) is a funny thing. It is meant to guide us as we shape the church of tomorrow. But only too often it is simply used to justify the shape of the church of today. A dynamic understanding of the church, intended to equip it for principled appropriate change, in response to changing cultures, and direction from the Holy Spirit, is given theoretical acknowledgement, while nothing changes. Perhaps we have given too much uncritical emphasis on the church as steward of the inheritance from the past, and too little on the church as an anticipation of the future.
Most mainline denominations say that the church is called to be 'a sign, instrument (or agent) and foretaste of the kingdom of God'. If we take that seriously there are as number of consequences. Signs show people the way and allow them to understand which paths will take them the wrong way. If the church is to be a sign, then it has to be contextual. The sign has to be erected where people, going about their everyday lives, can see it. The local church must live its life where people are, culturally and geographically, not where they used to be. But the church is more than a sign. It is the instrument God uses and the agent he chooses as his partner, to offer salvation and to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God. People need the church, not a pointer to something else, if they are going to find salvation through Christ and be recruited to serve in the kingdom of God. So it is vital that the local church engage its life with the localities it has been sent to serve. But, most significantly, the church is a foretaste, an anticipation of God's kingdom. People should be able to see among us an imperfect taste of what God has prepared for the new heaven and earth. Local churches are called to be communities which offer a taste of the future, in advance.
Our Western society lacks hope more than anything else. The best many people can hope for is more of the same, or in these difficult economic tines, holding on to most of what they have. They need local communities of Christians who live in the present in the light of the future Jesus has secured, and do so locally, as they engage exactly the same difficulties and challenges as their neighbours. A regular question for each local church should be 'How can our life and worship together here best show people the future which Jesus has won for us?'
The relationship with the past is vital. The future is only possible because of the past. The incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus have opened the future. The moment we depart from those central truths we have no hope to offer. We are indeed stewards of the inheritance of the past, and that inheritance has shaped the churches over the years. But so has the culture of many different eras. We need to distinguish between adaptations which were appropriate for a different time, and the beliefs and practices, which make the church the church in every time. The past is powerful because it has been such a blessing. But some of yesterday's blessings are the very things which stop us receiving what God intends for the sake of the world today.
It is the role of the Holy Spirit – the first fruits of the kingdom of God, the taste of the powers of the age to come – to guide the church, so that it becomes a foretaste of the future in whatever setting God has located it. We receive the gospel from the past, and the Spirit equips us to live it out as a local foretaste of the future. We go back for the sake of the future, not simply to justify the present.
Graham Cray, Fresh Expressions team leader, writes regularly in the Church of England Newspaper and other places - you can read his contributions each month on the Graham Cray in print page of our website. This month, Graham reflects on Dorking's 'church with a twist'.
If you've missed any of the tweets from Jonny Baker, Andy Frost, Andrew Graystone, Ian Bell and others, you can catch up with our online advent calendar - and you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the daily updates, which run through to Christmas.
mission shaped ministry consultation
As mission shaped ministry continues to grow in the UK and beyond, representatives of msm teams from Edinburgh to Plymouth gathered in Northampton for two days of reflection, interaction and shared learning.
With a particular emphasis on coaching and mentoring, the local course leaders were enabled to further enrich the constantly evolving learning experience that is mission shaped ministry. The event also saw the launch of new units on fresh expression and young adults and rural fresh expressions, and news of a forthcoming unit on prayer.
Fresh Expressions Director of Training, Andrew Roberts, presented provisional research which shows that over 9/10ths of those who do msm are enabled to do at least one of the following:
- start a fresh expression of church;
- sustain a fresh expression of church;
- develop an existing church in mission;
- clarify a call to pioneer ministry;
- grow in discipleship and ministry.
And don't forget, now is the time to join one of our January 2012 msm courses in Plymouth (Devon), Knaresborough (Yorkshire), Eastbourne (Surrey/Sussex) or Virginia (USA)! If you're in the West Midlands, the Wolverhampton course begins in September 2012.
Written by Andrew Roberts, David Goodhew and Michael Volland, Fresh: An Introduction to Fresh Expressions of Church and Pioneer Ministry is published in March 2012 and offers a strong rationale for fresh expressions and pioneer ministries rooted in scripture and the breadth of the Christian tradition.
Fresh! combines a serious theological engagement with earthy practicality to offer guidance in starting and sustaining fresh expressions of church in the long term and comes out of the mature reflection of church leaders and theologians active in such ministries.
SCM Press are offering the 200-page Fresh! at a pre-publication price of £15 (including UK p&p) until 15th February 2012 - please contact 01603 785925 or email@example.com to order and quote reference FRESH12.
We hope you have a great Christmas and blessed new year - see you in 2012!
Have a good month,
The Fresh Expressions team.