Welcome to the June 2012 edition of e-xpressions. Stories and updates on our website this month include:
- River Community Church;
- Street Church - update;
- Reconnect - update;
- X-Site - update;
- Church @ Community.
New views this month include:
- Championing young leaders (Ben Gardner);
- Grappling with the changes (Richard Higginbottom);
- Anglicanism must die? (Tim Carter).
New On demand material this month includes:
- River Community Church - discipleship;
- New monasticism - what is it?;
- work:space, church in the workplace.
Church for every Context
Our brend new textbook is published on 1st July 2012 - you can pre-order it now for just £20 with free UK postage (until 30th June) - usual price £25.
Written by Michael Moynagh, Church for Every Context: An Introduction to Theology and Practice is the first textbook to comprehensively address the theology and methodology of fresh expressions and church planting. Topics include ecclesiology, fresh expressions in the New Testament, social forces behind fresh expressions today, theologies to underpin fresh expressions, how fresh expressions develop, the missional dynamics involved, discipleship, worship and how fresh expressions can be sustained and supported.
To claim your £5 pre-publication discount (with free UK postage), simply order now and enter the discount code context12 at checkout.
Hour of prayer
Thank you for joining us for our hour of prayer on 28th May. We're so grateful for your prayerful support - and for the things you have shared with us from your prayers. If you'd still like to give us feedback, you can comment on the hour of prayer page or the Facebook event.
The resources from the hour of prayer are still on our website so if you want to use our 60 prayers for 60 minutes or reflections on Galatians 2 in your ongoing prayers, please do so.
Summer festival time
If you're at one of the summer festivals, look out for fresh expressions talks and seminars:
Graham Cray will be at weeks B and C with a seminar on 'What on earth is the church for?'. More details...
Graham Cray will be leading a series of three seminars on 'The Unavoidable Church', 'Whirlpool Church or Launchpad Church' and 'Church Beyond the Reach of Church'. More details...
Bob and Mary Hopkins will be leading two seminars at New Wine North and acting as available consultants to leaders on mission topics throughout the week.
A host of fresh expressions of church and pioneers will be involved in worship, workshops and other activities.
Behind the scenes: JAMWPEEEC
The catchily-titled Joint Anglican Methodist Working Party on the Ecclesiology of Emerging Expressions of Church have been considering several questions over the past couple of years, including when does something that is an expression of Christian action become a church?
Their report, Fresh Expressions in the Mission of the Church, is published on 30th June by Church House Publishing and St Andrew's Press. Using narrative experience of a variety of fresh expressions, it considers the ecclesiology of fresh expressions of church within the disciplines of scripture, reason and tradition. The concepts, which are developed latterly, include locality, intensivity and connectivity, with the key emphasis supporting the need for constant interaction within a mixed economy church. The conclusions of the report set out a series of specific recommendations building on these conclusions.
You can pre-order the book now for £14.99.
Methodist Conference and the Church of England General Synod will hold parallel debates on the report at their respective gatherings in July 2012.
Meanwhile, Linda Rayner, URC Coordinator for Fresh Expressions is set for a busy time at the URC's General Assembly in Scarborough, from 6th to 9th July. As well as staffing a Fresh Expressions stand in the foyer, Linda will also be involved in a Special Interest Meeting with Graham Cray as part of the speaking panel. Linda says,
I will be encouraging people to keep on doing what they see is working; they shouldn't feel that they have got to change it. On the other hand, if there are ways to get the Gospel message out to people in a different way, then give it a try.
The DVD features Visions (York), Moot (London), Critical Mass (Peterborough), Glorious (London), Contemplative Fire (Nationwide), feig (Gloucester), Blessed (Gosport) and a sermon from Rowan Williams at the fresh expressions pilgrimage in Coventry Cathedral.
If you thought fresh expressions of church where only for evangelicals, then watch Archbishop Rowan's sermon and think again.
Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading
Those of you who use our Share website will have noticed a few changes recently. We're excited to announce that the guide has now been moved to our main website at freshexpressions.org.uk/guide. You'll find all the same great content and we'll be working over the coming months to fully integrate the material with our hundreds of stories, news, views and On demand clips.
There may be a few broken links and glitches whilst we do this - if you find a problem please do let us know on email@example.com.
If you've not checked out the Guide yet, you'll find it packed with detailed how-to-do-it advice on starting, developing and sustaining fresh expressions of church, as well as examples, theology and expert comments - as well as the gathered wisdom of hundreds of different stories of fresh expressions of church around the UK and beyond.
Fresh expressions as schools of discipleship
Our aspiration is that fresh expressions of church should be communities of disciples, not just gatherings for worship. We have learned that if this is not built in from the beginning it is very difficult to add it in, let alone bolt it on, at a later stage. The initial character of the community being planted often decides the standard of discipleship that will be obtained. There is no quick fix or easy formula for disciple making, but there are some key principles.
Discipleship is not abstract. It is not a list of rules to be obeyed and sins to avoid. At its heart it is personal and corporate obedience to Jesus by those who have responded to his call to follow. It is not about religion. It is about all of life. It involves a choice to be with Jesus in order to become like him (Matthew 10.25) It is a choice to learn to live our life as he would live our life (Dallas Willard). It is a matter of the will. His yoke may be easy and his burden light but we still have to choose to bear it (Matthew 11.28-30) To become a disciple is to surrender our sovereignty over our personal destiny, and be apprenticed to Jesus, as part of his school of discipleship.
Such surrender will never happen unless there is a vision of something better and greater which makes the sacrifice worthwhile. The parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price (Matthew 13.44-46) make it clear that the kingdom (and the King) of heaven are worth such sacrifice. Do we set before people a vision of Jesus and of the transforming power of his kingdom in the world, as we call them to his service via the cross?
All human beings are disciples. They prioritize their life and establish their habits in the light of something, some vision of the good life or someone, even if it be themselves. Frequently our pressured, consumer, society makes disciples far more effectively than many churches. Fresh expressions of church are challenged to embody a better vision: a more captivating motive for daily choices than those offered elsewhere. Consumer society is profoundly seductive and consequently addictive. It shapes the habits which form human character. The life of fresh expressions of church needs to involve those who are willing in a more powerful set of character forming habits than those of the world. The key habit is that of service. Disciples are formed as they engage in mission. Immersion in the ministry of Jesus grows disciples today as in the gospels. A fresh expression should serve as well as worship – drawing potential disciples and not yet believers into the Lord's work in the world.
When I was a young Christian all the emphasis was on personal disciplines, particularly of daily prayer and Bible study. Personal disciplines remain important, but I do not believe they are sufficient to form Christian character today. In those early years of faith the Christian story was better known in Britain, and 'Christian' values taken as norms, even if they were not adhered to. Culture reinforced discipleship much more than today. Today culture is more likely to be corrosive of discipleship as supportive. It is corporate disciplines and support which are needed. A Christian way of life - the daily practice of obedience to Jesus - needs a proactive supportive community. The term 'one another' appears frequently in the New Testament and it is persistent, intentional 'one anothering' which will enable lives of discipleship. I do not know how discipleship can be sustained without some regular, face-to-face small group for mutual support and challenge.
Fresh expressions of church can be schools of discipleship if they offer a more captivating motive for daily choices, a more powerful set of character-forming habits and a proactive supportive community - for a way of life which outclasses the world.
Have a good month,
The Fresh Expressions team.