Welcome to the March 2012 edition of e-xpressions. Stories and updates on our website this month include:
- Café Lite;
- River in the City - update;
- Riverforce - update;
- Beyond - the lent cross;
- Generation Project.
New On demand audio and video this month includes:
- Martyn Atkins on fresh expressions of church in Methodism;
- Michael Volland - being a missional entrepreneur;
- Rachel Matthews, maker baker;
- Roadblocks to fresh expressions.
You can also listen to the addresses from last November's 'Re-imagining church, revitalising mission' conference:
- Graham Cray: Plenary session and action plans;
- John Coles: Reflections on transitioning and planting;
- Gareth Robinson: Church planting and team building;
- Steve Clarke: One size fits all;
- David Bartlett: It'll never work here;
- Mark Carey: Going off the map;
- Andrew Roberts: To boldly go;
- Jude Smith: Missional prayer;
- Graham Cray: Moved by grace, led by the Spirit;
- John Coles: Can we do New Wine values in fresh expressions?
Coming up: a wave of prayer
On 28th May 2012 we'll be launching a wave of prayer around the world - join us at midday (your local time) to pray for fresh expressions of church. More details of this next month.
Newly published this month is our eighth Share booklet, how can we finance a fresh expression? With stories, tips, tools and practical help, this 16-page booklet explores how to ensure that your fresh expression of church has sound financial support.
Still available are our booklets Bishops' Mission Orders a beginner's guide and encouraging fresh expressions of church - now available for the first time to buy individually for just £1 each (or packs of five at the reduced price of £3).
Visit our online shop to purchase any of these items.
New from Hope Together is Table Talk for Easter, a conversational game that creates a safe space to explore some of life's more important questions with your friends. Written by Joanne Cox of the Methodist Church and Paul Griffiths from the Ugly Duckling Company, you can find out more on the Table Talk website.
Thank you to everyone who helped us out by filling in our website survey - we're very grateful for all of your thoughts and ideas. The randomly-chosen winners of our Amazon gift vouchers were Wendy Saunders and Daphne Davey.
We can't respond individually to every issue raised (although if you have a particular question you'd like a response to, please email email@example.com), but a few quick responses to some of your comments:
- For those of you who said you miss being able to search for a fresh expression of church by location or by type, you can still do this from the homepage of our website ('Get inspired' on the right-hand side) or by going directly to the find by location or find by keyword pages.
- Several of you asked about following ongoing projects to see how they develop - we already do some of this and the good news is that we'll be doing more over the coming months.
- For those of you looking for information about FEASTs, we're currently working on adding information about each FEAST around the country to our FEAST pages.
- Several people mentioned downloads of our audio and video material - all material on our On demand pages can already be downloaded as .mp3 (audio) or .flv (video) files - simply use the link below each clip on its individual page (eg. Roadblocks to fresh expressions). If you ever need a particular video in a different format, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see what we can do.
- To those who commented that we don't always feature many jobs, we're entirely dependent on people sending us their vacancies - we post every fresh-expressions-related job we come across. We will make sure we get better at removing expired jobs though.
- A few people mentioned problems with e-xpressions. Some of the layout problems are dependent on individual email clients and are outside of our control - but you can always view the latest issue of e-xpressions online. If you would like to switch to the plain text version (which just contains a link to the online version) then instructions can be found on our signup help page.
Thank you for the overwhelming number of positive comments - and for your detailed constructive criticism.
Support Fresh Expressions
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Pioneers, entrepreneurs and anyone who will have a go?
Bill Shankly, legendary manager of Liverpool, once said that:
some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.
The same might be said of pioneering fresh expressions of church, and of the pioneers and entrepreneurial Christians who plant them.
Not that the church will die if it ignores this opportunity and the people God is calling - our God is more gracious than that - but it will be in real difficulty. The growing proportion of people who have never had any contact with the church, the much older age profile in the churches and a pluralist consumer culture, all warn of the danger of limiting our fishing to a shrinking pool. Archbishop Geoff of Adelaide tells his people
more of the same just means less of the same.
So the churches' greatest resource, at this time, is the people who can do something different, pioneers who can imagine and establish something new. We need them at every level, local and national: helping their local church to establish a new congregation or missional community, pioneering in the circumstances of their work and everyday life, or deployed and supported full or part time by a group of churches, a mission agency or a denomination. It's not quite about 'anyone who will have a go'. Not everyone has the gifts for this. But at every level we need to keep an eye out for the ones God might be calling. We need to be prepared to release people from other roles, even when that causes difficulty for our existing programs (better new fishing grounds than a shrinking pool!) and to look out for those who have never volunteered before, because they were never energised by what was on offer.
One of the most significant features of the fresh expressions movement has been its capacity to
join the centre to the edge
as Steven Croft has said. It is the responsibility of the centre to recognise the calling and gifts of pioneers, whether that is the local centre: ministers, councils or leadership teams, or at a more senior regional or national level, to support new ventures and the people who can lead them. Either way we need to make it easy to offer. Pioneering may feel like going on Dragon's Den but exploring a call from God in a local church should not!
It is the responsibility of pioneers and entrepreneurial types to offer themselves and to be patient with proper processes of discernment and accountability, rather than falling victim to impatience and leaving to start something with no connection to any other part of the Church. We need people who are sent, not who send themselves.
Pioneers also need appropriate networks of prayerful support and supervision from those to whom they are accountable and peer support if their work is to be sustainable. Ideally everyone planting something new should be in a learning network of others who are doing the same. We can support one another, learn from one another and gather learning for the wider church. My hope is that each FEAST will become a hub of these learning networks.
Finally we need as much entrepreneurial thinking, as much creative imagination, about ways to support and sustain pioneer ministry as we do for the ministry itself. The planting of a new fresh expression by a local church can usually be done in volunteer time and need not be resource-heavy. But the planting of something more substantial, or deeper into never-churched territory, will often require more time than volunteers with full-time jobs can give. A fresh expression of this sort, planted by a pioneer who has had to earn their living at the same time, is much more likely to fail when the pioneer moves on than one where the pioneer has had the necessary time freed to do the work. Very properly, there are a limited number of centrally funded jobs in the church, so encourage local entrepreneurial imagination to create portfolios of support for local pioneers.
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 is Working the 'Night Shift'.
Have a good month,
The Fresh Expressions team.