As the Inspiring Ipswich project gains momentum, Pioneer Developer Andy Jefferson shares some of the principles behind Fresh Expressions and how they are essential when it comes to engaging with new people.
As the Pioneer Developers for Inspiring Ipswich, we have a goal of seeing 20 fresh expressions of church in the Ipswich deanery by the end of the year 2024. We want these expressions to be diverse and wide ranging, with a focus on those who currently have no connection to the Christian faith. Alongside the work of our traditional churches, we see this as a way of joining in with what God is doing in and around the town.
Fresh expressions can be seen as part of our wider response to the new situation we, as Christians in this country, find ourselves in. This means recognising that for many people in our society, attending a church on a Sunday is not remotely on their radar. Instead of expecting people to trickle into our churches on a Sunday morning, intentional mission is about going out to where people are.
“Starting fresh expressions in surprising places is one way that we can bridge what we call the sacred/secular divide”
This refers to the things that are ‘sacred,’ such as worship services and prayer, against things which are ‘secular,’ such as work and the ways we spend our time Monday to Saturday. The apparent gap between these has been widening for some time. But it has been really exciting to hear many of the ways in which people in around Ipswich are already starting to think about how they might engage with young people in schools, or with the elderly in residential homes and even members of their community through a choir, to name just a few.
Fresh Expressions are about announcing the kingdom of God in surprising places such as these. If we believe that Jesus is Lord over the whole earth and not just our ‘sacred’ spaces, there really is no corner of society where this cannot be announced through word and action.
What makes a Fresh Expression?
One of the reasons that a fresh expression can be hard to define is because it often involves a journey [as demonstrated in the video above.]
At the beginning of this journey, a fresh expression may not take on many of the characteristics of church. But a mature fresh expression has discipleship and spiritual growth at their heart, which are contextualised for the people that the fresh expression is trying to reach.
Importantly, a fresh expression is not a stepping stone into another church community. As they develop, the vision is for them to be full expressions of church in their own right. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any link or movement between parish churches and fresh expressions, simply that fresh expressions are not a ‘halfway house’!
We should think of the relationship between parish churches and fresh expressions more like a ‘mixed economy.’ This is how the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams describes it, where Fresh Expressions and traditional forms of church sit side by side. When this mixed economy works effectively, we can see both working in partnership to enrich one another.
As the Mission-Shaped Church Report states: It’s not the Church of God that has a mission but the God of mission who has a church. This is about not holding fast to the things we are accustomed to at the expense of reaching people who are disconnected. Our current parish churches are a central part of our mission. But working in partnership with fresh expressions of church can only enrich our faithfulness to the God of mission.
What difference do Fresh Expression make for people already involved in church?
We know that when people in churches get involved in Fresh Expressions they find themselves renewed and energised in their faith, and in turn churches gain momentum from the stories that are shared and the people in their midst who are re-inspired by how God is using them. Inspired people really do inspire people, and this is a great opportunity to make that happen in your community.
As Pioneer Developers we will be involved in initiating our own expressions of church in surprising places. But we are looking for people who will champion this vision and lead Fresh Expressions of church, carrying them forwards, and start their own equally surprising places…
Will you join in with the vision to see 20 new Fresh Expressions by 2024? You can contact Andy at [email protected]
Andy Jefferson, works for the Inspire Ipswich project as a Pioneer Developer. He has spent much of the last few years studying and developing ways of engaging with young people outside the traditional forms of church. Before he joined the Inspiring Ipswich project, he worked as a youth worker whilst studying with the Church Mission Society to complete an MA in Pioneer Mission with a focus on youth.
Original article published by ‘Inspiring Ipswich Update’. You can find out more about Inspiring Ipswich here.
Reproduced by permission