What is Fresh Expressions?

07.15.16 | New Faith Expressions | by Travis Collins

    Adapted from notes at a presentation by Travis Collins at the Fresh Expressions AND Conference 2016. Travis has written two books on the subject: From the Steeple to the Street and Fresh Expressions of Church.

    Fresh Expressions is a movement that is cultivating new forms of church alongside existing congregations in order to reach a changing world. A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

    The movement started in England after some Anglicans and Methodists looked for some (any) sign of life within the church. What they found surprised them and these surprises were described as fresh expressions. And once church leaders became intentional about encouraging these expressions, they were surprised afresh by new life in established churches as well. It has resulted in the birth of over 2,500 new communities in the UK alone. A recent study, Anecdote to Evidence, has revealed:

    • "It is striking and notable that in 7 out of 10 cases the growth attributable to fresh expressions of church attendance more than offsets (the ongoing decline in average worship attendance in the Church of England.)"
    • Of all Church of England congregations, about "one in seven to one in eight" now is a fresh expression of church. Furthermore, on a typical Sunday about ten percent of the people in Anglican churches are in one of these fresh expressions of church.
    • "For every one person sent, at least another two and a half are now present. This is a 250% increase over time. There is nothing else in the Church of England that can do anything like this."
    • 40% of those who are now part of fresh expressions of Church were previously not at all part of any congregation.
    • Fresh expressions of church have been effective in engaging young people. "On average at the fresh expressions of church, 41% of the attendees are under 16. This is significantly higher than in inherited church and is a promising beginning."Fresh Expressions of church are missional, formational, ecclesial and contextual. Since they are highly contextual, it can be difficult to describe what a fresh expression looks like. Here are some distinctions:
    • They are a part of a "mixed economy" which means established congregations and fresh expressions of church "exist alongside each other, within the same denomination, in relationships of mutual respect and support."
    • They engage subcultures of society. Often a fresh expression leads to a micro-community (think bikers, scrap-bookers, foodies, etc.)
    • They rely on a "Person of Peace"/"Insider" who naturally builds a bridge between you ("churched") and their "unchurched."
    • There are as few as 3 or large as 12 on the planting team.
    • Some start independently; some grow out of established congregations.
    • Think "service," not "a service."
    • Think Jerusalem and Antioch.

    The data is in: In England God is using fresh expressions of church to halt the decline of church attendance and to reach people established congregations probably never will reach. Michael Moynagh, a leading Anglican researcher, reflected on the report and declared that, "in terms of outreach and evangelism these new expressions of church must surely be considered our best chance for a renewed impact of the Gospel in the West."

    There is no blueprint or template for starting a fresh expression. It is relationally and missionally driven. For those who need a visual...


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