Mega meets Fresh!
During our visit to London earlier this year, my wife Sue and I had the opportunity to have coffee with Rachel Jordan, National Mission and Evangelism Advisor for the Church of England. During our conversation we discussed how the Fresh Expressions movement has come to influence the missional thinking of large, successful, attractional churches in the UK.
It has often been reported that London is the hub of Anglican renewal in England. Large attractional churches, like Holy Trinity Brompton, regularly send teams out to plant churches in the Greater London Area. These ‘church plants’ grow and become successful, attractional churches in their own right, and then often send out their own planting teams. A church planting team typically consists of at least one priest/pastor and fifty or more members/families who would leave the ‘mother church’ and relocate to the church plant. This may even include team members picking up and moving from one home to another as a way to fully engage in the church planting process. Many of these church plants have adopted an evangelical and/or charismatic worship style, something that we in Canada may not be comfortable with at this point in time. Nevertheless this has resulted in many healthy, vibrant and large Anglican Churches in Greater London, and in other cities across England, becoming capable of sending out their own church planting teams.
In many cases these ‘church plants’ take on the characteristics of the sending church in worship style (evangelical and/or charismatic worship style) as well as congregational makeup. For example, if the planting team is mostly middle class, then those who are attracted to the church plant will in all likelihood be predominantly middle class. So the question has been raised, what about the existing population in these ‘church plant’ areas, people who are from different cultural, as well as socio-economic, backgrounds, who for whatever reason would never set foot in a traditional church? In most, if not all, cases, these “indigenous people” are prayed for and loved each and every Sunday. They may also be recipients of social services offered by the church; financial counseling, day care, tax preparation assistance and so on. But what about their spiritual needs, their faith nurture and their need to form community with others?
Building on the experiences of the Fresh Expressions movement, a new model seems to be emerging among such churches, where the ‘mother church’ starts to engage with the population in the surrounding community. They move from ‘loving thy neighbour’ to ‘transforming them’ through the love of Jesus. To do this, pioneer ministers (lay and/or ordained) become involved with local communities to start “fresh expressions of church,” contextualized to meet the cultural needs of those living within the parish boundaries. Over time, it is hoped satellites of faith communities led by pioneers will surround the ‘mother church’.
As with all new initiatives, resourcing becomes an issue, as churches are increasingly financially challenged. Going forward, Paul’s model of making tents to support himself while