Fresh Expressions - New Forms of Church

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The following are notes taken from a talk given by Michael Moynagh from Fresh Expressions.

Fresh Expressions - New Forms of Church, Revd Dr Michael Moynagh

(See and read Michael's book --- emergingchurch.intro. And also see the Fresh Expressions Guide Share the Guide)

Aim of the session

To inspire you to think of a context in which you can be an evangelist. For the rest of you --- you might see a context in which you can build and rebuild church that has been in decline for so long. Mostly speaking from a UK context but there are a lot of commonalities across Europe.

First part of morning --- fresh expressions of church, emerging church, consider what that is and then talk about fresh expressions and new forms of church evolve. A journey they might take.


  1. Very traditional Anglican Church in Nottingham had no young people. So they started worship on Wednesday. Kids would come with mother or carer --- refreshments, quiz, Bible story, bouncy castle, short act of worship. Within 2 years 30 -- 35 people coming regularly.
  2. Liverpool church --- one woman was passionate about card-making. Gathered around other women who were interested in card making --- often seasonal. Advent, Christmas, Easter, Mothering Sunday. She would talk about them and what the seasons meant to her as a Christian. After a bit grew to 50 or 60 and they asked her to talk about her faith. She divided them into Christians and non-Christians. Became New Creation and working at how they can break bread together.
  3. Another friend of mind, assistant minister in Devon. Asked to run the Alpha course. At the end had 20 --- 30 on the course. They enjoyed the eating, talking, input but if only church was like this we would go --- "Come back after Christmas on Thursday evenings and we will look at what it is to be a Christian in this cafe style." Happy ending. Some of the Christians heard of this and came along to help with worship etc. Many of the original Alpha course folk stopped coming and joined the pub meeting. Fine, keep on meeting as a home group but the leader started going to the pub to meet with the original people again.

Fresh expressions/emerging church is primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

Contrast traditional forms of church --- where we get together and meet on Sunday morning at 10am and work out the worship and sermon length, 5 minutes! How often to have communion, duration... Put it together and we enjoy it and then ask others to join us. "You come to us." --- with the new forms of church which start with you!!!!!!!! We will get along side you and love you and serve you and if you are interested in exploring the Christian faith we will put something in place around you, in your culture and not mine. When we talk about fresh expressions of church, how is it different for the traditional church? Fresh expressions of church is not based on the you come to us model but we will come to you and it will be around your style and culture.

Fresh expressions of church are based on Christian Values

Principles that lie behind Fresh expressions of church.

When we try to be church all we do must always spring from Christian values.

Mission -- the Trinity as community in mission

God is a missionary God. The Trinity is a community in mission. It pours itself out in love --- created the world and reaches out to bring it into fellowship.... Fresh expressions of church starts with the value of starting in mission. The whole church is community in mission.

Experimentation -- God is creator

God built it into the creation of the universe. Evolution is an experiment. Civilization the same. Everything in this room was an experiment --- plank of wood with 4 legs, call it a chair. To be fully human is to experiment. There is something wrong if our churches aren't experimenting. Not fully human if we don't. fresh expressions of church are the church experimenting. Try and see if it works. Story of Anglican vicar lady in Nottingham --- met with teenagers. Some of the girls were interested in the Sister Act videos so they did some in church. Talking one evening with the kids and there was a commotion behind her. We often put some of the left over communion stuff into the lady chapel for others to use in the week. The youngsters discovered the bread and wine! Vicar gathered the young people around and talked to them about what the things meant and gave it out to them. Good thing there wasn't a bishop around because she was breaking all the rules. Her strategy? Find the leaders of the youngsters and see if they wanted to meet with me once a week in order to lead the rest when I leave after a few years. She experimented with that group. Her whole development seeking to lead them into fresh expressions of church was an experiment and hence a copying of God.

Community -- Israel

This is a key, key value of church. Fresh expressions of churchs are a building of a community. Look at OT and NT see that God is massively into building community. Created man and woman together, not alone. Work was to be done in community. OT is story of God looking at the world and asking how he can create a new community that can 'recreate' the world and bring order back into it. The aim was to be a community of the global family. Israel would eventually attract all the nations and they would convert to God creating a whole world-wide family of God. Fresh expressions of church is about that. Woman walked the streets of Liverpool seeing how people lived and how they ticked. Who came out when? After about a year she gathered a group of people together and they made bread. Bread-making has become the basis of a church -- one to eat, one to take home and one to give away. Others were then drawn into it.

Cultural Immersion -- the Incarnation

Diving into the culture of the people you want to reach. Immerse ourselves in the different forms of culture today. Story of Phil, a policeman. Chatted with Michael who suggested he form a church in his workplace. Now it is in London and in the NHS. This policeman superintendent formed it with people at his own level -- in his context it meant accepting hierarchy but later they would need to deal with the issue of relating to others.

Whatever we do, it must take on the shape of the surrounding culture

Transformation -- the Kingdom

Need to challenge aspects of the culture -- by bringing change to culture in which they are immersed. Story of group in Taunton -- they took food to the homeless and then brought the homeless together to eat. It became Thursday venue for eating. Add a Christian element. They have seen profound change with structure coming back into the people's lives. Discipleship transforms people and eventually culture will be transformed.

Sacrifice -- the Savior

For it to work there must be a process of dying so there can be space for new forms of church to come alive. Must be a crucifixion Friday in order to have a resurrection Sunday. Hey, I've got a good idea how to reach this housing estate. May need to even have our idea of worship die -- they might not like to sing! Might like to listen to music with candles and enter the presence of God. Different music tastes.... Communion might be very important to us. 30 young people came out of ... kids have so many commitments to other activities. So what about meeting every 2 weeks to do the 'business' and every other week do stuff together. That way only meet once a week. Leader was reluctant because he believed kids would get their identity from meeting every week. Perhaps it needs to die. Dieing to live.

Question -- what assumptions would I have to let go of for a new church to come alive?

Reproduction -- the Body of Christ

This is at the heart of church growth since the very beginning. Jesus told the disciples to reproduce. Acts is an account of how the early church reproduced the life of Jesus. The church has grown throughout history through reproduction and not through clones! The children have their own distinctive features but have a family likeness. Statistics -- if you are a church and want to grow then plant a new church. They grow quickest. Subtext to what I'm saying -- if you are an evangelist plant the new fresh expressions of church. Plead with you to be evangelists that plant these new forms of church. Reproduction is at the heart but evangelists must lead it.

Diversity -- the indwelling Spirit

They spoke different languages -- affirmation of cultural diversity. George Carey, "The Holy Spirit never leaves identical finger prints." All our stories are different. Same for church. The Spirit is working differently in different communities so expect huge diversity. Gosh, Willow Creek works well over there, let's copy it. The model gets seasick on the journey over here and doesn't work. Can't start with a model, need to start where people are at. Not a new model of church but a new way of thinking about church. A new way of imagining church. May have a charismatic church alongside a meditative lunch club, alongside a café style church alongside a town wide teenage congregation. All kinds of congregations working alongside one another connecting with people.

Unity -- the return of Christ

When He returns we shall be one. No division between ethnic groups. The church needs to reflect that now. How in some way can we be in fellowship with one another on the way. Can have evening classes on how the NT works, what do we think of Islam, the war on terror? Or a Christian drama group, sports day, weekend away, go to a festival, pilgrimage, barn dance, celebration of breaking bread in the middle of it. So many ways of bringing together people. Let's do Easter, Mothering Sunday together. How can we link up with other expressions of church? Why do we need to do our discipleship, kids clubs etc together? Let's be ambitious. And then form it into church.

The fullness of God -- life in the new creation

We are going to enjoy in His full expression in heaven so can expect more it in fresh expressions of church today.

How do we get these values into a group of people? Before you start a new church, teach these 10 values. Then ask the group to identify the 3 or 4 most important values. Explore those, put them up on the wall and focus on them frequently. Too often the church is led by the whim of the leaders and not the values.

Starting a new congregation? Don't change the existing one -- start a new one. Let the others stay as they are -- they like it. Look for an entirely new group.

Accountability? It is mutual between the leaders of the nice fresh expressions of church and the overall leaders. You need to be accountable to the overall leaders to act responsibility and they need to be accountable to support you properly.

A Fresh Expressions Journey

What is the journey, how does a fresh expressions of church develop -- a mental model

Fresh expressions of church journey

Loving service => community => discipleship => mature church

Loving Service

Usually start with a worship event -- advertise it and attract whom? Christians, not non-Christians.

Need to start with them and meeting their needs -- café for young mums, parenting course, debt relief, holistic spirituality in a leisure centre, kite-flying club, homework... Two types of approaches -- I'm going to do it with me and my mates -- sharing your passion with others. Any passion will do. Or just have a group of friends and talk about important things. And secondly the classical missionary way.

Jesus started with loving service -- He didn't start with a worship service.


And the initial goal is to form a community -- make friends and enjoy each others company. Even if the course on spirituality is naff they will keep coming back. If you don't build church they won't come back. If you aren't a community builder but an evangelist then look to partner with someone who can.


Then move into discipleship. How do you transition from card-making, luncheon club into Christian discipleship?

3 pathways to make the transition from community to discipleship

  1. Build something spiritual into the activity from the beginning. Café for young mums? Normal café don't expect the neighbour to talk. So what will be different to make it a community café? Lunch together. Some have to bring it and set it up and put it on the table and so talk to one another. Similarly clean up. Don't get your Christian helpers do it. And set a spirituality zone next door that you can build on later on. Or rural church luncheon club -- 30 on Sunday and 30 at club. Brought the communion table down, candles and if you want to stay after lunch you can sit quietly, pray to whoever you understand God to be, read some prayers and 24 stayed. Build in spirituality from day one. Or go to film club followed by meditation and prayer to.... And pray that something will happen. And then share about a few things you are worried about the week coming and pray for one another. Ask yourself, "Did anything happen?" and then tell the others what happened. They will talk about it and then ask if they want to explore it. Lot of people just want head space so give it to them.
  2. Or build in something explicitly Christian -- "We are going to pray to the Christian God. Build it in to the publicity. Gives you permission to go on a journey and make the transition.
  3. Or thirdly -- see a group come out of it the initial group that does want to explore Christianity. Jesus was known as one of the great spiritual teachers, let's look at what He said and see what we make of it! Photocopy the story of the prodigal son and see what they make of it. Lead it a few times but then stop and get them to do it. Stops dependence on me. Because you've done it so simply they can copy! Probably not even a Christian yet -- great, they'll have to read the passage first. The evangelist talks to them one to one and helps them see the connection with the gospel. If someone is really into socializing then get them to lead that bit -- farm it all out. Someone organized? Get them to do it -- your job is to be there and be an evangelist. Be very fluid in the Bible study thing. People love Alpha course but not the follow up. "You as church are no different to any other group -- we have to go to church on Sunday and not sleep with our partners." Nothing wrong with the message but ill-timed! The Holy Spirit's agenda may be different -- he might simply want them to know His love. Must work at the Spirit's pace. He might want them to stop submitting false expenses claims. We are exploring the Christian faith and not able to take everything on board straight away. If it is important to God and He thinks it's important to you He will work in your heart until you are able to do it. Key issue isn't that you need to address this issue today but that you continue walking in love with God. I have more confidence in God than in my discipleship process.

Set up a group for car mechanics? Think of the journey you have in mind.

Some people lead totally chaotic lives -- may want to be pro-active. This is what you want to do now.... They need the structure and will love you for it.

Moving into mature church

Not come to mature church but to become mature church. HTB say, "Now you've been coming to Alpha, why don't you come to church." No, Alpha on Thursday is church, plant and keep planting them. Car mechanics church, colour me beautiful church.... Church is in our living room on Wednesday.

What is church?

Community with Jesus at its heart with 4 dimensions -- upward in worship, outward in mission, inward in fellowship, and part of the whole body of Christ. All very important.

We need to not privilege worship -- look at the time, energy and money we put into worship. No wonder we've got nothing left for mission and nothing happens in the rest of people week. Need to be more savvy in our worship. Need to connect worship more tightly to mission.

Café worship? Could meet at 9.30 on Monday morning and pray and listen to a tape of teaching, play a CD of Christian stuff for half an hour and then go out into the café. Don't need to go to church on Sunday -- they had it. Could go to church on Sunday once a month for a celebration. See how the worship is closely linked to the mission!!!! Don't prioritize one of the four over the other. Take them to Green Belt, Spring Harvest, CDs, books -- they all connect them to the whole body of Christ. The journey is never complete.

5 people can be a congregation. How do you want to react to that?

Loving service? What examples can we think of? People always need help with budgeting. Even wealthy people don't know how to manage their personal finances. Managing conflict, life skills.... And then the passions and hobbies and life interests. How can we set up a baby sitting service that people can trust, tea parties for the elderly.

Listen to the communities.

If you are called to be an evangelist the fresh expressions of church offers a great framework to operate. If we don't do these fresh expressions of church where will the church be in 20 or 30 years time. Who is going to work with the non-Christians?

Friday morning 17 November 2006, School of Evangelism, Highfield Oval, Harpenden. Notes by Steve Sullivan