IN THEIR book on innovation and entrepreneurship in mission,
The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic imagination and practice
for the 21st century Church (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2012), the
American missionary thinkers Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim comment
that the Fresh Expressions movement in Britain has had only a
marginal impact on the denominations. Fresh Expressions have yet to
be thoroughly owned by the Churches where they operate.
This has sparked an energetic online debate (www.freshexpressions. org.uk/views/revolution):
should the denominations be doing more to support Fresh Expressions
of Church - and if so, what?
Hirsch and Catchim may well be too pessimistic about the current
situation. Some of the denominations have made substantial strides
in embracing Fresh Expressions. The Methodist Church, for example,
is writing it into many of its policies, practices, standing
orders, and job descriptions. We know that some dioceses in the
Church of England are doing this, too.
Even so, it is clear that we have a long way to go before Fresh
Expressions are deeply embedded in the existing Church. The
situation is more serious than many realise. Unless the
denominations act more urgently, the window of opportunity could
EVEN NOW, a significant problem is that senior managers in the
Churches do not have the time to push forward the mixed-economy
agenda - fresh and inherited expressions of Church existing
alongside each other in mutual support.
They are swamped by urgent questions of maintenance, which range
from policies on matters such as employment, to new appointments,
to initiating and managing re-organisation (read downsizing), to
The problem is about to get a great deal worse. On current
trends, between 2015 and 2030, huge numbers will drop out of
Church, as the baby-boom generation passes away. The need to manage
contraction and to re-organise will increase exponentially. Senior
managers will have even less time for encouraging Fresh
Fortunately, as money and time become increasingly constrained,
all is not lost. Here are some relatively easy "wins" to advance
the mixed economy.
1. As posts become vacant, the words "encouraging Fresh
Expressions" could be included in the specification for the new
holder. If this was done steadily and consistently for
denominational and local-church appointments, a revolution would
eventually occur in the direction of a denomination's ministry.
2. The newly appointed people would need support and advice
about how to encourage Fresh Expressions. Each denomination or
diocese should, therefore, appoint one person - in a new senior
post - with the task of forming "learning communities" among clergy
and lay people who are encouraging new types of Church.
Participants would meet three or four times a year to learn from
each other's experiences, set goals, and hold each other to account
for seeking to achieve these goals. Church-planters in Europe have
found these communities to be very fruitful.
The Fresh Expressions advisers, who convene such groups, should
themselves be networked nationally (as is beginning to happen), so
that they can learn good practice from one another.
3. The advisers will need increasing financial support, as the
number of mixed-economy appointments grows. In the Church of
England at least, this support could be funded from the rents of
some of the clergy houses that are no longer needed because of the
falling number of stipendiary clerics. Decline would fund
THESE proposals could transform the denominations in the medium
to long term. Where this has not already happened, they would
require the switch of only one post in a diocese from maintaining
inherited Church to Fresh Expressions. This does not seem too big a
price to pay.
Fresh Expressions are not the only aspect of the Church's
mission, but they are playing an increasingly vital part.
Statistical evidence, gathered by Church Army's Sheffield Centre,
from the dioceses of Canterbury, Leicester, and Liverpool suggest
that Fresh Expressions now represent nearly one fifth of the
churches in those areas. A growing number have been around for more
than five years.
Dioceses that intentionally support Fresh Expressions do see
fruit. They reconnect with and serve parts of society that are
outside the Church's orbit. So why not take some relatively simple
but bold steps, and clear a path for Fresh Expressions?
Michael Moynagh is the author of Church for Every
Context (SCM, 2012), and the director of theological research
for the national Fresh Expressions team.