A wave of new Christian churches are emerging to reach unchurched and dechurched people who live in a culture that is increasingly non-religious and multi-religious. These new forms of church gather and network with people who typically have never been to church. The new faith communities listen to people and go where they are on the journey toward Jesus. They are deeply ecumenical but do not lose their distinctiveness because they learn fresh ways to communicate their identity through discipleship.
Fresh Expressions began in the United Kingdom where it ignited over 3000 new faith communities. In the United States the movement is putting down roots in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Ken Carter and Audrey Warren offer this book as a group study for church leaders and congregations who are in the grip of Holy Spirit motivation to renew their tradition by reaching people who are dechurched or not yet in a discipleship relationship with Jesus.
Each chapter includes two Bible study experiences for group conversation.
"I have been an observer of and cheerleader for the Fresh Expressions movement ... from the beginning, and I've lamented how slow US congregations have been to welcome and adapt this movement for our setting. Now, as an admirer and ally of the United Methodist mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I am thrilled to see Fresh Expressions gaining this hearing in United Methodism in the United States. May thousands of congregations be inspired and equipped by Audrey Warren and Kenneth Carter's new book!" - Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"I was most fortunate to have Ken Carter and Audrey Warren as my guides as we explored Fresh Expressions of Church all across England. Now you are fortunate enough to have them lead you on a similar journey through the pages of this book. I hope you will be as excited as I was to find Church as I always dreamed it could be, moving outside the walls of sanctuaries and radically following the Holy Spirit's lead to new spaces and new people. This is the Church of Acts and the early Methodists. I hope it is also the Church of the twenty-first century. Enjoy your journey!" Sue Haupert-Johnson, Resident Bishop of the North Georgia Episcopal Area, The United Methodist Church
“If you’ve felt God calling your church into a new kind of mission but you haven’t been sure how to go about it — this book is a great place to start. Get ready for a dose of hope.” —Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary
“This book is an essential group study for United Methodists who are serious about God’s mission. Well researched, clearly written, and insightful, this volume includes carefully developed Bible studies and reflection questions for every chapter. —Elaine A. Heath, dean, Duke Divinity School
“I owe my spiritual life to a group of pioneer missionaries who followed Jesus into my world. Fresh Expressions is a new way to do this.” —Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor, Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation
“Marvelous stuff! Pray God this timely book, with its readable and inspirational content and Bible studies, finds its way into the hearts, minds, and decisions of every congregation in every conference!” —Martyn Atkins, former General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain
"The traditional church should not fear the loss of their traditions in fresh expressions of church, but rather find hope that their traditions can be passed down to generations to come." - Luke S. Edwards (http://www.lukesedwards.com)
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About the Author
Kenneth H. Carter is president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church and serves the Florida Conference area. He is the author of ten other books, including Pray for Me, A Way of Life in the World, The Gifted Pastor, and Near the Cross.
Rev. Dr. Audrey B. Warren, a native Floridian, did not venture too far from her hometown of Naples to plant some roots. Audrey currently resides in Miami, FL where she and her husband Jose Luis are active members of their very diverse downtown community.
Audrey earned her Bachelor of Arts from Florida Southern College where she majored in Religion, and then ventured out of Florida for only a few years to earn her Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC. Audrey then continued her studies at Wesley Theological Seminary where she earned her Doctorate of Ministry focusing on Children and Spirituality. She is an ordained Elder in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and currently serves as Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Miami.
Since 2013 Audrey has co-convened the Fresh Expressions movement in the Florida Annual Conference. Audrey's greatest joy in ministry is teaching Yoga Chapel in Downtown Miami as well as visioning with her congregation new ways to be church in a growing and diverse city.
As a fluent Spanish-speaker Audrey enjoys going to see Latino Rock Band concerts in her free time. You also might find her biking with her husband or at the beach on her days off.
Read an Excerpt
A New Kind of Methodist Church for People Not in Church
By Kenneth H. Carter Jr., Audrey Warren
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2017 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
WHAT IS A FRESH EXPRESSION?
What are Fresh Expressions? By simply hearing the name "Fresh Expressions," some might think it is a laundry detergent and still others a breath freshener. Some who have heard about Fresh Expressions as a movement might interpret it as a last-ditch effort to "save the institutional church." But as we explain in the second part of this chapter, Fresh Expressions isn't another new program but rather a movement of the Holy Spirit.
One of us (Audrey) served in a community that included a large number of immigrant families. Each day many of these men would gather at a central location with the hope of being employed for the day. Many were new to the United States, and most were living day to day. The church began a ministry called Cafe en La Calle. These Monday morning gatherings became as consistent as the Sunday morning services that had happened twenty-four hours earlier. Members of the church, along with the pastor, would prepare coffee and food to share as these men gathered. Individuals could write down prayer requests and put them in a prominently displayed box. At times, there were deep conversations about family and faith. Cafe en La Calle became a way of sharing the faith in new ways and in a new place among new people.
1A. A Movement Begins
We write with a great love for the church but with a sober awareness that the church in the United States is in a fragile place. As leaders within a particular expression of this church (United Methodist), we have experienced the full range of emotions related to this reality: lament, cynicism, denial, critique, and despair. Yet we move forward with the conviction that God is with us.
After two years of strategy, prayer, correspondence, and time set aside in "vision days," we journeyed with friends to England. We went there as students seeking to learn about a movement that God is using to renew the church. This particular movement, Fresh Expressions, has been putting down roots for more than a decade in the United Kingdom and beyond.
The Fresh Expressions movement began in England in 2004 through a report of the Church of England about the state of the church in that nation and the need for a new direction. The report was entitled "Mission Shaped Church." Those who helped to draft the report note that the original title was "Dying to Live," but the early title seemed too dire and inflammatory. The report coincided with the beginning of the ministry of new Archbishop Rowan Williams. In a conversation with Archbishop Rowan, Bishop Graham Cray quickly learned that Williams not only supported Fresh Expressions, but he had also anticipated many of these missional moves in his former archdiocese in Wales.
Upon publication and endorsement of the report by the Church of England, the British Methodist Church immediately became a full partner, through the leadership of Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the British Methodist Church. Bishop Cray noted that "this [movement] was Anglican and Methodist from day one." Fresh Expressions is an international movement, with partnerships developing in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and other nations, and across a variety of denominations and theological traditions. Fresh Expressions US is now translating this extraordinary work of God across denominations on American soil.
The phrase "fresh expression" is inspired by the Book of Common Prayer:
The Church of England ... professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.
Fresh Expressions has a particular purpose for a church or community of faith. Here is the working definition from the Fresh Expressions UK website:
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. It will come into being through principles of listening, service, contextual mission and making disciples. It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.
Much of the initial motivation for Fresh Expressions in England was stimulated by the need for new church planting. In the United States, we also continue to invest greatly in new church planting. This work arises from a variety of motives, many of them faithful ones. Meanwhile our cultural landscape is clearly shifting, and we should consider a variety of strategies in response. While the need for new church starts is urgent in the United States, there are cultural and ecclesial shifts afoot that move us toward a new language and a bolder vision.
In a nation increasingly multi-religious and nonreligious, many church traditions recognize the need for planting expressions of Christianity outside the pattern of traditional church practice. Careful statistical work by the Church of England and the British Methodist Church documents realities mirrored in the United States. In both Great Britain and the United States, the growth of the unchurched and the dechurched (in other words, the "nones" and the "dones") is rapidly increasing. Some of the "nones" are "openly unchurched" and most of the "dones" fit the pattern of "closed dechurched."
Before encountering the Fresh Expressions movement we thought it was post-denominational, meaning that people of faith no longer prefer denominational systems. However, after listening, worshipping, and observing, Fresh Expressions are better described as deeply ecumenical. Traditions don't lose their distinctiveness. Rather in practice the varied expressions found in a particular tradition contribute the riches of who they are to others, and in return receive new and distinct strengths from beyond themselves. This description differs from the common (and important) work of ecumenical movements, which often occur from the thirty-thousand-foot vantage point of councils, dialogues, and agreements. Fresh Expressions, particularly in post-Christian contexts, will necessarily have a deeply ecumenical character, and yet they will be visible and tangible "on the ground" in a particular mission field. Who knows, possibly this is sign of the in-breaking of the kingdom of God?
In 1989, Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon wrote Resident Aliens, perhaps the first popular and sustained engagement with the reality that we are now seeking God's kingdom in a post-Christian context in the United States. In some parts of the United States, we see very deep political conflict where some Christians desire a return to Christendom. Our brothers and sisters in England are living more fully in this post-Christian world, and we can learn from their creativity and faithfulness. This is our motivation in partnering with what God is doing through the Holy Spirit in this new venture.
As you engage with these reflections concerning Fresh Expressions of church, we hope you will think and pray about the implications and potential of this movement for your own mission field. The reflections will lead into the study of scripture and together to your call as a disciple, pioneer, and leader.
Bible Study 1
Use this page as a template. Have participants read the chapter before they attend the study or during the study session.
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Theme: A Movement Begins
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Prayer:Ever-present and attentive God, we know that you are with us as we aim to be your church. We pray for open hearts and minds as we learn and study about the ways you are working to make your church fresh for the next generation. Amen.
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Scripture Reading: Revelation 2–3
Message to Ephesus
"Write this to the angel of the church in Ephesus: These are the words of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold lampstands: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance. I also know that you don't put up with those who are evil. You have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars. You have shown endurance and put up with a lot for my name's sake, and you haven't gotten tired. But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first. So remember the high point from which you have fallen. Change your hearts and lives and do the things you did at first. If you don't, I'm coming to you. I will move your lampstand from its place if you don't change your hearts and lives. But you have this in your favor: you hate what the Nicolaitans are doing, which I also hate. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. I will allow those who emerge victorious to eat from the tree of life, which is in God's paradise.
Message to Smyrna
"Write this to the angel of the church in Smyrna: These are the words of the one who is the first and the last, who died and came back to life: I know your hardship and poverty (though you are actually rich). I also know the hurtful things that have been spoken about you by those who say they are Jews (though they are not, but are really Satan's synagogue). Don't be afraid of what you are going to suffer. Look! The devil is going to throw some of you into prison in order to test you. You will suffer hardship for ten days. Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Those who emerge victorious won't be hurt by the second death.
Message to Pergamum
"Write this to the angel of the church in Pergamum:
These are the words of the one who has the sharp, two-edged sword: I know that you are living right where Satan's throne is. You are holding on to my name, and you didn't break faith with me even at the time that Antipas, my faithful witness, was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you, because you have some there who follow Balaam's teaching. Balaam had taught Balak to trip up the Israelites so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality. In the same way, you have some who follow the Nicolaitans' teaching. So change your hearts and lives. If you don't, I am coming to you soon, and I will make war on them with the sword that comes from my mouth. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. I will give those who emerge victorious some of the hidden manna to eat. I will also give to each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, which no one knows except the one who receives it.
Message to Thyatira
"Write this to the angel of the church in Thyatira:
These are the words of God's Son, whose eyes are like a fiery flame, and whose feet are like fine brass. I know your works, your love and faithfulness, your service and endurance. I also know that the works you have done most recently are even greater than those you did at first. But I have this against you: you put up with that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. You allow her to teach and to mislead my servants into committing sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to change her heart and life, but she refuses to change her life of prostitution. Look! I'm throwing her onto a sickbed. I am casting those who have committed adultery with her into terrible hardship — if they don't change their hearts from following her practices — and I will even put her children to death with disease. Then all the churches will know that I'm the one who examines minds and hearts, and that I will give to each of you what your actions deserve. As for the rest of you in Thyatira — those of you who don't follow this teaching and haven't learned the so-called "deep secrets" of Satan — I won't burden you with anything else. Just hold on to what you have until I come. To those who emerge victorious, keeping my practices until the end, I will give authority over the nations — to rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like pottery — just as I received authority from my Father. I will also give them the morning star. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Message to Sardis
"Write this to the angel of the church in Sardis: These are the words of the one who holds God's seven spirits and the seven stars: I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, and you are in fact dead. Wake up and strengthen whatever you have left, teetering on the brink of death, for I've found that your works are far from complete in the eyes of my God. So remember what you received and heard. Hold on to it and change your hearts and lives. If you don't wake up, I will come like a thief, and you won't know what time I will come upon you. But you do have a few people in Sardis who haven't stained their clothing. They will walk with me clothed in white because they are worthy. Those who emerge victorious will wear white clothing like this. I won't scratch out their names from the scroll of life, but will declare their names in the presence of my Father and his angels. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Message to Philadelphia
"Write this to the angel of the church in Philadelphia:
These are the words of the one who is holy and true, who has the key of David. Whatever he opens, no one will shut; and whatever he shuts, no one opens. I know your works. Look! I have set in front of you an open door that no one can shut. You have so little power, and yet you have kept my word and haven't denied my name. Because of this I will make the people from Satan's synagogue (who say they are Jews and really aren't, but are lying) — I will make them come and bow down at your feet and realize that I have loved you. Because you kept my command to endure, I will keep you safe through the time of testing that is about to come over the whole world, to test those who live on earth. I'm coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one takes your crown. As for those who emerge victorious, I will make them pillars in the temple of my God, and they will never leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God. I will also write on them my own new name. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Message to Laodicea
"Write this to the angel of the church in Laodicea:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I'm about to spit you out of my mouth. After all, you say, 'I'm rich, and I've grown wealthy, and I don't need a thing.' You don't realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. My advice is that you buy gold from me that has been purified by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothing to wear so that your nakedness won't be shamefully exposed, and ointment to put on your eyes so that you may see. I correct and discipline those whom I love. So be earnest and change your hearts and lives. Look! I'm standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me. As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne, just as I emerged victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."
(Suggested answers are in italics after the question)
1. What did each church have in common? (Not too much — they were all different.)
2. Were the comments about each church positive or negative? (Both.)
3. Why did John (the writer of Revelation) tell them these things? (Due to both positive and negative reviews, it seems like John was helping the churches "take stock" of where they were as a church.)
4. What were some of the positive comments?
5. What were some of the negative comments?
6. Do you notice any of John's commentary applying to what is happening within our church?
7. What do you think John might say to our church today — not to shame the church but to take stock or inventory?
8. Quickly assess your church. Review the missional vital signs (average worship attendance, weekly giving, number of people weekly serving in the community, number of professions of faith) of your church and any other statistics the pastor might have for you. As a group consider what these signs communicate about your churches current reality.
Excerpted from Fresh Expressions by Kenneth H. Carter Jr., Audrey Warren. Copyright © 2017 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 What Is a Fresh Expression? 1
A A Movement Begins 2
B United Methodism and "Saving the Institution" 14
Chapter 2 Why a Fresh Expression? 25
A What Kind of Church Will They Inherit? 26
B The Mission Field That Surrounds Us 34
Chapter 3 Where Are the People? 45
A Where We Actually Live and Gather: An Ordinary Sunday Morning 46
B Where We Actually Live and Gather: Networks and "Third Places" 54
Chapter 4 When Do Fresh Expressions Happen? 63
A New and Emerging Forms of Church 64
B From "Mixed Economy" to "Mixed Ecology" of Church 72
Chapter 5 How Do Fresh Expressions Work? 81
A The Heart of Fresh Expressions: Discipleship as Spiritual Formation and Mentoring 82
B Sustaining Fresh Expressions: A Deeper Dive into Discipleship 91
Chapter 6 Who Starts Fresh Expressions? 99
A Where Are You in the Movement? The Fresh Expressions Village 100
B The Missionary Holy Spirit Goes Ahead of Us 114
To Learn More about Fresh Expressions 123