Is there a difference between fresh expressions and church plants?

The Mission-shaped Church report coined the term 'fresh expressions of church.' In pages 29 to 33 it explained the relationship between church planting and fresh expressions of church. Planting is the missionary process which, if carried out in an appropriate contextual way in our varied cultures, should result in fresh expressions of church. Church planting is the verb and the noun, fresh expressions, are the outcome.

However, the report makes two qualifications to this organic link between the two.

First, some existing churches may engage in mission to a new culture and in so doing change to become a fresh expression. It involves a process of transitioning rather than planting and there is no multiplication of a second church. An example would be an existing congregation becoming cell-based.

Secondly, the report recognised that the noun church plant was used throughout the 80's and 90's and was sometimes applied to the reproduction of a form of church not dissimilar from inherited churches. The authors termed these 'traditional church plants' and made this one category among many fresh expressions. The report concluded that:

both planting and fresh expressions of church can arise out of similar motivation and experiences and both can overlap in what they seek to achieve... they are different but connected realities. (page 34)


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