Tuesday, 18 August, 2009

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

The Fresh Expressions initiative has flourished in many parts of the church because of a combination of three factors:

  • New imagination about the church - we are planting congregations most of us could not have imagined a few years ago;
  • New permission from church leaders - in many places local church leaders can no longer say 'we can't do that, because the bishop or chairman or moderator would never allow it'. Rather our senior church leaders encourage it;
  • And there are new resources - from the Fresh Expressions team and other mission agencies.

Under God and following the Holy Spirit, this combination has enabled a remarkable degree of innovative mission. All three factors need to be sustained, but I want to focus on the 'permission' one this month.

Permission needs to be more than general goodwill. It needs to be embodied in the structures of our churches, in particular the structures and procedures which control limited resources. Each deanery and circuit should be encouraged to commit itself to the mixed economy, actively planning to encourage the planting of fresh expressions of church alongside the mission of our existing churches.

But on a larger scale - a diocese, district or regional synod - The 3Ms of church life: mission, ministry and money all need to be coordinated if the mixed economy is to flourish. Mission cannot survive alone. Ministry - the recruitment, training and deployment of authorised ministers - faces the challenge of staffing the mixed economy church, rather than adding a few pioneers to a team overwhelmingly engaged with inherited church. And there is no point in senior leaders supporting fresh expressions if the subject is not even on the agenda of their finance board or committee! Finance committees have a vital role to play in the mission of the church. Either they manage decline by spreading existing resources thinner and thinner - and thus further the spiral of decline - or they resource growth by investing in proactive mission, for which fresh expressions of church are key.

If, as we believe, 60% of the population would never be reached by our existing churches, it is simply good stewardship to invest in new initiatives to engage with the majority group in the population. The difficulty is that limited resources mean that planting new initiatives may have to be accompanied by pruning posts which are neither sustainable nor a priority.

We have the opportunity to re-evangelise our nation. Fresh expressions of church are a part of the resource that God has given us, but a mixed economy church will only flourish if it is a 3Ms church.

+Graham Cray


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