Multiplication not duplication

Monday, 20 August, 2012

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

The purpose of fresh expressions of church are to be and embody an appropriate form of church to reach those who are not being reached by our existing ways of doing things, whether these are thought of as 'inherited' church or not.

In Church for Every Context (p151) Mike Moynagh writes

Many churches continue to serve significant sections of society. Yet the question presses: whom are these churches not serving?

This is a question which every church should ask itself, however well it seems to be doing. Who will never be reached if we only do this? Each well established fresh expression needs to ask exactly the same question as any church in inherited style - how can we reach the sort of people we don't reach now? Many fresh expressions are relatively small, but it may well be that the multiplication of the small is the Holy Spirit's strategy for our times.

Mike then points to the increasing diversity in our society and continues

Church no longer has the option, if it ever did, of relating to people as if they were all the same... Churches will look different because they are engaging with different people.

To reach those we are not reaching we need not only many more fresh expressions of church, but also many different fresh expressions of church. Neither duplicating inherited models, nor limiting ourselves to a number of well established types of fresh expressions, will do. What is needed is a multiplication of expressions of church both in numbers and creativity. The key process of listening to God in each context and then bringing the gospel and the context together in a creative way, opens up the possibility of real local creativity, if we refuse to let our imaginations be restricted by the models of fresh expression which are frequently used in other places. The Holy Spirit has not run out of ideas yet!

The vocation of the church according to Ephesians is to be Christ's

body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1.23

That is, to embody Christ as the fulfilment or completion of each place and dimension of life. Any place where people gather, for whatever reason is potentially a place for a gathering of his people. This requires a rich diversity,

so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 3:10

We have not yet seen the full range of that rich diversity.

Diversity within unity is God's intention. The creative multiplication that I long to see also requires a commitment to connectedness. Expressions of church are expressions of the Church and all of the Church belongs together. Personally I don't believe it is appropriate to use the word 'church' of gatherings of Christians which have no meaningful connection to other churches. We cannot heal all the existing breaches in the Church's unity but we have a responsibility to ensure that we do not create new ones. Inherited churches plant fresh expressions as sister congregations, fresh expressions plant new sister fresh expressions, inherited church and fresh expressions are not fully 'church' without one another. May God gift us with new gifts of creative imagination for mission and a deeper longing for unity.

+Graham Cray


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