Sustaining a fresh expression of church

Monday, 18 January, 2010

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

It is often easier to get something started than to keep it going long term. When you are still setting out chairs and tables, preparing a power point, or putting up notices, a year later; the first flush of enthusiasm and excitement can fade.

If, as I believe, we are sharing in an initiative of the Holy Spirit, we will be sustained. He will give the growth (1 Corinthians 3.6-9). But it still matters how we plant and water the gospel message.

If you are involved in leading a fresh expression of church, make sure that you maintain your own spiritual life with God. You won't be able to take people further than you have gone yourself. If your relationship with God becomes stale or routine why should anyone else be attracted by it? Don't live off a reserve tank with God because you are so busy leading a fresh expression. Adrenalin can't sustain you in the long term.

Provide 'dip in' opportunities where not yet Christians can 'try' prayer, or explore Jesus for themselves; or where de-churched friends can put their toe back into the pool. One fresh expression in Norfolk provides a café environment through the morning , with a menu of twenty minute events in the next room – (prayer stations, a guided meditation, a Bible study etc.) Allow people gradual steps to seek Christ for themselves. An Alpha, Emmaus or Start course could be provided as a next step.

Connect the content of your fresh expression to people's daily lives, perhaps having a spot, each time, where someone shares about their job or daily responsibilities, and how faith or prayer have made a difference. Research into people giving up on church shows that many people found the Sunday gathering irrelevant to what they face in the rest of the week. One of the aims of any fresh expression is the development of whole life discipleship. So connect the faith to daily life as soon as you can.

Finally, don't overstretch yourselves by being over elaborate. If you take too much time making the environment where you meet 'just perfect', you will wear yourselves out. There is such a thing as 'good enough' hospitality. Don't invest so much time in the gathering part of your fresh expression that you have no time to attend to further networking and discipleship. Rather, invest in particular individuals or families, helping them to faith and drawing them into sharing some responsibility within the community you are forming. If in doubt, invest in people.

There is further helpful material available on the Guide pages How can we sustain our fresh expression?.

Establishing the mixed economy church, and growing a fresh expression to maturity is a long haul, not quick fix.



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