The Church of Scotland: sharing in an adventure story (David McCarthy)

Tuesday, 3 June, 2014

David McCarthy challenges reservations about fresh expressions of church.

There is much to thank God for in the story of the Church of Scotland. From its origin and traditions a good case can be made for it to be a natural leader in the development of fresh expressions of church because it:

  • intentionally aims to organise its resources and structures so that everyone in Scotland has an opportunity to meet with Jesus and receive the care of the church;
  • actively engages with the realities of life in Scottish communities;
  • has a strong record of missionary outreach (both within Scotland and cross-culturally).

However, its history is complex and the ideal has not always been lived out.

The need for individuals and communities to meet with the risen Jesus is obvious and there is a great heart across the church for this to happen, so why might there be reservations about fresh expressions of church? I suggest there are three areas to think about: experiential, relational and theological. Here are some examples from those areas.


  • Previous bad experiences of emerging ministries/church initiatives.
  • Weariness; individual and corporate (particularly given current changes).


  • Suspicion that Fresh Expressions is perceived as too evangelical, too liberal, too English or too influenced by other denominations.
  • A negative reaction to yet another initiative from a central body within the church.
  • We do not understand the present cultural kaleidoscope of Scotland, or we want these cultures to reconfigure to our preferred culture.


  • Fresh expressions of church are church and theology lite; they might better be described as 'froth' expressions of church;
  • Fresh expressions of church take the easy option: they are too stratified and not representative.

These are real concerns, perceptions and reactions which we must not minimise, arrogantly dismiss or ignore; everyone has lessons to learn, but, I firmly believe, we also have an adventure to share and fresh expressions of church are a part of this.

If this is a work of the Holy Spirit then we must not step back; together God calls us to forward the conversation and the action. Serious reflection doesn't and mustn't mean that we ask the Spirit to submit to our insecurities and anxious double and treble checking. If I'm going on a long journey my fear could so devour attention and energy that, in checking my luggage and if the house I am leaving is secure, I lose track of time and literally miss the boat. We don't want to do the same. As a church we have taken decisions to explore and develop pioneer ministry, to develop fresh expressions of church; to hesitate or falter would be to bow the knee to fear rather than follow where we have discerned Christ and faith are calling us.

About the author: 

David McCarthy is the Church of Scotland Fresh Expressions Development Worker.


The title and the article don't match up

David McCarthy challenges reservations about fresh expressions of church

It mentions the reservations but doesn't give any options of how to meet and overcome those reservations or objections. I'm sure we all come across these any others each day but some ways that this group has overcome them and the growth seen by overcoming them would have been helpful,

this article is really "some reservation people have", anyone got any ideas for meeting and overcoming challenges to new ways of being church. is there a story out there of someone who pushed against FX and then becoming part of the movement and starting a fresh expression as the light shone through.

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