Timing is everything for fresh expressions (Ben Norton)

Wednesday, 13 July, 2011

Ben NortonBen Norton discusses why timing is everything for fresh expressions of church.

For me, to be called to live as a pioneer means to live without any form of certainty: 'there are no guarantees'. This, I believe, will have an impact on the sorts of communities we see emerging under the leadership of pioneer ministers. 

These are new Christian communities that don't focus on micro details of seeking answers such as: 'How can we make sure we are always going to exist in this way?', but rather communities that ask questions such as: 'Where are we travelling next on this journey?' and 'What will we look like as we grow?'

I am now heading to the end of five-and-a-half years as an Ordained Pioneer Minister in training, and the next step is going to be some sort of deployment. What this next role will look like is very undefined at the moment, but it brings with it many different thoughts and feelings - both for me personally and for the communities which have been formed during my time in this part of the world.

I have one quote that has stayed in my mind more than any other when it comes to thinking about pioneering ministry, and that comes from Vincent Donovan when he states: 'to enable people, if they wish it, to learn about and understand the basic Christian message, the Good News, to baptise those who then ask for baptism, to bring them up to their first Eucharist – and then to GO! It was for these new Christians to work out their own life as church.' Although the context is very different, the essence remains that these new communities need to be given the space, within inherited structures, to be able to stretch their wings.

New communities need to be given the space, within inherited structures, to be able to stretch their wings

Many people have asked what will make the new communities identifiable as Anglican, Methodist or URC? This is a great and right question to ask from an inherited viewpoint, but if one was to give an answer it would unravel the question being asked in the first place. 

For example, when a football manager buys in new players for his team, those new recruits wear the club shirts. They also adopt the ethos and heritage of the club, but the way they play may be nothing like anyone at that club has ever seen before. Therefore for someone to ask before a ball has ever been kicked, 'What makes them part of our team?' would be to reject their identity before it could be formed.

Timing is everything when it comes to fresh expressions of church - whether that is considering a BMO, the leader moving on or how the vision is going to be worked out. I am just glad that it is God holding the timepiece and not me!

About the author: 

Ben Norton is pioneer minister at Emmanuel Church, Bridlington.


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