It’s a question we’re asked a lot.

Words carry meaning and often need polishing to better understand what we’re communicating when we use the terms. In short, a missional community can become a fresh expression of church. A fresh expression of church is almost always a ‘missional’ community. In some regard the terms are interchangeable.

In other ways, however, the terms describe two distinct ways of being church.

Defining Missional Communities

Bob and Mary Hopkins, are the training directors on the UK Fresh Expressions Team and a primary suggest that missional communities is the term most often used by church leaders as part of an overall strategy to shift the culture and organizational structure of an inherited church to consist almost exclusively of 15-50 person groups that develop a sense of mission as part of their core commitment. Each missional community is likely to develop a distinct identity while remaining connected to the parent church. Most involved in the missional community will identify as members of the sponsoring church, however, such far-reaching strategies can potentially destabilize the church to the point of schism.

Fresh Expressions and Engagement

By contrast, fresh expressions of church don’t require a drastic change in the organizational structure of the inherited church. Like missional communities, fresh expressions typically maintain connection to the inherited church. However, fresh expressions are focused within networks of people who are not engaged in the life of the church. Instead of changing the structure of the church, by releasing a few pioneering leaders to begin one or two fresh expressions of church, an inherited church can become renewed for mission in a way that is more likely to keep the stakeholders engaged throughout the process.

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Gannon Sims
About the Author

Gannon Sims

Gannon Sims is a Founding Director of Fresh Expressions US and the author of Bringing Church Home. He and his wife Carey along with a team of mostly college students and young adults planted The Center Community, a network of house churches in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Earlier this summer he became pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church, an historic urban congregation with a vibrant ministry and network of house churches in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas.