When casting vision for fresh expression of Church, some immediately embrace the vision, others will push back. One common, and important, question is “are fresh expressions ‘scriptural’?”
Any ministry worthy of the gospel ought to find some basis of support in the biblical text. After all, we are not merely trying to advance the next innovative idea or compelling strategy for reaching new people. Instead, we are looking deeply into the core DNA of the church, and attempting to express that core DNA in faithful, but timely expressions of Christian community around the Resurrected Christ.
You won’t find the term “fresh expressions” in the Bible. But you can see examples in the ministry of Jesus, the missionary activity of the Apostles, and the historical context of the Epistles, of the church taking shape in ways that today we might categorize as “fresh expressions”.
In the video below, we take a look at one example of Paul’s missionary activity in the book of Acts and how the outcome of his work looks similar to many fresh expressions today.
Scriptural foundations are essential because we believe that the development of new forms of Church exist along the “chord of continuity” from the earliest days of what we would now call Orthodox Christianity. My earliest introduction to the fresh expressions movement in the United Kingdom included a discussion with Bishop Graham Cray, who had been the head of Ridley Hall in Cambridge, and the primary Team Leader for the Fresh Expressions ministry in the UK.
Graham took time to show our small investigative team from the US how the growing number of examples of fresh expressions of Church could demonstrate (in time and with appropriate attention) the core marks of the Church as articulated in the early Creeds (One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic). While these marks may be manifested in more incarnational expressions of Church in ways that look different from more institutional expressions—particularly as they are growing among people with little to no Christian experience—they are nevertheless still congruent with the DNA of the early Christians, both in the witness of text and the tradition.
Do you still need help casting vision for a movement of fresh expressions? Check out September’s Resilient Church Academy, Envisioning a New Kind of Local Church: Guidance and Tools for Inspiring Your Congregation.