Fresh Expressions and the Inherited Church

How a new church plant and a small, declining congregation partnered together to grow both communities.

Change is an integral facet of life. It exists in multiple forms, including how we age from infancy to seniority. As the saying goes: “evolve or die”. Without the necessary evolution over time, institutions and ideologies become redundant. The Church is no different, in reaching new people who have either never entered the Church’s doors or those who have written off church years ago as some relic of the past. The pandemic has helped catalyze and accelerate the rate of change the Church has needed to take over the years. At the church I serve, Mosaic Church, in Beavercreek, Ohio, we have a saying that I adopted from my friend Chip Freed, “We are a 70/30 church. 70% of what we do, you will like and 30%, you won’t like. However, your 70% is someone else’s 30%. And 30% of what you don’t like is someone is 70% they do like.” It is impossible to please everyone in a given congregation—in fact, if your message is vague enough to please everyone, it is not much of a message at all!

Fresh expressions are not afraid of change

I am firmly convinced that God has a plan for what I call the inherited Church. Now, “inherited Church” is a term for describing established, existing forms of Church. The term can be used to describe a historical stream of the Church tradition (such as an inherited Wesleyan church or an inherited Anabaptist Church), a formal denomination (such as an inherited United Methodist or Southern Baptist church), or even an individual local congregation.” A new and fresh expression of the Church is just one unconventional method of reaching out to people from diverse walks of life. These new forms of Church are not afraid of change or taking a risk for the purpose of maximum outreach. One form is not better than the other, and we must learn from both the traditional ways and those that transcend tradition.

Every form of the Church needs change to reach more people. The Church is not an exclusive country club, only for a select few, but for everyone who has a desire to grow, have their curiosity itched, and notions challenged.  

The inherited Church can help fresh expressions to understand and value:

  • tradition
  • experience 
  • systems and
  • ways of being deeply rooted and committed to reaching people for Jesus. 

Fresh expressions of the church can teach the inherited church to understand and value:

  • unconventional ways of reaching people
  • taking risks and 
  • being nimble instead of being stuck in the ways we have “always” done things.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ needs both to reach everyone.

All forms and expressions of the Church need each other and—like every industry—need to evolve as people change. The core vision and mission of the Church never changes, but the methodology must change if it is to stand a chance in this new contemporary climate.

A partnership story

The church I planted five years ago along with Rev. Wayne Botkin, Mosaic Church, adopted a declining church about a year and a half ago. The possibility of adoption was a difficult discernment process for both churches. Mosaic needed a more permanent facility, which St. Andrew had along with its long legacy and staple ministries. St. Andrew invited Mosaic Church into a partnership where they would bring in new ministries, outreaches, and forms of worship. Together, they entered an eight-month discernment process to see if this was God’s preferred future. After this time, they both felt it was God’s will and it was approved by two congregational votes. An adoption meant that St. Andrew would take on a new name, new ministries, and staff, and face necessary, albeit painful, closure to existing ministries and ways of church.

Fast-forward to now, and the transformation for both Mosaic and St. Andrew has been remarkable. Indeed, St. Andrew has helped Mosaic become multigenerational, and St. Andrew now has children in the nursery, younger people, and has become multiethnic. It has been truly awe-inspiring to see a church gain growth since the pandemic. However, this would not be possible if the saints of St. Andrew were unwilling to take the courageous risk of reaching more people with unconventional methods.

Change does not need to be negative, even if they feel that way at first. Sometimes, it can be a blessing in disguise. The things a congregation dreams about are within their reach with prayer and action. Remember, God wants to blow our minds with anything we think or imagine when we ask God for miraculous breakthroughs. Sometimes it does not mean drastic change like adoption, but a brave willingness to take steps to be uncomfortable to reach those around them. 

Your turn

What would your actions be in helping your local congregation to discern and take the next right steps toward change?

How do you speak about fresh expressions of the Church in your faith community?  

Or how can you be a change agent to support your local congregation?

Suggested readings:

Bolsinger, Tod. Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2020. 

Carmode, Scott. The Innovative Church: How Leaders and Their Congregations Can Adapt in an Ever-Changing World. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 

Herrington, Jim, Mike Bonhem, and James Furr. Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2000. 

Pasmore, Bill. Leading Continuous Change: Navigating Churn in the Real World. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015. 

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