Is Fresh Expressions a movement?

Following on from the Permanent Revelation on page 211 there is a summary of movements. Andrew Jones asked Paul Pierson about the characteristics of a movement and the response was:
– They always begin on the periphery of the institutional church
– They are motivated by a transforming experience (grace) of God by an individual or group.
– The result is the desire for a more authentic Christian life that often leads to concern for the church and world.
– Face to face groups for prayer, Bible study, mutual encouragement are important.
– New methods of selecting and training leaders become important. These are less institutional, more grass roots and lay oriented.
– There are theological breakthroughs, that is, rediscovery of aspects of the Biblical message that have been forgotten or overlooked by the Church, usually they involve a focus on the gifts of every believer.
– There is a leveling effect, distance decreases between clergy and laity, social classes, races, men and women, and denominations.
– The movement is countercultural in some ways, often because it reaches out to those who have not been valued by their society.

– Consequently there will be opposition by many in the dominant culture and church.
– There will often be manifestations of spiritual warfare. such movements sense the reality of evil and the need to recognize the vistory of Christ in the cross and resurrection.
– At times there will be unusual manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit; healings, visions, glossalalia, miracles. etc.
– More flexible structures of church and mission will be needed and often emerge, different from traditional structures.
– The movement will be led to significant recontextualization of the Christian message, which will be communicated more widely by lay persons to those outside the church.
– New music is often a characteristic.
– Biblical concepts ignored by the traditional church but relevant to the hearers are often discovered.
– There will be a growing concern for the marginalized, often expressed in ministries of compassion.
– At a later stage this often leads to concern for broader social transformation.
– As the movement matures there will be concern for the renewal of the broader church.
– As the movement continues to mature many will see themselves not only as part of the particular movement but as citizens of the Kingdom of God, transcending their own movement.
– Finally, every movement is less than perfect and often messy at the edges and sometimes, at the center. This is inevitable as long as sinful humans are involved.

Norman asked if FE is a movement. I think many inside Fresh Expressions would see many of the above characteristics but so not sure myself. I can see where Pierson is coming from in relation to christian movements but thinking in the wider context of a movement and particularly about creating a paradigm change I would be unsure FE if can do that and as such be classed as a movement. In fact I think FE may actually hinder change in the longer term because of the gravitational pull of the institution and accompanying orthodoxy. I think we are already seeing dissenting voices being marginalised as FE spreads and the orthodox centre gathers pace. I was talking the other day to someone about how some of the most pioneering imaginative work (both inside the Church of England and outside) i see are not part of FE. The reasons for this are partially because of these projects have a strong bias to the poor, and partially as they are doing some radical recontextualisation and inculuturation, which they feel only able to do this outside of FE. I think this is really telling for FE and a big challenge to FE as so many of Piersons characteristics mention these issues in one way or another.

One thought on “Is Fresh Expressions a movement?

  1. Interesting, Richard. Another reason for your observation might be that the lack of institutional funding creates a need for more innovation and more sustainable enterprises, esp. micro business, and the expectations are different for inhouse-orthodox FE ministries than for early stage start-ups among the urban poor.

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