Church Planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context
Parish churches alone are no longer able to meet the needs of the highly mobile society of today. We need a range of expressions of church to engage with the variety of networks in our communities.
Mission-Shaped Church is a Church of England report, published in 2004. At the heart of the report is the need for a â€˜mixed economyâ€™ of parish churches and network churches in active partnership across a wide geographical area.
Most people do not naturally build their friendship circles on the basis of geography, choosing instead to rely on informal networks. In many cases people live in isolation, becoming consumers without community. â€˜Fresh expressionsâ€™ of church are needed to connect such networks with Christian faith.
â€˜Fresh expressionsâ€™ generally occur outside the normal Sunday morning worship service. Most connect small groups and relational mission and relate to a particular network of people. Examples given include alternative worship communities, cafÃ© church, cell church, churches arising out of community initiatives, school-based and school-linked congregations, traditional church plants, new monastic communities and youth congregations.
The Mission-Shaped Church report strongly recommends that fresh expressions become legally recognised by the wider church rather than be treated as an interesting experiment or project. Bishops (read Presbyteries?) are urged to broker the sending of fresh mission teams to cultures or areas where mission presence is thin or non-existent. The report pushes for the identification, selection and training of pioneer church planters, both lay and ordained.
Mission Shaped Church is available from Koorong or can be downloaded as a free PDF file from www.cofe.anglican.org/info/papers/mission_shaped_church.pdf or bought at the Planning to Plant conference in Brisbane, February 15.
Also available: Mission-shaped Church: A Theological Response by John M. Hull, and Building the Mission-Shaped Church in Australia, by Alan Nichols.