Monday, June 07, 2010

Fresh Expressions of Church

Andrew Jones links to an article about “fresh expressions of church.”

These “fresh expressions of church” are targeted mainly towards the unchurched, described in the article as the “third of the adult population who have never had any significant contact with any church beyond weddings or funerals,” although “dechurched” people are also in their minds.

One church described revamped with an indoor skate park. One of the leaders describes it this way:

Mainly it’s a hang-out with stunning views and funky vibe to it, with good tunes and surf movies playing, and the coffee’s all fair trade and top notch. We call it a surf lounge. We have a skate club, a computer club, laptops for hire, an art gallery, a prayer facility, conference facilities, weddings, a hot shower, gaming facilities like a Wii, Pilates classes. When it’s busy it has a buzzing festival feel with artists and musos doing their thing and people from all walks of life just hanging out together.

The result is an environment which is comfortable for people because they are not being force-fed a religious agenda, but it’s presented in creative ways that regularly provoke interest and conversation. We’re also considering setting up a second Tubestation down the coast at St Merryn.

Another “not a church … [but which] has the potential to become one” is a “family drop-in with hospitality and storytelling” where “we rarely sign a song.” Here people “share breakfast, sit and talk together and share a story, normally biblical in character.”

I am not sure what that means entirely, though thoughts of breakfast remind me I have not eaten yet. And thoughts of sitting and talking together reminds me that time with people is the main way to build disciples.

But more importantly, what this reminds me of is that the fact that these events or places or meetings are called “church” means that people trying to reach other people for Jesus (a good thing) have failed to interact much with the biblical data about what constitutes a church (a bad thing).

Can you imagine a NT church where they “rarely sing a song”? Or where they have a skate park and a computer club and the like? I am not saying these are bad things to do. I am saying that I do not see the NT church characterized by these things.

Sharing stories that are “normally biblical in character” sounds like an attempt to avoid opening up the Bible and sharing a story that is actually biblical in content.

But here’s what I like. The above quoted leader, Henry, says, “It is all about meeting people where they are rather than expecting them to come to us.”

So he has a Sunday night meeting in a city-centre pub where he hangs out and talks to people about “faith and spirituality over a pint.” He says, “It isn’t a church in a pub — there’s no worship or preaching involved. It’s just a chance for people who would feel uncomfortable in church to talk and thing a bit more deeply about what they do believe.”

Now, don’t get distracted by the word “pint” or the fact that it’s in a pub.

Think about the model here: Go, meet people where they are, and talk to them about questions of spirituality and faith.

That, to my way of thinking, is a great way to do evangelism. It is what I want to do. Go, find people, and just talk to them about things that matter, and see if I can weave their questions in the matrix of the biblical metanarrative.

But let’s not abandon church in the process.

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