The impact of Fresh Expressions

First published 12th May 2014

I would say this is final evidential proof that the Fresh Expressions movement is working and that these results cannot be swept under the carpet.

Revd Nick Crawley reflects on recent research into Fresh Expressions and his own experiences of establishing a new kind of church in a secular context.

In April, in his final reflection on both his term overseeing the Fresh Expressions, and the 12 years since the first working party was set up, Bishop Graham Cray, the Archbishops Missioner, commented on the extraordinary range and depth of local missional imagination across the 2,000 fresh expressions of church in both the Methodist and Anglican denominations.

The impact of Fresh Expressions was also highlighted earlier this year in a report published by the Church Army as part of the Church of England's Church Growth Research Programme.

According to this research, the number of attenders at the 477 fresh expressions of Church within ten dioceses is equivalent to adding the people of one new medium sized diocese (around 21,000). If you were extrapolate this over the 40 dioceses, this is equivalent to the creation of two new dioceses over the past ten years.

The Church Army report reflects that any parish that grew over time by 25% would be considered effective and advocated as a good example. Fresh expressions of Church steadily outperform that. For every one person sent, at least another two and a half are now present. This is a 250% increase over time. There is nothing else in the Church of England that can do anything like this.

I would say this is final evidential proof that the Fresh Expressions movement is working and that these results cannot be swept under the carpet.

In 2004, under the umbrella of the Fresh Expressions movement we tried to start a new church in Bristol within the secular context.

With the Bishops license and blessing we jumped out of the box and set out to do church differently. With no building and no inherited congregation it was a roller-coaster journey from the start, full of twists and turns.

Almost ten years later, Crossnet is financially self-supporting and makes an annual contribution to the Diocese. We define ourselves as an Anglican Community for discipleship and mission. Our focus is on discipleship built on the primary values of the Word and the Spirit. Our aim has been to keep trying and learning what works in contemporary society.

We have tried and failed at many things, but have slowly learned both from the past - particularly the monastic - and the contemporary. The ministry is bespoke ebbing and flowing with the rhythms of the year and the inflow and outflow of people.

Alongside Crossnet I work for The Filling Station which is a new (rapidly expanding) network of Charismatic ministry in a rural setting, and my wife Lucy is Principal of WTC, a distance learning Theological College, that is pioneering new strategies for theological education in contemporary Britain and Europe.

As Bishop Graham concluded, it is all down to grace, since 2010 the pace of development within the movement has been accelerating, this is a wave of the spirit for which we give praise and thanks to God.

He concludes: The long term task is to see the values which underlie this work embedded within the churches.

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