New kinds of churches really are the hope of the future

This week I came across two news stories from different Anglican dioceses on opposite sides of the world, one of which heartened me greatly.

 

DECLINE IN SYDNEY

The first story wasn’t the one that heartened me. It was from the Diocese of Sydney entitled “Behind the decline in Church attendance”, and in it, Anglican priest, Antony Barraclough tried to make sense of the dropping rate of attendance at Sydney Anglican church services.

It caught my eye because even though falling religious affiliation is routinely reported across Australia, I often hear people holding up Sydney Anglicanism as a last bastion of growth and vitality.

Not so, it turns out.

Back in 2011, in an article entitled “Why Aren’t We Growing?”, Tony Payne reported that, based on weekly average service attendance data of all ages, Sydney Anglican congregations were barely growing at around 1.4% per annum. He then pointed out that the population of Sydney itself was growing at around 0.9%.

In other words, back then Sydney Anglican growth had completely stalled.

But now we hear it is declining.

In his more recent article, Rev Barraclough tries to interrogate reasons for this decline. None of the reasons he suggests have anything to do with Sydney Anglicanism itself. The problem pretty much gets boiled down to “the world has changed and our hearts are prone to wander.”

He recounts the influence of radical individualism since the sexual revolution, the emergence of Sunday trading, etc. etc., but it all sounds like he’s saying Sydney Anglicans just need to try harder to attend more often.

 

MEANWHILE, IN LEICESTER…

The second story was from the other side of the world. The Diocese of Leicester in the UK reported this: “New forms of church attract thousands of worshippers in Leicestershire.” It’s a beautiful story of new life, creativity, and freedom.

Since 2011, the diocese has been working with an Anglican agency called Church Army to foster fresh expressions of church across their region.

First coined by Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Mission Shaped Church report back in 2004, the term fresh expressions refers to new forms of church that emerge within contemporary culture and engage primarily with those who don’t go to church. They are new, pioneering, innovative approaches to doing and being church, which often don’t look like ‘church’ at all.

They include things like messy churches and heavy metal churches, as well as pub churches, microchurches, dinner churches or house churches and other missional communities. They are genuine churches, real places of belonging and mission, but the people who attend them don’t feel the need to go to a “normal” church on a Sunday morning as well.

Usually they aren’t led by ordained, paid clergy. Instead, fresh expressions are headed up by unordained, voluntary lay-leaders. In Leicestershire, 66% of all core leaders were women, 85% of leaders were unpaid, 74% were unlicensed ‘lay-lay’ leaders.

Since they began, there has been a 60% increase in the number of fresh expressions in the diocese. There has also been a 63% increase in the number of people attending a fresh expression, and a 77% increase in the number of fresh expression attenders who have been baptized.

Today, there are 4,378 people actively involved in 99 fresh expressions of church across the Leicester Diocese. In fact, more than one in four of the Anglican worshippers in the diocese attend a new form of church rather than a traditional one.

And these new types of churches aren’t drawing people away from the traditional Anglican parish. They are strengthening each other. In his annual report, the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow writes,

“We are seeing, constantly, that there is strength in having so many different models of church – what we call a ‘Mixed Ecology’. The different expressions of church within a parish complement each other, and this variety is possible because as Guerin Tueno notes, ‘the church is not defined by its outward appearance, forms and traditions but by its character and relationships’. In talking about mixed ecology we’ve often used the analogy of a box of Liquorice All Sorts. They all have liquorice in them, they’re all in the same box, but different people prefer different sizes, shapes or textures of liquorice. So it is within our diocesan mixed ecology of churches.”

COMPARING SYDNEY AND LEICESTER

When I compare the Sydney and Leicester approaches it appears that one diocese has decided they don’t really need to change much about their churches — they just need to encourage greater commitment from their members — while the other diocese is willing to embrace experimentation and radical change.

One diocese only ordains male clergy;  the other releases women and men to serve in a variety of forms.

One diocese requires its clergy to complete rigorous theological study;  the other licenses lay and lay-lay leaders.

One diocese is complaining that the culture has changed;  the other develops forms of church that are shaped by a particular culture or context.

One diocese is declining;  the other is flourishing with new life.

 

FINDING HOPE

I’ve been writing for a long time that the hope for the church in the West is to release and sustain fresh new expressions of church.

I’ve seen many such churches get started and not survive. I’ve often been criticized for fostering an unsustainable movement. But I’m beginning to think that the tide is turning. After some failed experiments by some hardy and brave souls who launched out early (God love them), we’re beginning to get this right, if Leicestershire is anything to go by.

This week, I read Brian Sanders’ new book Microchurches (a Smaller Way), in which he distils his vision for missional communities based on his experience in the Tampa Underground movement. His movement is showing us that new approaches work amazingly well.

Likewise, Brad Brisco’s free e-book, Covocational Church Planting is reinforcing the lay-led approach we’re seeing in Leicester. And networks like Fresh Expressions, Forge America, and the V3 movement are providing resources and support.

It’s so encouraging. I’m getting more and more sure I was right when I wrote this way back in 2006:

“I, for one, am happy to see the end of Christendom. I’m glad that we can no longer rely on temporal, cultural supports to reinforce our message or the validity of our presence. I suspect that the increasing marginalization of the Christian movement in the West is the very thing that will wake us up to the marvelously exciting, dangerous, and confronting message of Jesus. If we are exiles on foreign soil—post-Christendom, postmodern, postliterate, and so on—then maybe at last it’s time to start living like exiles, as a pesky, fringe-dwelling alternative to the dominant forces of our times. As the saying goes, ‘Way out people know the way out’.”   (from Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture, p.8)

 

 

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45 thoughts on “New kinds of churches really are the hope of the future

  1. Thanks Mike for writing this article. While I admire much about Sydney Anglican and Baptist churches with conventional forms and practice, it seems like the views on church expression and mission are similar to those on Climate change. Some focus on what was convenient in the past, while others are focused on the present and future environment of the world which the Lord calls us to minister in. What do you think?

    1. I guess one has to wonder how far removed a mixed ecology is from cesspool? Heaven metal really? Nothing here about the local church led by people whom God has gifted to the church to pastor equip etc ephesians 2. Nothing about plurality of elders as a norm re book of acts. But when today does the bible count for anything?

      1. You appear to be taking the most ungenerous reading of this article possible. Since when is encouraging innovation and new approaches synonymous with “a cesspool”. Why would you assume an article that promotes experimentation and diversity necessarily rules out plurality of leadership or godly eldership? In a later comment you refer to new forms of church as being tantamount to German liberalism. On what basis?? Are you familiar with Fresh Expressions or the Church Army? If you were you wouldn’t be casting such aspersions.

        1. we are truly in the falling away where almost anything and almost everything goes in the house of God.

          Jer 6:16  Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

          I know I know I am just and old person stuck in the past to you, but everything that passes for “church” today is not acceptable to the Lord and there will be many surprised people on judgment day thinking they were doing God’s work when in fact they were just doing their own will in His name.

          1. I’m pretty sure that’s what the Pharisees would have said about the Early Church too, Dennis.

      2. I think the word was “HEAVY” metal.

        1. I though HEAVEN metal was quite a good idea!!

        2. I think.God wants us to be clear about who he is. He is our salvation out of a confused world. He knew we would before confused as we lived our time here. But not confused about who he is. And who we are. We are sinners every day.But out faith when we let him be a part of our life he is always there and our day is not one without him. Go quietly when he calls us home. Live a vivacious life in the meanwhile and do his work. We are one in him. He is many to many. I am a Catholic and I have learned to not just go to church faithfully. But everyday in my heart
          Give him thanks.

      3. Im tired of people like you. Enjoy your church graveyard.

  2. your observations parallel mine. As NT WRIGHT said in a recent podcast .. i’ve translated it slightly without doing damage. “people need and respond to a narrative far more than sermons on greek words “
    RELATIONSHIPS, Love, have not been found wanting whereas lofty numbers goals, mind numbing meetings and endless searching to right mission statements
    thanks for continuing your voice for the mobility and purity of the good news(A royal King has arrived to lead us”

  3. That old common language proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” or perhaps the phrase “Crisis breeds innovation” apply to ecclesiology as well! I think (hope) that the crisis that western churches will be facing over the coming years will cause new expressions of communities. This is a great contrast of the probably future! Thanks for writing it up!

  4. As you know Mike, I too have long hoped for more of this, and I too find the Tampa Underground inspirational.

    I wonder are you aware of the ideas of Martin Bragger? Martin is a friend of mine and a retired Sydney Diocese Anglican minister. He has been developing in the Wollongong region a network of missional communities, meeting in pubs, cafes and other public spaces. There are about 8 such groups now. He describes this as “unbounded church”. Regular Anglican churches have about 8% new attenders, but his unbounded churches have about 60%. He is well acquainted with the UK Fresh Expressions movement.

    He has been speaking for years about the decline in Sydney Anglican churches, as evidenced by the decline in new attenders, the ageing church population and the decline in youth numbers. He has concluded that we rely to much on a SIC model – Sunday-centric, In-drag, Christendom form. He says, quoting Einstein: “The significant problems we face can’t be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” He points out that we don’t live in a monoculture, but a “kaleidoscope of socio-spiritual universes” that barely touch the universe the church inhabits. He advocates a “go and stay” strategy rather than the current “go and bring back” in-drag strategy.

    You can read more at his Unbounded Church website.

    1. That’s really helpful. Thanks. I’ll check Unbounded Church out.

  5. Hi Mike – thanks for your article – I doubt a 64 year old, like me, will be used by Christ to lead anywhere new (but Moses was pretty old, as was Abram – so who knows). As far as I know myself, I am open to going anywhere new if I am convinced that’s where our master wants us to go (though obviously not every new idea is His call). They say that often the future is already here, you just gotta work out where it is and drink it in and adapt for your space.
    I guess I am a Syd Anglican, though I have for some decades felt I was a member of the the “loyal opposition” though some of my peers and some of the older leaders (some not all) do not allow such a thing (they overrate loyalty which is a mixed virtue)
    The 10% Mission thing we engaged in a few years back was a total failure when assessed in the terms we chose and signed off on. Shhhhh But to say that, or ask the question is to be seen to be a hater of Peter Jensen and frankly I think he’s a deeply impressive man who I owe a motza to. We lacked the courage to say what didn’t happen, to lament, cry out to God and re-think.
    As you wrote above, failure is nothing to be ashamed of – not taking risk is to be ashamed of. I have often felt Syd Dioc is like a unit in the Normandy landing – we have a bridge-head – gallantly won and defended against numerous counter-attacks – but our job is not to stay put and read about other units being driven back into the sea. We’ve got to liberate peoples and get to Berlin – now we are apparently shrinking. Though I am now in Canberra and probably should say we.
    Years ago Phil Jensen used to bang on about how we are in trouble and better change – but have-not heard that so clearly for decades.
    I’m up for anything – I think. But not sure which is the better way.
    Here endeth the rave.
    Think we might get the leadership teams to read your article.
    Thanks – Ian Powell

    1. Hi Ian. I often think of the words of St Basil, “The person who reaches out for what lies ahead of him is always becoming younger than himself.” I agree that in our 60s we’re less likely to be hardcore pioneers, but our grasping after change, new life, innovation, greater missional impact, these things make us younger than we are. Keep striving, brother.

      1. Yes! Onward and upward! Thank you for the encouragement! Great article.
        (Jill, 66yo and doing M Th!!)

      2. Hi Michael
        My wife and I are in our 70’s and have been reaching out to our immedate neighbors. We are wanting to build relationships and to create a local community by loving and caring for them. We believe God has called us to do this.

        There has been a good response so far. We had 28 of our neighbors in our home when we hosted a Cancer Council Biggest Morning Tea in June and meet for coffee with some of our neighbors from time to time.
        We don’t know what the future holds for our ‘patch of earth that’s in God’s hand. We have just taken this step and are waiting to see what He does.

  6. Thanks for your insights Mike. When I did research on Emerging Church in 2004-2006 I came across “Fresh Expressions” that went back as far as the first pub church in UK in 1970. So we started a new ‘service’ in the town hall and almost doubled our numbers within a very short period. Sadly, when I left a year later to return to Nigeria, the new plant was discontinued because of a shortage of staff and key leaders relocating shortly after. My research findings were shared with the Archbishop of Sydney who circulated it to many senior clergy.
    I appreciated your work in The Shaping of Things… and others who asserted that we must “go to them”, get out of the 4 walls of the church and connect with people where they are. I don’t understand why others aren’t catching onto this.

  7. Hi Mike, I like the engagement and the desire to think of “fresh expressions” of church. I like that idea and I think did it around our kitchen table for a few years… It was fun, and seemed like real growth happened in people’s understanding of Jesus–and it was easy–who likes to eat food together to talk about God and the bigger questions of life?! That is an easier invite than who wants to come to church…

    Though, my concern with many messy church models is that it is still “attractional” type of ministry–have a good program that gets people in. But I think it still pushes the consumer button, and as a direct connection of a consumer model: real discipleship is difficult, or towards impossible to get to (I’m just here for the craft, or the beer, or the craft beer!). I think deep discipleship is difficult because people need to be really open to share with what’s going on for them. That is a hill many find hard too go up. So in a way, with fresh expressions, are we still just playing a “numbers” game–more people or less to church this year? And then we see, ohh “fresh expressions” have more people it’s growing… it’s still a numbers game–which needs far greater analysis to see if the numbers are or value. Does numbers define “success”?

    So while I see that the Sunday event alone is not sufficient, everyday discipleship, Jesus in all of life is where we need to get too. Both Sydney and Leicester could, or just may not, achieve actual discipleship… It’s always been about Jesus in the everyday life.

    And a small but important correction, you said “One diocese only ordains male clergy”–in context it seems you mean Sydney Anglican’s only ordain men. This is incorrect. Women are ordained in the Sydney Anglican church. 🙂

    Blessings, Simon (not from Sydney)

  8. Mike I an puzzled. Here are the average weekly (not just Sunday) adult attendance figures for Leicester diocese as compiled by the Church of England:
    2012 12,900
    2013 12,500
    2014 12,200
    2015 11,900
    2016 11,400
    2017 11,100 (the latest published)

    Average Child weekly attendance
    2012 2,700
    2013 2,700
    2014 2,300
    2015 2,100
    2016 1,800
    2017 1,800

    I wonder how these figures work with your story?

    Source https://gallery.mailchimp.com/50eac70851c7245ce1ce00c45/files/58895d08-d6e7-4dc5-b06e-3c30e38d73cf/2017StatisticsForMission_007_.pdf?utm_source=Church+of+England+press+releases&utm_campaign=d663f057e2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_13_10_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_107f659418-d663f057e2-248849509

    1. The annual report from the Diocese of Leicester is linked in this article.

  9. If the measure of “growth” is numerical growth then the statement “the other [diocese] is growing” meaning Leicester is shall we say open to question. Sadly because it would be great if it were true. And I have to say the Leicester article Carell omits reporting on the overall growth or decline of their diocese. So I think you were mislead. I hope to have some new info on Aussie churches ready soon

    1. I don’t have time to wade through 50 page report. I’ll take your word for it. But there’s no question that the area where Leicestershire is growing is in fresh expressions. https://www.churcharmy.org/Publisher/File.aspx?ID=236544

  10. Mike – mate, I am all for the concept of that, while the Gospel never changes, the church must constantly be changing. However, and with all due respect, there are some things in your post that need further investigation and / or understanding.

    I am quite familiar with Anthony Barraclough’s research – it was not so much about decline in numbers of people going to church, but about the decline in attendance rates of Christians. Surely one factor is that Christians do indeed need to “not give up meeting together …..” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    Nonetheless, it is true that Sydney Anglicans, if they are the yardstick, are in plateau. I am one of the people who has made known the harsh reality is that all concerned can, under God and with prayer, do better. There is an honesty about the challenging metrics that has been evident in synod anfter synod in recent years.

    However, John raises an excellent point (that I was unaware of) about the numbers presented in the blog. Surely this needs investigation.

    1. I’m confused. It sounds like you’re both objecting to what I wrote and agreeing with it.

      1. Mike – I want to acknowledge that some things are right, but that some things need further investigation before the desired conclusion can be legitimately reached.

        1. The conclusion? That fresh expressions, dinner churches, microchurches, missional communities, and other new kinds of churches are attracting people who would never attend a trad church? Leicester Anglicans, Tampa Underground, Fresh Expressions, and the V3 Movement (all cited) are proving it to be so.

          1. Perhaps first the focus is on presenting the gospel and seeing people converted before expecting that they should just slot into church. I’ve seen attempts with cafe church and most enjoyed the entertainment but relatively few converted in the sense of transformed by God. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do better in our preaching exposition and application and services. The German churches of the Walt 1900’s because of their theological assumption taught a miracle free religious moralism without expounding what God’s revelation actually said. So that if to be kept away from as well.

  11. You’ve reported the Leicester experience correctly. Of course, I would say that as I’m a trustee of Fresh Expressions! But the data is absolutely robust and has been processed by professional statisticians who know about this stuff. And Leicester is only the most recent example of the difference Fresh Expressions is making. Of course, statistics of this sort only tell part of the story, and we are currently working on ways to measure mature discipleship – which is both easier and more difficult than it sounds, but I believe can be done. In a wider perspective, one outstanding question is whether any of these lessons are easily transferable to denominations with a congregational ecclesiology: there is no question that the rise of new forms in the Church of England is largely down to bishops who are prepared to take risks, and in the process release the gifts of lay people who can then have confidence that their leaders will be there for them. That is much harder for independent or only loosely connected networks of churches to achieve.

    1. Thank you for clarifying that, John.

  12. Michael, thank you for this. Last year I did a research project on the “missional” approach to church in Europe after 20 years. From my review of the literature out there (not a lot) the studies were not so encouraging except the Fresh expressions movement of the Anglican church in UK. Their statistical arm provides amazing data and excellent interpretation of the data. This was so encouraging. I believe better data, across the board, is needed to truly glean the impact of the missional thrust in the West. Of course, the very nature of a decentralized movement makes this nearly impossible.

  13. Mike, I suspect the issue is that you have gone further than the data. It is entirely consistent to report new forms of church having a positive impact in Leicester and bringing new people to church AND also have an overall picture of decline overall. So both sets of stats can be right at the same time. I note that the Anglican stats are not challenged by your UK correspondents. In no way do I wish to challenge the impact of the missions movements. May they prosper. It’s drawing a conclusion about the overall picture that is problematic IMHO

    1. John, you’re quibbling over one line (“One diocese is declining; the other is growing.”) and discrediting the whole piece. The article is about the dynamic growth and new life occurring in Leicester and their preparedness to encourage diversity and innovation. That seems to have been lost on you as you pore through the data to disprove the statement that the diocese is growing. I’ll edit that one line.

  14. Thing is, I’m doing exactly what’s described here, in Sydney, but few would know it apart from my blogs readers. A problem with unpaid lay led initiatives in Sydney is there’s not the sort of institutional acknowledgement there is in the UK. Indeed I’ve had Church Army UK visit me here in Sydney and get most of my support, such as it is, from the UK, especially from the Forest Churches.

    1. That’s sad to hear. It’s hard feeling unsupported. It helps those UK projects that Fresh Expression and Church Army are both Anglican initiatives and when a diocese engages their expertise there’s various layers of support, funding, coaching, and networking. Nothing quite like that (at least on that scale) appears to be happening in Sydney. Have you come across Martin Bragger and the Unbounded Church network? https://unboundedchurch.com/

  15. Thank you for your correction. “Comment is free but facts are sacred”

  16. i like your article I hate the sydney anglicans becuase of the stern 40 minute bible teaching and now some of the leadership and their silly culture wars. I am part of the cana christian community and uniting church

  17. Thank you, Michael!
    I’ve been a co-vocational church planter since 1992, never having a building or building an institution, but having a mission outpost for people to encounter Jesus through conversations and relationships.
    God has kept providing faithfully.
    Being an early adopter hasn’t been easy – I’ve been viewed with pity and some condescension by colleagues who see me as a struggling failure.
    But I love it! (Remember the book “Sacred Cows make Great Burgers.”)
    I met you at a conference in Chicago in 2014 and you have new language to what we’ve been doing for so long (BELLS.)
    I look forward to the new generation that will realize the new wine skins for what Jesus is doing in the world.
    Peace!

  18. As a 1985 in Melbourne, August 23rd 1986 in Sydney, Pioneer in Single Adult Ministry and the Divorce Recovery Movement in Australia, based initially in a local COC, before outgrowing the constraints of the local Church and becoming an Interdenominational Singles Ministry, during a period when only a handful of local churches were doing or looking into Singles Ministry as a fresh expression…

    For me, reaching out to the most unreached, fast growing segment of the Australian 51.6% in Australia, over 50% in the USA through a Vision God placed on my heart, and continued to unfold over the years was a burning passionate priority!

    Speaking to Denominational and other Church Leaders, was like speaking to men and women who couldn’t understand or see the need initially, and when they did years later through personal, family, or the experience of friends, chose to stay in their comfort zones except for a few local church exceptions, and continued the Reformation emphasis on families; because that meant they didn’t need to do anything! Sheer Laziness!

    Colleges didn’t need to change lecturers, lecture notes, with the changes taking place right under their noses; because “this is how we have always done Preparation of Ministry Candidates and Ministry!” Stupid and Unwise!

    For the last 3 Census in a row, Never Married, Separated, Divorced and Widowed total 51.4% and outnumber Marrieds!

    I warned in a NSW Baptist Article in the 1990’s, that I believed for the first time in many decades, that sometime in the first decade of the New Millennium, Singles and the Formerly Married will outnumber Marrieds, and that took place; and has continued since!

    Churches who continue to turn a blind eye to the changes that have taken place in society for many decades now at a National, State, local Church and Ministry Training Colleges level, and who fail to carry out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment to 51.4% of the population on a daily basis in Australia, and over 50% Internationally in places like the USA, NZ, UK, India and China; are planning to go out of business!

  19. Read “SUBVERSIVE MEALS,” which offers the historical, biblical, and theological basis for a new kind of church—the Dinner Church.

  20. Jesus Christ remains the hope for the church always. Do Anglicans of Sydney or Leicester gather with a devotion – “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me”?

  21. Hi Mike.

    Thanks for your excellent article. I think you are right when you suggest that the tide may be turning. But it is only a slow and small change.

    I think there are two key reasons for the general lack of missional fruitfulness. One is a general ‘Cultural Intelligence Deficit’ among many in church leadership. This is a failure to understand that the 20th century culture is now shattered into a mosaic of subcultures, and the one size fits all, ‘Sunday-Centric, In-Drag, Christendom-Form (SIC) model that the standard church still stubbornly clings to as the basic platform for mission is just not what is required. The need is in fact not for one (singular) new missional vehicle but a multitude of such new vehicles to match the kaleidoscope of sub-cultures which now forms Australian society.

    But there is a second reason. This is that even the sub-cultures that now exist are not static but continually changing. This means that what is needed are missional vehicles which are organic and highly flexible, such that they are capable of reinventing themselves at regular intervals for today’s cultural mosaic will not be the same as that of tomorrow. This makes the missional challenge truly unique and therefore something never before faced.

    I note the comments on what is happening in the UK. For some years I have been researching this and on the basis of two excellent reports by the Church Army Research Unit, I prepared a document which summarises and comments on their findings called ‘Gleanings from those ‘Already on the Road’.

    The purpose of that document is to inform and stimulate current discussions on improving our missional fruitfulness. It draws on the experiences and thinking of those who have already travelled some of the journey, and in part may help us avoid reinventing the wheel, or worse the ‘Square Wheel’ (the one that didn’t work very well last time we used it!).
    In case some of those engaged in the ‘new forms of church’ space may find it helpful it can be downloaded from the Unbounded Church website at Hi Mike.
    Thanks for your excellent article. I think you are right when you suggest that the tide may be turning. But it is only a slow and small change.
    I think there are two key reasons for the general lack of missional fruitfulness. One is a general ‘Cultural Intelligence Deficit’ among many in church leadership. This is a failure to understand that the 20th century culture is now shattered into a mosaic of subcultures, and the one size fits all, ‘Sunday-Centric, In-Drag, Christendom-Form (SIC) model that the standard church still stubbornly clings to as the basic platform for mission is just not what is required. The need is in fact not for one (singular) new missional vehicle but a multitude of such new vehicles to match the kaleidoscope of sub-cultures which now forms Australian society.
    But there is a second reason. This is that even the sub-cultures that now exist are not static but continually changing. This means that what is needed are missional vehicles which are organic and highly flexible, such that they are capable of reinventing themselves at regular intervals for today’s cultural mosaic will not be the same as that of tomorrow. This makes the missional challenge truly unique and therefore something never before faced.
    I note the comments on what is happening in the UK. For some years I have been researching this and on the basis of two excellent reports by the Church Army Research Unit, I prepared a document which summarises and comments on their findings called ‘Gleanings from those ‘Already on the Road’.
    The purpose of that document is to inform and stimulate current discussions on improving our missional fruitfulness. It draws on the experiences and thinking of those who have already travelled some of the journey, and in part may help us avoid reinventing the wheel, or worse the ‘Square Wheel’ (the one that didn’t work very well last time we used it!).

    In case some of those engaged in the ‘new forms of Church’ space may find it helpful it can be downloaded from unboundedchurch.com at the Resources section.

    Blessings,

    Martin Bragger
    .
    Blessings,
    Martin Bragger

  22. There is nothing quite like a Vibrant Equipped and Mobilised Laity, using their own Unique God Given Purpose, Gifting, Talent, Experience Mobilised in Ministries and Services to Others, within International, National, State and Local Communities & Churches, Living Out the Great Commission and Great Commandment, Inspiring, Teaching, Discipling, Praying For, Building Up, Healing, Equipping Current and Future Generations using the Law of Multiplication to do the same, to a Fractured, Deeply Hurting, Unreached Local Communities and Internationally…
    @Colin Murdoch, Sydney, Australia…
    http://www.singlesforchrist.org.au

  23. Earlier on in this series of comments I read “But when today does the bible count for anything?” (Gary Wearne).. The foundation stone of the Christian Faith is the bible.! which is therefore the foundation of the Christian Church! Wycliffe and Tyndale rightly stand with Francis of Assisi, William Carey and Mother Theresa as those who not only kept Christianity “weird” as in rebellious to the establishment but cutting edge for their times. The level of self giving and sacrifice exemplified by all such members of the church past is can only be explained by one thing: Their experience of God through his spirit and word was TRUE. In fact all acts of ‘faith’ must be based on truth.. Many including Billy Graham used the simple example of sitting in a chair as an act of faith based on what we believe to be TRUE.

    To look at the American experience in the report “Exodus” [https://www.prri.org/research/prri-rns-poll-nones-atheist-leaving-religion/] which I think has application for the church in the West more broadly, it gives simply the most popular reason for under 18’s leaving as ” they stopped believing in the religion’s teachings (60%)” ie pretty much the attitude expressed by Gary Wearne. Well by carefully avoiding this Magasaur in the room you display a level of ignorance in the matter of recent science which has discovered God. After all if God is the truth and science is a search for truth then the two ought to come together nicely.. It was not hard for millions of new Christians over the years. Oh but I forgot to mention, we now know modern secular science is no longer searching for truth in the area of “origins”, because being married to philosophical naturalism or “Atheism” God and his miraculous works are not allowed. As an engineer with understanding of thermodynamics let me help you a little here..

    The origin of all concentrations of matter in the universe (stars, galaxies, planets etc) and life are all “entropy” problems, specifically low entropy meaning ‘ordered’ states of matter. They are not just ordered but massively ordered. Now all we have do is wind the clock back and the law of increasing entropy with time declares (quite absolutely otherwise it wouldn’t be a law) that order MUST increase. Keep winding all the way to the beginning and the order MUST be a maximum. All naturalistic theories violate this principle. Only the biblical account of creation is consistent with this. You may look up for yourself the origin of any of these structures and you will find there is no explanation which does not use the words “we think” or “most likely” or “it is postulated” etc etc. Any giving a definite conclusion are just FAKE NEWS.

    How do they get away with this you may ask.. peer reviewed science by many of qualified scientists and the thousands who agree! First they hide the meaning of four words:

    [ ORDER, DESIGN, INFORMATION, ENTROPY ]

    after which it is possible to make very big assumptions.. All of which I not only know and can respond to in any company.. but here I would remind you all of what the bible says:

    “I thank you father for you have revealed these things to babes”

    “He has made everything beautiful in its time, he also put eternity in the mind of man so he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end”

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside”

    “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to earth”

    “He is a liar and the father of lies”

    Lastly I would like to quote professor Paul Davies:
    “A similar reception greeted the publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The claim that humans had ‘descended from apes’ (a popular but very inaccurate description of the theory) caused shock and outrage in some quarters. It was certainly a ‘big story’ by Victorian standards. The Church was no longer powerful enough to suppress the truth, but it did put up a spirited resistance in some quarters before conceding defeat.”

    Even though it was known at the time the butterfly with two body plans could never evolve by any series of incremental steps fully conforming to what Darwin himself described as “if there can be found one creature that cannot evolve by gradual steps my theory fails”.. the Church was on this level DEFEATED. But Jesus said..

    “I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”

    So we are now today as before faced with the question: Which Church do you belong to? I for one am one of those in the “spirited resistance” which never gave in then and will not now..

    (biblical answers to questions can be found at creation.com in particular the discovery of blood cells, blood vessels, collagen and protein from T-Rex bones together with C-14 evidence finishes the case once and for all.. the creation – evolution war is now over you no longer have to apologise for he bible)

  24. Michael, always appreciate your takes on current Christendom culture wars. I used “Exiles” as one of our texts in a local missional internship in Estonia in 2009/10. Still reference it today. By the way, as I was writing a research paper on the missional movement in Europe after 20 years, Fresh expressions was the only verifiable fruitful movement unearthed. The Anglican Church has a top-notch research team who provided the most credible data on the Fresh expressions movement. well worth checking out. Sadly, very little, beyond conjecture, is available on other movements in Europe or otherwise.

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