This is a reply to a text message about a church a friend is going to that is part of the fresh expressions that he felt is grassroots orientated. (He is right. It is, but there is an element where its not which I find more intresting). So this is the church: http://churchonthecorner.org.uk/ and this is my reply (feel free to correct me if things are factually incorrect)
One thing that is interesting about Fresh Expressions is how NOT grassroots it is! It was commissioned by Steven Croft, Graham Cray and Rowan Williams! I mean its about as top down as you can get (being something almost created by the arch bishop). Graham Cray is the guy who is Mike Pilavachi’s boss and also created Greenbelt. Graham Cray also heads up some really awesome sociological research like “making sense of generation Y” and has given quite a few talks about what a new church should look like (For example he talks a lot about how our culture doesn’t do corporate singing whilst churches that aim to be new and reaching our culture focus on mat redman style worship which is actually very counter-cultural). Stephen Croft I think was the other potential candidate for arch bishop alongside Justin Welby and he is the main person behind fresh expression. He is also Steve Wilcockson’s boss! (Steve is his number 2, an arch deacon that actually carries out his ideas in his area).
So although fresh expression churches feel all grassroots-ey its actually just the result of brilliant top-down research driven marketting!!! Which is fun because all the other “liberal” “grassroots-ey” things outside of the christian world are the same. The Pharmaceutical companies own all the health food alternative supplement brands. What is so impressive is every time I have disagreed with something the fresh expressions guys (specifically graham cray) has said I have always been wrong. Every assumption I have had about our culture (which is usually very in tune of mainstream church’s assumptions) that has been at odds with what graham cray found through his research, I have later found to be incorrect even with the people around me. I just never knew about it.
Most of his research is even better then anything in the secular world regarding generation Y. When people talk about this generation and the millenials they tend to get far too excited by the impact of the Internet and go on about that but actually there are plenty of people our age who don’t use facebook.
Fresh Expressions are really interesting. With New Wine I went to a seminar where bunches of them got together. Its really an extension of the Cell group movement that we were part of and the values behind it are really similar but Cell Groups had too much structure. The flip side is that fresh expressions haven’t quite worked out how to scale without looking more and more like traditional churches.
They are also unbelievably diverse. There is a fresh expression in Earl’s Court which is really just a bunch of people looking after homeless people using an old chapel as a base. They basically don’t do any “marketting” aimed at christians and don’t try and attract them. Another fresh expression was just on an allotement in a council estate where they did gardening and people could join them.
It goes hand and hand with the New Monastic movement which is also unbelievably cool. The new monks are so much cooler then the old monks.
So yeah, I think I’d like to come. But be warned. Its unlikely I’ll “like” it. I don’t really like churches anymore. I don’t really have oppinions apart from “How can I use technology to help this church” and “What is this particular community’s place in the global church and how can it use technology to increase its influence”
I’m sure there are some churches out there that are so bad they are nothing but toxic to the body of christ and should be completely expelled. But more often then not those churches don’t want to be part of the rest of the church anyway and become cults especially in a society where being christian doesn’t give you any real advantages. Most of the time a church that is “good” just have aspects that are good and aspects that are bad but due to your particular personality type you don’t care about the bad thigns as much and get a lot from the good things. From an overall objective point of view they are just a mixture and this fits with the way that paul pretty much lays into every one of the churches he was dealing with.
So I’ll probably both love and hate the church