The call of the Church and the movement to ‘come’ and ‘go’:
There seems to be two words that come strongly through the Gospels, especially in Matthew's Gospel: ‘Come’ and ‘go’. People are called to come into a relationship with God, the Holy Trinity, and then go and announce that this relationship is possible for all people. Our calling is by nature apostolic. We are sent by God.
The Christian movement affirms that from the start Christians have done two things: they bore witness to Jesus and they formed new communities. Whilst affirming the power of this, the church is apostolic, based on the nature of who God is. It is our theology and Christology that shaped our missiology and ecclesiology. Ours in an apostolic faith, an outgoing faith. We follow God, not know where God will lead, simply trusting God alone. The definition of Church then as ‘the sent ones’. Our identity shapes our purpose. If we are not following Jesus by going as he commanded, then we cease to be church, as defined as that is ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’.
Fresh Expressions have been seen throughout Christian history and we can see into the future because we stand on the shoulders of these giants of apostolic faith. To name a few would be to miss some great apostles and that would be dishonouring. Suffice it to say that the church that plants other churches is true to its nature under God and stays alive in grace. The church that touches human beings with the love of God, wherever they are, discovers that God is at work with them and in what they are doing. Some of these expressions were inherited and need to be affirmed and strengthened. There are some that still need to be discovered, appreciated and embraced in the mixed economy of the church.
We see today a closer experience to the early church where Christianity is no longer a given and known as central to society. We are in another apostolic era where the gospel is continually and increasingly fresh, from the One who calls us to be involved in bringing into being that which is not there yet. The church is called to go to all people, but especially to those who need the gospel most.
A fresh expression movement
A fresh expression movement seeks to both affirm that which God has been and continues to do through existing forms of church, as well as create, alongside them, new ways of being and doing church that connects with those who are not yet members of such communities. All people need the Gospel but some are not connected to, nor do they feel they can be connected to, existing structures for whatever reason. A fresh expression of church is called into being to offer the Gospel to those people in ways that are fresh, accessible and appropriate for them.
Prof. Peter Wagner, the well-known missiologist and previous professor at Fuller University in the USA, said in his book ‘Church planting for a greater harvest’, ‘Without exception, the growing denominations have been those that stress church planting’. Sending a planting is the manner in which the Church is built. The Church then goes to make disciples of Jesus, who then, in turn, make disciples of Jesus themselves. The movement of the Church is always outwards and towards God’s people who do not know Him yet. This comes through with the same spirit, intent and method as Jesus: close proximity and availability, listening, loving service and then the announcement of God’s transforming grace in Christ. Community then happened around Jesus and the worship of God is authentically expressed in praise, unity in our diversity, loving service of people and the care of creation.
As the Father sent the first apostle, Jesus, through him we are sent to bring the life in the Spirit to all God’s people. Our freshness and apostolic all is in response to our apostolic God. We seek to lovingly obey. We long to hear one day the words from the One who sent us: “Well done good and faithful servants”! Come Lord Jesus, come. Come, Holy Spirit, come!